The Government of Peru is a major buyer of Coca Leaf in the Valley of the Apurimac-Ene-Mantaro Rivers, referred to in ever-charming government acronym style as “The VRAEM”. This Valley lies at the heart of the Andean mountain chain and could easily have been the model for Shangri-la. As it is, the Peruvian government, in league with the US Police State, has turned the Valley of the Apurimac-Ene-Mantaro Rivers into a war zone targeting peaceful Coca growers.
Interestingly the Peruvian government is also a major buyer of the Valley’s Coca Leaf, but the government buyers are well-known as cheapskates. That’s probably because – officially – government buyers and selected foreign buyers like Coca Cola are supposed to be the only buyers in the valley. They figure they’re doing the Coca growers a favor.
Of course, the Cocaine Cartels beg to differ with that, as do a substantial proportion of valley residents. And so there is no peace in the valley.
The Peruvian government owns and controls the non-Cocaine use of Coca Leaf through a monopoly named ENACO. This state-run company produces the official line of Coca tonics, medicines drinks and snacks for domestic consumption.
Peru’s politicians are in the Coca Leaf Remedios business because Coca Remedios are so deeply ingrained in Peruvian society that their use cannot be stopped – oh, and also because it’s a handy way to make some very nice revenue.
However, private entrepreneurs are not allowed to compete with the government monopoly, so Peruvian Coca Leaf products remain stuck with an incongruous “Soviet” look and excruciatingly ho-hum marketing. Too bad for Peru – Bolivian entrepreneurs and government officials are already making creative headway in the world markets for Coca Leaf and Coca Leaf medicines. (Pretty soon some country in Europe like the Netherlands or France is going to open up to Coca leaf entrepreneurs. The US is probably going to keep its Federal asshole puckered but one or two of the states ought to give Coca Leaf legalization a good hard look. )
Meanwhile, back in Coca Valley. At the same time that it low-balls the farmers’ Coca Leaf and makes cheesy Coca Leaf products, the Peruvian government wages war against any “extra” Coca growing by the people of Coca Valley. If they grow more than they are told to by the government, or if they refuse to sell to ENACO because of its ridiculous prices for their precious leaf, GOP burns and poisons their fields and makes their lives as miserable as possible. After all, their bottom-line motive is to satisfy the requirements of the US Police State that wants to be able to show the world that Peru is trying very, very hard to eradicate illicit Cocaine production. Very hard.
But Aha! Peru has come up with a plan! GOP wants the people of Coca Valley to grow only enough Coca to satisfy the government’s requirements, and then to convert to growing crops like bananas and cocoa – assisted of course by friendly “experts” from the US and UN.
Of course if you are a farmer in Coca Valley and your family has been growing Coca for generations and you don’t happen to like the chintzy prices the government is willing to pay, are you going to let the police rip out your Coca plants and make you start over with Bananas? Quite a few Coca Valley residents have not been pleased when approached by men with guns proposing this plan, and a few have gotten downright rowdy. Thrown rocks ‘n stuff. You know – terrorism.
So to complete the farce the Peruvian government declared the VRAEM a war zone a few years back, it ever since has been battling against the quickly shrinking remains of the once-powerful Shining Path rebels – as of late 2015 SL is down to under 100 guerillas, mostly old men and teenagers.
To go after this fearsome band the Peruvian government keeps sending in waves of troops, missiles and helicopters, while the US leaps in with space-based surveillance, military aircraft, dark ops and night raiders, chemical warfare assistance and high tech drones. All this firepower is arrayed against ragtag remnants of what was once a well-organized and very effective rebellion.
These survivors fight on, using the vast forests and jungles of the Coca Valley, an area the size of Switzerland, to hide in.
So this is the threat – a hundred tired rebels who are definitely at the end of their Shining Path. Can you imagine, a hundred guys getting together in the mountains almost anywhere else in the world and the central government spending $250 Million a year to try to get rid of the rebels and eradicate a few thousand hectares of croplands at the same time – and failing?
“The Peruvian government’s (2014) counternarcotics strategy includes ambitious goals for eradication, interdiction, and alternative development, and addresses associated issues such as the control of precursor chemicals, organized crime, money laundering, and the rule of law. The Humala Administration increased its counternarcotics budget from $220 million in 2012 to $256 million in 2013. For the first time, Peru contributed $11.6 million towards eradication efforts and concomitant aviation support, which historically has been funded by the United States.” US Department of State
OK, so the Peruvian government spends $256 Million of mostly US money a year to – what – combat terrorism and cocaine trafficking and deal with other related dangers to the children, like free speech? And the US is right there helping out with money, technology, guns and manpower, just like the US was when the Fujimori government, funded by US foreign aid money, forcibly sterilized hundreds of thousands of Indian women in the 1980s in so-called “population control” programs.
Speaking of terrorism, let’s look at the terrorist activities of the Shining Path guerillas that are being used to justify all this government-initiated violence a little more closely.
So, how big a threat to the peace and tranquility of Peru is the Shining Path, actually? Here’s the US Department of State list of every one of the terrorist incidents involving the Shining Path in 2014. (Don’t worry – it isn’t a real long list)
- On April 9, Peruvian police arrested 28 leaders of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights – a front organization that advocates for the release of imprisoned SL founder Abimael Guzman. Those arrested included two of Guzman’s long-time lawyers, Afredo Crespo and Manuel Fajardo. The 28 were charged with terrorism and terrorist financing using narcotics revenue. On August 4, the National Anti-Terrorism Court, citing lack of evidence, ordered that the 28 be released from pre-trail detention. Although the court ordered the detainees released, it did keep the charges intact so the trial can move forward.
