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Corruption and Cocaine Trafficking Booming Under Fujimori


March 1993

Cocaine trafficking and high-level official corruption reportedly have increased dramatically since Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori suspended that nation's democratic institutions in the name of a war on drugs (Francisco Reyes, "Peru's Deadly Drug Habit: Behind the Fujimori Front, Corruption and Cocaine Trafficking Are Booming," Washington Post, 2/28/93, C4).

When Fujimori declared martial law in April 1992, he justified the measure on grounds that it was the only effective way of stemming the drug trade. But since then, drug trafficking, particularly in the Huallaga Valley, where most of the world's coca is cultivated, has increased and the nation has undergone increasing "Colombianizaton," according to Francisco Reyes, a reporter for the Lima-based newspaper La Republica. Reyes has tried to publicize corruption and trafficking, but has had stories killed by editors fearful of government and military retribution.

Since Fujimori's action, the cocaine trade has become increasingly "corporatized" with small farmers organized by new cartels designed to compete with the Colombians by moving beyond coca export to export of cocaine paste and finished cocaine. The Peruvian military has become systemically involved with the drug traffic, with much aid from Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori's primary drug policy advisor. Montesinos, a former army captain, is the de facto head of the National Intelligence Service, which functions as a secret police, according to Reyes.

Since his ascent to head of the intelligence service, no major traffickers have been caught. What Reyes describes as the "Montesinos faction of the military" is now Fujimori's main base of support, according to Reyes.

Army-trafficker cooperation is routine with payments to the military to guard drug shipments, and has become so open that traffickers even sometimes use Army and Air Force helicopters. One trafficker told Reyes that he pays $50,000 per helicopter flight -- $30,000 for the commanding officer and $20,000 for the crew. The principal of Peruvian cocaine trafficking, Demetrio Chavez Pena Herrera, known as "El Vaticano," is allegedly charged $300,000 per month by army officials to be able to work without official harassment. Local army commanders are paid $5,000 for every 500 kilograms of drugs that passes through two airstrips located four kilometers from an army base at Puerto Pizans.

An estimated 700 drug flights take off yearly from Peru's coca-growing regions but the Peruvian Air Force intercepted four last year.