Peru is to start monitoring transportation of chemicals using satellites

Peru announced that it will begin monitoring chemicals transported overland by satellite to ensure they don’t fall into the hands of drug traffickers.

On October 24, Peru’s Council of Ministers approved a decree that will create strictly monitored transport routes for chemicals that may also be used to process narcotics, Andina reported. The routes will be monitored by satellite, while vehicles moving chemical cargo are going to be required to carry a GPS tracking system to make sure they do not deviate from the permitted routes.

The National Customs Superintendency (Sunat) and the National Police will decide which routes to authorize for the more than 5,000 companies involved in Peru’s chemical industry, according to Andina. Under the measure, vehicles veering from the routes would be seized, their cargo confiscated, and their owner subject to prosecution, El Comercio reported.

InSight Crime Analysis  

The government has emphasized chemical monitoring as an additional method to stem the drug trade beyond coca crop eradication in a country that is currently the second largest grower of coca in the world, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. Precursor chemicals   and kerosene are vital components in the production of cocaine hydrochloride (HCL) from its raw form, their use making the extraction of the cocaine alkaloid far more efficient. In September 2011, President Ollanta Humala announced the implementation a $20 million software program which would allow authorities to track fuel sales.

One problem facing the government is the complicity of the authorities in the sale of chemicals. In July 2011 the owner of a gas station was arrested for selling jet fuel to drug traffickers, something which he had purchased from the military. It may not be enough to simply monitor private companies, therefore.

In addition, some of Peru's drug production has begun shifting out of the country. According to a  July 2012 report by the investigative site IDL-Reporteros, criminal groups operating in the lawless Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) region have begun moving processing operations to Bolivia, where they can make more of a profit. This means the new government initiative to crack down on drug precursors may have come too late.