HomeNewsBriefPeru Drug Flights Shift North As Pressure Builds in Cocaine Hub
BRIEF

Peru Drug Flights Shift North As Pressure Builds in Cocaine Hub

COCAINE / 12 SEP 2016 BY DAVID GAGNE EN

The destruction of nearly two dozen clandestine airstrips in central Peru suggests aerial drug traffickers are migrating away from the country's main hub for cocaine production in response to stepped-up interdiction efforts. 

Peru's Interior Ministry announced that the anti-drug unit of the National Police demolished 23 airstrips between September 3 and September 7. The airstrips were located in six municipalities that span the regions of Pasco, Huánuco and Ucayali. (See InSight Crime's map below)

Members of Peru's aviation police, state agents specializing in the eradication of illegal coca, and representatives from the Attorney General's Office also participated in the operation as part of a new security plan for the first 100 days in office of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, whose term began in late July.

The objectives of the 29-point plan are grouped into five categories: citizen security, organized crime, corruption, policing and institutional reform. 

16-09-12-Peru-VRAEM

InSight Crime Analysis

The remote jungle valley known as the VRAEM has traditionally doubled as Peru's main hub for cocaine production as well as drug flights leaving the country. In just the first nine months of 2014, for example, Peruvian security forces destroyed 185 drug airstrips in the VRAEM region. One security expert told InSight Crime in 2014 that some 90 percent of the estimated 200 tons of cocaine produced in the VRAEM each year is flown out of the country on the crude runways hidden deep in the Peruvian forest. 

But the demolition of almost two dozen airstrips north of the VRAEM suggests that may be starting to change. In May 2016, the head of Peru's anti-drug police force, known as DIRANDRO, said that the majority of cocaine now leaves the VRAEM by land following the implementation of a drug plane shoot-down law last year. The continued destruction of clandestine airstrips has also made it increasingly difficult for cocaine traffickers to export their product using drug planes. Security analysts say increased interdiction in the VRAEM may have pushed more drug flights into areas such as the Masisea district in Ucayali.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

In addition to lighter security pressure, drug traffickers in Ucayali benefit from having the option of shipping cocaine on the Ucayali River. According to a 2015 report on Peru's coca cultivation from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (pdf), airstrips in the region are located along the banks of the Ucayali, which renders them unusable when the river floods. But during the rainy season traffickers can simply send the drugs down the river, which connects to the Amazon and eventually reaches Brazil, the world's second-largest consumer of cocaine. 

The apparent shift from the VRAEM to Ucayali and other nearby regions highlights the limited long-term impact that destroying clandestine airstrips has on the illicit drug trade. New airstrips are easy to set up, and even those that are destroyed can be restored on the cheap in as little as 24 hours. Moreover, destroying airstrips has little impact on the profits made by illegal armed groups involved in the country's cocaine trade, as traffickers simply find other ways to smuggle the drug shipments across borders. 

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

EL SALVADOR / 13 DEC 2021

Efforts to reduce gang violence are often thought of as highly dependent on local conditions, but a recent report looks…

BRAZIL / 30 AUG 2021

Police in Brazil have broken up a smuggling ring that had a curious modus operandi. For years, its divers strapped…

COCAINE / 18 MAY 2022

Early investigations indicate the CJNG is striking partnerships with drug rings in Guatemala that receive shipments of cocaine from Colombia…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Escaping Barrio 18

27 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an investigation charting the story of Desafío, a 28-year-old Barrio 18 gang member who is desperate to escape gang life. But there’s one problem: he’s…

THE ORGANIZATION

Europe Coverage Makes a Splash

20 JAN 2023

Last week, InSight Crime published an analysis of the role of Amsterdam’s Schiphol Airport as an arrival hub for cocaine and methamphetamine from Mexico.  The article was picked up by…

THE ORGANIZATION

World Looks to InSight Crime for Mexico Expertise

13 JAN 2023

Our coverage of the arrest of Chapitos’ co-founder Ovidio Guzmán López in Mexico has received worldwide attention.In the UK, outlets including The Independent and BBC…

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Shares Expertise with US State Department

16 DEC 2022

Last week, InSight Crime Co-founder Steven Dudley took part in the International Anti-Corruption Conference organized by the US State Department’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, & Labor and…

THE ORGANIZATION

Immediate Response to US-Mexico Marijuana Investigation

9 DEC 2022

InSight Crime’s investigation into how the legalization of marijuana in many US states has changed Mexico’s criminal dynamics made a splash this week appearing on the front page of…