> Vol. 5, No 4. 2015 > The Evolving Transnational Crime-Terrorism Nexus in Peru and its Strategic Relevance for the U.S. and the Region

R. Evan Ellis
The Evolving Transnational Crime-Terrorism Nexus in Peru and its Strategic Relevance for the U.S. and the Region


14 2015

In September, 2014, the anti-drug command of the Peruvian National Police, DIRANDRO, seized 7.6 metric tons of cocaine at a factory near the city of Trujillo. A Peruvian family-clan, in coordination with Mexican narco-traffickers, was using the facility to insert the cocaine into blocks of coal, to be shipped from the Pacific Coast ports of Callao (Lima) and Paita to Spain and Belgium.2 Experts estimate that Peru now exports more than 200 tons of cocaine per year,3 and by late 2014, the country had replaced Colombia as the world’s number one producer of coca leaves, used to make the drug.4 With its strategic geographic location both on the Pacific coast, and in the middle of South America, Peru is today becoming a narcotrafficking hub for four continents, supplying not only the U.S. and Canada, but also Europe, Russia, and rapidly expanding markets in Brazil, Chile, and Asia. In the multiple narcotics supply chains that originate in Peru, local groups are linked to powerful transnational criminal organizations including the Urabeños in Colombia, the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico, and most recently, the First Capital Command (PCC) in Brazil. Further complicating matters, the narco-supply chains are but one part of an increasingly large and complex illicit economy, including illegal mining, logging, contraband merchandise, and human trafficking, mutually re-enforcing, and fed by the relatively weak bond between the state and local communities. In this illicit economy, the residual elements of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso, now concentrated principally in the region known as the VRAEM (defined by the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro river valleys) play a relatively minor role, principally taxing narcotrafficking and other criminal activities in the limited areas under their influence. Yet the marginal role of Sendero Luninoso as one among many players does not make the collective challenge of the growing illicit economy any less severe.