Colombia, Peru Commit to Fighting Crime in the Amazon

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The presidents of Colombia and Peru signed a bilateral agreement committing to fight drug trafficking and illegal mining in the border region, but the scale of criminal activity in the Amazon suggests more political will is needed to combat organized crime in this area. 

On September 30, the cabinets of Colombian President Juan Manuel Santos and Peruvian President Ollanta Humala met in Iquitos, a city in the Peruvian Amazon, to sign an 11-point agreement meant to tackle insecurity along their shared frontier, reported Rumbo Minero. Included in the agreement were initiatives to combat drug trafficking, as well as the illegal mining and timber trade in the Amazon, reported Portal del Sur. There were also initiatives dealing with social and economic development in the area. 

Additionally, Colombia’s defense minister and Peru’s interior minister said they would increase collaboration in fighting money laundering, and would create a new working group that would facilitate sharing intelligence between the two countries, reported Vanguardia.

InSight Crime Analysis

While this meeting is a step in the right direction, the resulting agreement lacks concrete details on how both Peru and Colombia plan to better combat criminal activity in the Amazon. Given the extent of the illicit industries in this area — particularly in the tri-border region shared by Colombia, Brazil, and Peru — what’s sorely needed here is a detailed security strategy and a demonstrated committment to follow through with actions, not just words. Nevertheless, this recent summit — along with Peru’s recent declaration of a state of emergency in two of its Amazonian provinces — is an encouraging sign that both Colombia and Peru are ready to pay more attention to the Amazon. 

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Due to its geographic isolation, the tri-border region has long been a largely overlooked hotbed of criminal activity. For decades now, Colombia’s so-called “capital city” of the Amazon, Leticia, has been used as a transshipment point for exporting cocaine and importing precursor chemicals for cocaine production. Even today, the city remains a key focal point for the trafficking of drugs from Peru and Colombia into Brazil.

One development that could be cause for Colombian and Peruvian authorities to keep a closer eye on the Amazon would be if Colombian paramilitary successor groups establish a greater presence here. Last March, a Peruvian anti-drug official told InSight Crime there were no indications that these groups (known as BACRIM, from the Spanish acronym for “criminal bands”) were operating in Leticia. However, the arrest last May of nine alleged members of criminal group the Libertadores del Vichada indicates the BACRIM may indeed be moving into this area.

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