IDL-Reporteros details the changing landscape of the drug trade in Peru’s VRAE region, whose trafficking clans are increasingly basing their operations in neighboring Bolivia.
The report, the third part of their investigation into Peru’s drug trade, says that drug trafficking in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE), a remote region in the south of the country, has changed substantially in the last two years.
For one, instead of smuggling cocaine hydrochloride (HCI), the processed form of cocaine, traffickers are increasingly moving the drug in the less-refined paste form. As a result, it is less common to find microwave ovens or chemicals like acetone, which are used to process cocaine. This is because the drug trafficking clans now process the product in Bolivia, where they can make more of a profit, according to IDL-Reporteros.
The methods of transporting the drug have also shifted: a growing amount is hidden in secret compartments on trucks and other vehicles instead of being carried by individual “backpackers.”
The IDL-Reporteros piece identifies 15 organizations and individuals key to cocaine production in the VRAE (see their diagram, below). Each produces 300-500 kilo of cocaine every one or two months, depending on demand. The coca base is worth $400 to $600 per kilo, while paste that has been “washed” (purified with ethanol) is worth $600 to $800, and processed cocaine $950 to $1100.
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The report reveals the extent of the VRAE drug traffickers’ connections abroad. It names Adrian Velarde Huamani, alias “Chato Adrian” or “Velarde Huamani” (pictured) as one of the biggest producers, and says he has established operations in Bolivia, where he processes the washed base. Another major trafficker is currently living in Bolivia, according to the report, while others are named as having connections with groups in Colombia, Brazil and Bolivia.
It also sets out the traffickers’ links with the Shining Path rebel group, the extent of whose involvement with the trade is a matter of debate. IDL-Reporteros said that one of the longest-operating clans, run by Filemon Huillcayaure Crespo, alias “Vacachorro,” smuggles drugs with the help of the Shining Path. Vacachorro is being investigated for money laundering in conjunction with the Shining Path.
Peru’s former drug czar Ricardo Soberon told InSight Crime that cocaine is increasingly being shipped south out of the VRAE to Bolivia, and then onwards to the Southern Cone, because of increasing demand for the drug in Brazil and Argentina.