Peruvian counter-drug police foil shipment of semi-processed cocaine to Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel

Mexico’s Sinaloa drug cartel lost out on more than 700 kilos of cocaine paste worth approximately $24 million after Peruvian drug enforcement police seized the illicit cargo as it was being prepared for shipment from Peru to Mexico’s busiest port in the Pacific coast city of Manzanillo.

The nighttime raid, conducted Aug. 27 in a store located in Lima’s  Callao district, led to the seizure of more than 700 kilos of cocaine paste.

The paste, which is the middle step in processing between coca leaf and powder cocaine, had been mixed with 8 tons of paprika, one of Peru’s major exports.

“They used a method very difficult to detect,” a member of Peru’s counter-drug police was quoted saying in daily La Republica. “These organizations are financing Peruvian chemists to camouflage the drug better.”

The valuable cargo was to be boarded on a vessel registered to Broquer Natural Exportanciones EIRL, allegedly a front corporation designed to cart out large quantities of cocaine from Peru to Mexico.

After seven months of investigation, the company’s general manager, Carlos Ramírez Montenegro, and employee Virgina Monsalve, were arrested for their alleged ties to Joaquín Guzmán Loera “Chapo,” the head of Mexico’s Sinaloa cartel, and for exporting “risky organic products” from Lima’s Callao and Chimbote ports, La Republica reported.

“We also found out that the general manager and the company’s legal representative had previously been arrested for drug trafficking,” said Minister of Interior Luis Alva Castro.

On Thursday night police raided several other buildings in Puenta Piedra, Lince, San Miguel and El Augustino, but no other arrests were made.

So far, in 2008, approximately 27 metric tons of illicit drugs have been seized by Peru’s counter-drug police.

Peru was once the world’s leading producer of coca. But the country slashed its production by 70 percent between 1995 and 2001 primarily because of low coca prices, interdiction, forced eradication of coca fields and programs to en-courage farmers grow alternative crops.

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.

In June 2008, a study conducted by Peru’s National Commission for the Development of Life without Drugs, or Devida, and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime indicated that coca crops had increased by 4.5 percent in 2007 and that approximately 92 percent of Peruvian coca production is destined for the fabrication of cocaine paste and cocaine hydrochloride.

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