With the advent of the Netflix blockbuster series Narcos, many are of the belief that Colombia is the world’s premier cocaine producer and exporter. This is a false notion. Pablo Escobar may be rolling in his grave (sorry for the spoiler), but since 2012, Peru has been the cocaine capital of the globe. Single engine planes (mainly owned by the Shining Path organization) carrying about $7.2 million in coke each, are responsible for half of Peru’s cocaine exportation, according to The Guardian.
Peruvian cocaine traffickers have been moving so much blow by air, last November, the Congress there unanimously voted to authorize the shooting down of cocaine planes. However, that plan was nixed after the government didn’t purchase a $71 million state-of-the-art radar to monitor the “air bridge” from the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valley. Airborne deliveries of “Peruvian flake” commonly use this route in the daily routine of flying the weight out of the country. The Guardian describes:
The “narco planes” have touched down just minutes by air from military bases in the nearly road-less region known by its Spanish acronym as the VRAEM.
About four times a day they drop on to dirt airstrips, deliver cash and pick up more than 300kg (660lb) of partially refined cocaine, police have told the Associated Press.
The Peruvian military has caught the brunt of the blame for the rampant cocaine exportation, as officials claim they are turning a blind-eye to operations. The planes touch down within a stone’s throw from military bases to drop off cash and pick up product “in the nearly road-less region known by its Spanish acronym as the VRAEM.” According to one accused smuggler, military commanders let the runners go unimpeded for a $10,000 per plane fee.
The Guardian elaborates on the activities in VRAEM, carried out by the Shining Path rebel forces:
The VRAEM region, which is the size of Ireland, has been under a state of emergency for nine years owing to the persistence of drug-running Shining Path rebels. They have killed more than 30 police and soldiers during Humala’s tenure but are now thought to be down to about 60 combatants.
The government says destroying coca in the region would cause a bloody backlash by fuelling Shining Path recruitment.
Some 6,000 soldiers are stationed at more than 30 bases in the valley, ostensibly to battle “narcoterrorism.” By law counter-narcotics is the job of the fewer than 1,000 narcotics police in Peru. But police rely on the military for airlift and many chafe at joint drug missions with soldiers.