The amount of cocaine and coca paste seized in Peru this year has increased significantly since 2011, lending support to concern over ramped-up cocaine production in the country.
According to Peruvian Interior Minister Wilfredo Pedraza, authorities have seized 32.5 tons of illicit drugs so far in 2012. This includes 18.5 tons of coca paste, an intermediate stage in making cociane, and 11.2 tons of cocaine hydrochloride. Anti-narcotics police also seized 2.6 tons of marijuana over the course of this year.
Pedraza also told local press that the government carried out 12,495 anti-drug operations in the country, and arrested 4,775 people linked to organized crime. He added that police seized 1,054 drug processing labs and 1,932 coca maceration pits, used to produce coca paste.
InSight Crime Analysis
The figures on cocaine and coca paste seizures amount to an increase from 2011, when 12.6 tons of coca paste and 9.5 tons of cocaine hydrochloride were seized. The rise in coca paste seizures (50 percent) is especially dramatic, and underscores concerns over increased illicit coca production and cocaine processing in Peru.
The latest United Nations survey of coca growth in Peru, released in September, found that the area of land used to cultivate coca had increased for the sixth consecutive year, and is expanding drastically in the northern Amazon region. In July, the White House's Office of National Drug Control Policy released a report claiming that Peru had surpassed Colombia as the world's top producer of cocaine, although some analysts have questioned this finding.
At the same time, it is worth noting that President Ollanta Humala has taken illicit drug production very seriously. Since taking office he has stepped up the military's role in fighting drug trafficking, and this year the country seems to be on track to eradicate record amounts of illicit coca crops, although it is not clear whether this will be enough to offset the spike in coca cultivation nationwide.