Peruvian military operations in the VRAE region

Peru is to construct a controversial new airfield and military base for anti-narcotics operations in the drug trade heartland, the VRAE, in what the authorities say is a response to the rising influence of the Shining Path guerrillas.

The new 476-hectare base will be located in the Pichari district in La Convencion province on the eastern edge of the Apurimac and Ene River Valley, known by its initials in Spanish as the VRAE. 

According to a Ministry of Defense report cited in La Republica, the objective of the proposed base is "the improvement of logistical operations ... in the face of the increase in terrorist activity in the CE-VRAE (VRAE Special Command)."

The VRAE is the site of an estimated third of Peru's drug crops and home to the biggest remaining faction of Maoist guerrilla group the Shining Path, which is deeply involved in the drug trade and uses the region to mount attacks against security forces. The guerrilla group is reported to be increasingly shifting its operations east, further into La Convencion.

Plans for the base were developed with the support of US military aid advisers, the report said, although no mention was made of whether the United States is offering financial support.

The project is facing fierce opposition from the local authorities, non-governmental organizations and the 100 families whose land will be expropriated.

"In these lands we grow cacao and other legal products," said local Councilor Nery Cuadros. "There is no coca, we reject terrorism and drug trafficking."

Locals claim they have been misled about the plans, saying the idea was sold to them in 2011 as a civilian airbase, which would help them export produce and increase tourism.

InSight Crime Analysis

The difficulties in operating in the remote mountains and jungles of the VRAE have contributed to rising coca cultivation and the resurgence of the Shining Path -- although the group remains a shadow of its former self -- and a new US-backed military base would certainly help tackle these logistical constraints.

However, as InSight Crime has noted previously, isolation, under-development and poverty in the VRAE have left many residents with little option but to turn to coca cultivation, feeding support for the guerrillas, who capitalize on residents' sense of being abandoned by the state.

Operating within this environment, the Peruvian authorities need to address local concerns, otherwise they leave open the possibility that gains from the improved security infrastructure may be undermined by the further alienation of the local population.

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
  • 10
Prev Next

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces...

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

How the MS13 Got Its Foothold in Transnational Drug Trafficking

Throughout the continent, the debate on whether or not the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gang is working with or for drug traffickers continues. In this investigation, journalist Carlos García tells the story of how a member of the MS13 entered the methamphetamine distribution business under the powerful auspices...

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including...

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

The MS13 Moves (Again) to Expand on US East Coast

Local police and justice officials are convinced that the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) has strengthened its presence along the East Coast of the United States. The alarm follows a recent spate of violence -- of the type not seen in a decade -- which included dismembered bodies and...

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

'MS13 Members Imprisoned in El Salvador Can Direct the Gang in the US'

Special Agent David LeValley headed the criminal division of the Federal Bureau of Investigation's (FBI) Washington office until last November 8. While in office, he witnessed the rise of the MS13, the Barrio 18 (18th Street) and other smaller gangs in the District of Columbia as well...

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima...

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

The Lucky ‘Kingpin’: How ‘Chepe Diablo’ Has (So Far) Ridiculed Justice

José Adán Salazar Umaña is the only Salvadoran citizen currently on the US government's Kingpin List. But in his defense, Salazar Umaña claims is he is an honorable businessman who started his career by exchanging money along the borders between Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras. He does...

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

How the MS13 Tried (and Failed) to Create a Single Gang in the US

In July 2011, members of the Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) attended a meeting organized in California by a criminal known as "Bad Boy." Among the invitees was José Juan Rodríguez Juárez, known as "Dreamer," who had gone to the meeting hoping to better understand what was beginning to...

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and...

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Guatemala's Mafia State and the Case of Mauricio López Bonilla

Former Guatemalan Interior Minister Mauricio López Bonilla -- a decorated war hero and a longtime US ally -- finds himself treading water amidst a flurry of accusations about corruption and his connections to drug traffickers. López Bonilla is not the most well-known suspect in the cases against...