According to a Peruvian police report, 23 agents have been arrested in the past year for smuggling cocaine shipments headed for Brazil via Bolivia, an indication of the increased importance of Brazil's drug market.
The arrested police ranged from low to high-ranking agents, including non-commissioned officers, one captain, and four members of an anti-narcotics squad, according to a police review seen by newspaper La Republica. All were based in one of Peru's most conflicted regions, the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valley, known as the VRAEM, home to a faction of the Shining Path guerrilla group.
The corrupt agents would use their days off to escort cocaine shipments as large as hundreds of kilos to the Bolivian border. One police agent was arrested August 24 for transporting 350 kilos of cocaine hidden among chocolate bars.
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According to La Republica, some 3,000 kilos of cocaine leave the VRAEM region every month going towards Brazil, a sign of just how much the market for cocaine has grown inside Brazil. A recent study by the Federal University of São Paulo stated that Brazil is the world's largest market for crack, while the 2011 United Nations World Drug Report found that seizures of cocaine inside Brazil had gone up dramatically. This helps explain why the Peru-Bolivia-Brazil route appears to be so well-used.
The VRAEM region is the greatest producer of coca leaf inside Peru. According to a calculation by IDL-Reporteros, the region was capable of producing some 190 tons of cocaine hydrochloride in 2010. The sheer volume of illicit drugs produced here helps explain why the local security forces are so vulnerable to corruption.
And as La Repulica highlights, economic necessity also helps explain why police agree to escort drug shipments. One police captain said he agreed to protect a local drug trafficker in the VRAEM in order to pay for his wife's cancer treatment, according to the report.