Alleged drug traffickers have killed a major in Peru's anti-drugs police after ambushing his patrol in the Amazon tri-border region, a worrying sign of growing influence and capacity of criminal groups in this important smuggling area, which is also an important center for drug production.
On July 11, anti-drugs agents patrolling a coca growing region near the Triple Border with Brazil and Colombia were fired on by heavily armed assailants, leaving one officer dead and several injured, reported Diario Cronicas Iquitos.
According to IDL Reporteros, the police patrol was targeting drug laboratories in the area.
The Peruvian authorities are now preparing a "mega operation" in the region to track down those responsible, according to Alerta Trujillo Peru.
InSight Crime Analysis
The Peruvian side of the Amazon Tri-border is the site of 6.2 percent of Peru's coca cultivation, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) (pdf), and has seen the amount of land used for growing coca grow by over 250 percent since 2009.
A source in Peru's anti-drugs police, the Dirandro, told InSight Crime the region is also an important drug trafficking transport route for moving Peruvian cocaine into Brazil and that there are indications that Russian mafia has established a presence and built alliances with local crime clans.
While much of the locally trafficked cocaine is produced in Peru, sources in both the Peruvian and Colombian security forces told InSight Crime earlier this year that trafficking organizations are commonly stationed in Colombia and Brazil, which have also seen higher levels of violence linked to the drug trade.
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Although these organizations are predominantly smaller scale and localized criminal organizations, there have been recent indications that Colombia's BACRIM -- paramilitary-criminal hybrid groups -- have been making incursions into this strategic region.
InSight Crime's field research suggested traffickers rely on heavily on corruption and the inefficiency of under-resourced security forces rather than violence, and brazen attacks on security agents such as this recent assault are a rarity.
The fact that traffickers were willing to take such aggressive action may indicate they were protecting a large drug shipment, a cocaine laboratory or an important trafficker. Nevertheless, the attack may backfire, as this long neglected region is now likely to receive much more attention from the Peruvian authorities.