Authorities in Peru are investigating possible links between family clans dedicated to drug trafficking and police officials that are willing to accept bribes to support and protect drug shipments.
At least 50 members of Peru’s national police force have been linked to a criminal organization called "Mecanismo," and were allegedly bribed by a drug gang, known as "Sinchi," in order to facilitate drug shipments to Bolivia, reported La República quoting the Attorney General's Office.
An operation on December 2 saw 16 police officers arrested for their alleged involvement in the drug ring across the cities of Cusco, Puno and Moquegua.
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Authorities say “Sinchi” is a drug trafficking organization led by Julio César Sánchez Tello, also known as alias "Sinchi," which operates in the southern part of the country around Ayacucho, Cusco and Madre de Dios, the Peruvian national press agency, Andina, reported. According to La República, the group has managed to send 14 cocaine shipments, each containing 300 kilograms, since March 18, 2018. The shipments were allegedly sent to Bolivia before eventually going on to Europe.
Among those under investigation are two colonels, Cusco’s current regional chief of police and his predecessor, who reportedly received bribes and actively participated in this criminal network.
The officers involved are being investigated for receiving money in exchange for coordinating the processing, financing, stockpiling, packaging, transport, purchasing, sales and shipments of drugs from the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley, known as the VRAEM, to clandestine landing strips in the departments of Cusco and Madre de Dios.
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The continuing power of family clans in the VRAEM, the country’s primary cocaine production zone, to run their drug operations unimpeded is a major blow to the Peruvian state which has been trying to tame this area for years.
In 2019 alone, besides seeing an attempted resurgence of the infamous Shining Path guerrilla movement in the VRAEM, Peru has made a number of high-profile arrests in the area.
But this does not appear to have had much effect on the family clans which dominate drug trafficking there. Peru's anti-drug prosecutor, Sonia Medina, told InSight Crime in July that at least 50 family clans have been identified in the VRAEM, specializing in drug production and transport for Peruvian and international buyers.
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The high rank of the officers involved in this operation is noteworthy. So far, in addition to the colonels, at least four regional and provincial police chiefs from Cusco are allegedly linked to the Mecanismo network, La República reported.
According to witness testimonies collected by prosecutors and published anonymously by the newspaper, the officers received between 2,000 and 4,000 soles (between around $590 and $1,200) per week for not patrolling the region nor advising the intelligence agency in Lima about the scope of the clans’ activities.
According to a 2017 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), two routes head towards Bolivia from the VRAEM's Pilcopata province, connecting the region to the cities of Desaguadero and Cobija, while another route connects the VRAEM to Rio Branco, Brazil.