Peru has eradicated a record amount of coca in 2013, surpassing the country’s goal for the year of 22,000 hectares, an achievement likely linked both to increased anti-drug efforts and better accessibility in regions formerly controlled by Shining Path guerrillas.
Interior Minister Walter Alban said Peru had destroyed 22,543 hectares of illicit coca crops in 2013. “This number, which we have just significantly surpassed, represents an absolute record in the history of coca crop eradication in Peru,” said the minister. He said the crops eradicated prevented the production of 173 tons of cocaine, reported El Comercio.
With a month left in the year, the figures represent a 59 percent increase on total coca eradication for 2012, when Peruvian officials destroyed 14,171 hectares of illicit coca.
The government has also seized and destroyed over 26 tons of drugs of various types this year, according to Alban.
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Peru’s dramatic increase in eradication for 2013, which forms part of a four-year strategy, is another indication the country is taking serious strides to combat drug production and organized crime. The government also recently implemented a law instating harsher penalties for organized crime activities, and plans to triple the budget for the criminal investigations unit of the police (DIRINCRI) in 2014.
Peru’s coca production has historically been concentrated in two areas controlled by Shining Path guerrillas — the Upper Huallaga Valley and the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM). However, the rebels’ Huallaga faction, formerly led by Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, alias “Comrade Artemio,” has disintegrated since his capture in early 2012. Sources linked to Peruvian eradication programs said they met little resistance in the Huallaga Valley in 2013 compared with past years, likely contributing to the government’s success in meeting its ambitious goals.
In 2012, Peru surpassed Colombia to become the world’s number one coca cultivator, with some 60,000 hectares of the crop compared to 48,000 in Colombia. Despite increased efforts, Peru’s eradication figure is still nowhere close to annual eradication in Colombia, where some 135,000 hectares were destroyed through combined aerial and manual efforts in 2012, meaning Peru is likely to retain its top producer status in 2014. Aerial fumigation is not allowed in Peru.
Peru’s limited interdiction capacity for drug flights — the country has no radar technology — means the government has to hit the supply side hard. However, this strategy has its flaws: coca growers can just shift production elsewhere, and the strategy also fails to attack the root of the problem.