U.S. to Aid Peru in Coca and Cocaine Interdiction on Jungle Rivers
President Alberto K. Fujimori of Peru met with U.S. officials on February 1-2 to discuss what could be a major expansion of U.S. military involvement in anti-drug efforts in Latin American -- a new military aid program for interdiction of coca shipments along Peruvian jungle rivers before they reach Colombia for cocaine processing (Clifford Krauss, "Pentagon to Help Peru Stop Drug-Base Shipping on Rivers," Washington Post, February 3, 1997, p. A3).
According to U.S. officials, 80% of cocaine consumed in the U.S. originates as coca grown in the Peruvian Andes. Officials say that drug traffickers have adapted to U.S-Peruvian air shipment interdiction by using Peru's 8,600-mile network of Amazonian tributaries. General Wesley K. Clark, the senior U.S. commander in Latin America, said, "Riverine interdiction is the heart of the next important step in disrupting the supply." State Department and Pentagon officials said the Peruvians would have to express enthusiasm for the plan and delineate responsibilities before the Administration could draft a final proposal and go to Congress for appropriation.
The preliminary proposal calls for Peruvian security forces to do the actual interdicting. Assistance from the U.S. would include regular visits to the Peruvian jungle by U.S. military trainers, and supplying Peru with more than 100 patrol boats outfitted with M-60 machine guns, and satellite-linked tracking and communications gear. U.S. military personnel would operate a dozen or more planes to guide Peruvian forces in the water below. Also joining in the effort would be U.S. Customs Service, DEA and Coast Guard personnel.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a State Department official involved in making Peruvian policy said that interdiction on the rivers would be more difficult than interdiction in the air. Some Peruvian rivers are a mile wide, and there are numerous inlets camouflaged by jungle canopies that could be used as hiding places for traffickers. "There are no apparent choke points on the rivers," the official said, "and you still have to deal with insurgency at night. What you are talking about is impossible to control over areas that the central Government has never controlled."