Officials in Peru have identified four land and water routes used to traffic cocaine to Bolivia and one used to move drugs to Brazil, showing that though drug flights are the most popular method of exporting Peruvian cocaine, a number of well-established alternative routes also exist.
Three of these routes begin in the southwestern Ayacucho province, and two in Sandia, in the southeastern Puno province, according to police information accessed by the Los Andes newspaper. These same sources said that each week, 250 kilos of drugs leave the country from Sandia and Carabaya -- also in Puno -- which are important drug production centers and home to clandestine air strips used by departing drug flights.
In Puno, drugs are first stored in Juliaca, from where they are sent via a number of towns to Desaguadero, on Lake Titicaca, and then transported across the border to Bolivia by boat. Three of the routes coincide in this section of the journey, but originate in different parts of Peru. A fourth route enters Bolivia by the Rio Suches, which sits on the border between the two countries.
A route to Brazil leaves Peru from Puerto Maldonado, in the Madre de Dios illegal gold mining region, north of Puno.
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In 2013, Peru emerged as the world's number one coca grower, adding to its status as the top cocaine producer. Meanwhile, the use of aircraft to export the drug to Bolivia, from where it is trafficked to countries including Brazil, Argentina and Europe, has been on the rise. More than 17 tons of cocaine left on 58 drug flights from Ciudad Constitucion in the VRAEM region -- the coca producing heartland -- in four months last year.
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Air trafficking from Peru to Bolivia is profitable and relatively easy, involving little risk of interdiction by Peruvian or Bolivian authorities, who lack radar technology to detect drug flights. Land routes, meanwhile, are generally less efficient, typically employing the so-called "hormiga" system in which large numbers of drug "mules" each move small amounts of cocaine along trafficking routes.
However, the two countries plan to increase security cooperation to combat drug flights, and Peru announced last June that the country's first radar would be ready in 2014. If greater pressure is placed on drug flights, the variety of land and water routes identified by Peruvian authorities could gain importance in the near future.