The Wall Street Journal | 9/22/2009 12:00:00 AM
Peru Battles Thriving Drug Trade
Sept 22--Surging cocaine production is rattling Peru after years of relative calm, raising fears that the associated increase in violence and corruption could derail one of the fastest-growing economies in Latin America.
A recent attack on a military helicopter by a group tied to drug runners has sharpened the debate over how to tackle Peru's rising cocaine output. The attack followed several others in remote coca-leaf growing areas that have left more than 50 military or police personnel dead this year.
The lure of quick profits is tempting some officials in the capital. A former adviser to a member of Congress was recently detained with 140 kilograms of cocaine, adding to concerns the political influence of the traffickers is increasing.
On Sunday, pollster Ipsos-Apoyo released results of a survey that showed 55% of Peruvians believe narcotics-traffickers and politicians are closely linked, with the traffickers financing politicians, who in turn return favors. The survey said that 72% believe the police have been infiltrated by the traffickers, while 66% think the judicial system has also been compromised. Fears are growing that Peru could be headed in the same direction as Mexico, where thousands have been killed as drug cartels seek to buy off or kill government and security officials while fighting for lucrative trafficking routes.
In the 1980s, Peru exported mainly coca leaf to Colombia, where it was processed and trafficked by Colombian cartels. Experts say the Colombians have been replaced by Mexican cartels shipping out fully processed cocaine from Peru, with some cash laundered locally through foreign-exchange companies and real-estate deals.
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