Peru’s interior minister touts increased cocaine seizures

Peru’s war on drugs has led to significant advances and the seizure of nearly 40 tons of illicit drugs in the past 12 months, Interior Minister Luis Alva Castro said Tuesday.

“We have almost reached 40 tons (of seized drugs) in the last 12 months,” said Castro in comments to state news agency Andina. “And this drug is valued at $2.000 million.”

According to Castro, the government’s fight against drug trafficking has led to 21.545 police operations, 21.079 arrests, the dismantling of 71 cartels, 1.547 clandestine laboratories and 2.400 maceration pits, as well as the seizure of 1.192 tons of chemical supplies, 61 buildings and 238 vehicles in the past year.

And, Castro said, it has led to the eradication of “19.000 hectares of illegally grown coca.”

Since Peru National Police has taken the reign on the war on drugs in Huallaga, he argued, there has been a significant reduction in the cultivation of coca in Peru’s northern regions of San Martin and Huánuco.

“Today in San Martin, there are only 400 illegally cultivated hectares remaining, and this is practically nothing,” Castro said. “And there are already 160.000 hectares of legally cultivated non coca products” such as palm oil, cacao, sugar can, rice and various type of fruit.

Coca leaf, which is the raw material for the manufacture of cocaine, plays an important role in traditional Andean culture and is also widely used by Peruvians of all social classes for therapeutic teas used to alleviate fatigue, hunger, gastro-intestinal disorders, rheumatism, and, among other things, altitude sickness.

Coca leaves sold for teas and chewing, as well as the small amount of legally produced cocaine which is sold to pharmaceutical companies, is marketed by the state-owned National Coca Enterprise (ENACO). This “legal” coca is produced on registered land in the Cuzco province of La Convención y Lares, the Huallaga Valley, and small areas in the departments of Huánuco, La Libertad, Ucayali and Puno.

The precise number of hectares of illegally grown coca, however, is much more difficult to ascertain.

By the late 1990s, coca was largely eradicated in Peru and Bolivia, only to be replaced by new crops in Colombia, today’s number one producer.

But by 2002, the number of hectares used to illegally grow coca in Peru increased as efforts to eradicate the crop in Colombia forced production southward.

This can be explained by the balloon effect, or the drug fields’ tendency to shift elsewhere and sometimes to smaller and harder-to-reach plots in response to local eradication campaigns, and the fact that for farmers, the coca harvest provides more money than any other crop: up to five times as much can be earned for a kilogram of coca than for a kilogram of coffee.

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