- A May 16 clash between security forces and the SL in the Junin region left one SL guerilla dead and another wounded. The rest of the column was able to escape, but soldiers recovered weapons, ammunition, and communication equipment.
- On June 17, a combined Peruvian military and police force killed three SL terrorists in the VRAEM emergency zone. The joint patrol recovered a number of weapons, including a heavy machine gun that SL fighters reportedly stripped from a Russian-made Mi-17 helicopter they shot down in a 2009 attack that killed three soldiers.
- In August, security forces rescued six adults and three children from a work camp in the VRAEM used by SL to provide food and logistic support for its members.
- In August, police officers in the UHV arrested Oscar Silva, who is believed to have been the second-in-command to “Comrade Artemio,” who was captured in February 2012.
- In September, soldiers rescued 11 people, including six children, who were being forced to work for SL in Junin’s Satipo district.
- On November 2, security forces announced the arrest of Filemon Huillcayaure, considered one of the top financiers of SL in the VRAEM.
OK – there you are. That’s the Peruvian government’s 2014 body count in the US-sponsored War On Narco/Terror in Coca Valley. The totals include: 0 soldiers dead or wounded; 4 SL terrorists killed, 1 wounded; and 20 people including children rescued from slave labor for the Shining Path.
And that’s after a full year of running around this valley the size of Switzerland with thousands of troops, helicopters, attack jets, tanks, HumVees, guns and rockets, and the latest ground, air & space-based surveillance technology courtesy of the US. All this technology and manpower chasing approximately 100 Shining Path guerillas (now minus 4) as they shake down Coca growers, take pot shots at soldiers, hide in the jungle, enslave the occasional villager, and make Coca Base to generate an income.
So, now that we all know how well the “War On The Gang Of 100 Terrorists” is going – how about the “War On Coca Plants”?
Well, according to a 2014 roundup (sic) by the US Dept. of State, Bureau Of International Narcotics And Law Enforcement Affairs
“Peru remained the world’s top potential producer of cocaine for the third consecutive year, and was the second-largest cultivator of coca, with an estimated 50,500 hectares (ha) of coca under cultivation in 2012, the most recent year for which data is available. The majority of cocaine produced in Peru is transported to South American countries for domestic consumption, or for onward shipment to Europe, East Asia, and Mexico via private and commercial aircraft, and land and maritime conveyances. Peru is a major importer of precursor chemicals used for cocaine production.
“ President Ollanta Humala dedicated substantial resources to implement Peru’s 2012-2016 counternarcotics strategy. The strategy calls for a 200 percent increase in the eradication of illicit coca by 2016. The Government of Peru remains on pace to meet its ambitious targets in this area, and in 2013 eradicated in the Monzón River Valley, a hostile area with little state presence, for the first time in decades. Sendero Luminoso (SL or Shining Path) operating in the Apurimac-Ene-Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) relied on cocaine trafficking for funding, and killed and wounded several police and military personnel during counternarcotics operations.”
Oops. It looks like even with hundreds of millions of dollars, armadas of military-scale technology, thousands of heavily armed soldiers and police, and humungous firepower applied year after year, you still can’t (or conveniently don’t want to) deal with 100 guerillas operating in an area the size of Switzerland, and at the same time in spite of this all-out War you also still have the distinction of being the world’s top potential producer of cocaine for the third consecutive year, and you were the second-largest cultivator of coca in 2014.
This whole US-promoted War On Drugs/War On Terror thing really isn’t working for you is it?
Respectfully, I have a suggestion to offer.
Peru has a world-class renewable natural resource in the Coca plant and the people who have grown it for centuries. Why not go with what you have instead of playing a losing game in return for Yankee dollars? Why not just tell the US to go home, make peace with the Cartels and let them make and export all the Cocaine they want as long as they pay taxes, work with the indigenous people to build a Coca Leaf-based economy throughout the country, build a health industry based on Coca Leaf treatment at spas scattered throughout the mountains, and allow private enterprise to apply the entrepreneurial spirit to development and global sales of Coca-based medicines?
Next, pay off Shining Path and let them go home for God’s sake – including those you are holding in prison. I imagine that $50-$100K per SL guerilla would do it – a total of $5-10 Million (one-time investment) to get the whole hundred of them to lay down their weapons, for which they receive amnesty and a piece of land to grow Coca. And the SL in prison who agree to go home and live peacefully ought to get the same deal.
So Government of Peru, instead of spending hundreds of millions every year on a couple of wars that are going nowhere and aren’t even yours, plus terrorizing whole communities of your People, why not lead the world and declare that Coca is a gift from nature and that the Peruvian government will no longer stand in the way of those who wish to make their living by growing and making products from it – including Cocaine. What the rest of the world thinks shouldn’t matter.
I mean, hey there, government of Peru – don’t you have better things to do than chase 100 members of the Gang Who Can’t Shoot Straight, a bunch of peaceful Coca growers, and gangs of very determined Cocaine makers? Didn’t that US-sponsored clown Fujimori bring down enough evil on Peru to make the government finally decide to work for rather than against the People? If everybody’s happy in Coca Valley who cares what the US thinks?
It can happen. The US isn’t so tough anymore. Just ask your neighbors in Bolivia.