Peru Defends Plans To Build Prison In Coca-Growing Region

Peru’s government on Tuesday defended plans to build a prison in an isolated coca-growing region, where the lack of state presence is replaced by the power of drug traffickers and remnants of leftist guerrillas.

The government announced recently plans to build a prison in the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro river valley zone, known as the VRAEM. The prison, which could be located in the montane forest district of Pichari in Cusco region, will have the capacity to house 1,500 inmates.

The area is Peru’s biggest producer of coca leaves, the raw material used to produce cocaine. It is also home to a splinter group of the Shining Path rebels, which regularly launch deadly attacks on police officers and military in the area.

Jose Luis Perez, the head of the National Penitentiary Institute, said the government has found a place in the VRAEM where there is a larger state presence. He added that it is necessary to increase the number of prisons outside of the capital— Lima’s prisons are notoriously overcrowded— and that the facility in the VRAEM is one of many other initiatives.

“We are talking about the (VRAEM), which is a very extensive region. There are offers for three lots (to build the prison) where there is the presence of two military bases, one navy and one police base,” Perez said, according to daily La Republica.

The prison is slated to be finished by 2014.

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