Peru's counternarcotics police have reported the doubling of precursor chemical seizures since 2011, with the substances seized highlighting the use of substitute chemicals to skirt controls imposed on traditional precursors.
According to the Anti-drug Directorate of Peru's National Police (Dirandro), more than 2,000 tons of precursor chemicals have been seized this year, which Dirando head Julio Vela Utor said was double the amount seized in 2011, reported Peru21.
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According to authorities, the increased seizures were the result of improved law enforcement hitting drug production earlier in the chain, demonstrated by the drop in processed cocaine seen over the same period.
Among the chemicals seized were calcium hydroxide, calcium oxide, sodium sulfate and sulfuric acid.
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While the doubling of precursor chemical seizures could point to more effective policing earlier in the chain, it could also indicate growing drug production. Peru overtook Colombia as the major producer of cocaine in 2011 and production is also rising in neighboring Bolivia. Many of the precursor chemicals used to produce drugs in Latin America are imported from Asia, particularly China, with which Peru signed of a Free Trade Agreement in 2009.
In the face of stricter controls imposed on traditional precursor chemicals, criminal groups in Latin America have become increasingly resourceful, finding alternative chemicals and often learning to carry out production with materials more readily at hand in the region where they are operating. Of the four chemicals reportedly seized by Peruvian authorities in such large quantities this year, three were identified in a 2012 investigation by Peru's IDL-Reporteros as alternatives for chemicals typically used in cocaine production, or as being used in alternative production methods. One of the dangers of criminal groups using alternative production methods is the possibility of usage of far more potent or unsafe compounds which could pose a danger to users.