Peru Police Port Operation Shows Drug Trade Power Dynamics

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A massive police operation in Peru’s principal drug port, Callao, has shed light on the workings of local cocaine trafficking networks and how they relate to the international brokers that ship Peruvian product abroad.

In the early hours of the morning on June 20, around 1,300 police and 60 prosecutors carried out simultaneous raids on 34 houses and seven prison cells targeting the “Kings of Shejo Port” (Los Reyes de Puerto Shejo), arresting at least 12 people and seizing 180 kilos of cocaine, reported El Comercio.

Police investigators told La Republica that the gang worked for the Andean Cartel (Cartel Andino), a transnational cocaine mafia comprised of traffickers from Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela and Peru.

According to La Republica’s sources, this network is principally financed by an Ecuadorean, Pedro Bejarano Alvarado, alias “El Patrón,” and directed by his Colombian lieutenant Carlos Ocampo.

Police believe the alleged leader of the “the Kings,” Carlos MacDowell Villacorta, provided services to the Andean Cartel, guaranteeing the safe passage of cocaine loads through the port and onto departing cargo ships.

MacDowell appears to have inherited this mantle from the Barrio Kings, headed by Gerson Gálvez Calle, alias “Caracol,” who was arrested in Medellín, Colombia in 2016.

According to some reports, MacDowell and Caracol were rivals fighting over control of Callao. However, police told La Republica that MacDowell had previously been Caracol’s chief representative on the Callao streets, an account supported by InSight Crime’s own investigations. 

The case against the kings is not limited to drug trafficking, but also involves money laundering and at least 23 murders, reported Peru21.

InSight Crime Analysis

The police operation in Callao shines a light on the drug trafficking dynamics in one of the main exit points for Peruvian cocaine.

The Kings’ operation illustrates how Peruvian organized crime structures remain largely low-profile and relatively small clans, often family-based, that concentrate on their own particular link in the drug trafficking chain.

In coca growing regions, this may be the production of coca base, the processing of base into cocaine or its transport to dispatch points. In Callao, though, this involves the storage and consolidation of cocaine shipments, and using corrupt port contacts, or in some cases divers, to guarantee these loads make it onto cargo ships.

SEE ALSO: Peru News and Profiles

From this point on, Peru’s cocaine is in the hands of the international traffickers — like the Kings’ alleged collaborators, the Andean Cartel — that broker deals with importers and distributors such as Mexican cartels or the Italian mafia.

However, InSight Crime’s investigations into the Peru drug trade revealed that such networks are often ad hoc alliances formed to move cocaine on a case-by-case basis, making it unclear whether the Andean Cartel should be considered a genuine trafficking organization or a loose network of international collaborators.

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