Grenade and cannabis plantation found in Lima avenue

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A fragmentation grenade and more than 200 cannabis plants have been found in an avenue in Lima’s La Victoria region.

Municipal gardeners came across the grenade at about 10am, while tending the plants in the central reservation of San Eugenio Avenue. They immediately alerted police, who called specialist officers from the EDEX “bomb squad” division to render the weapon safe and remove it.

A few meters away, the gardeners then came across a large number of cannabis plants, growing hidden amongst the trees between the carriageways of the avenue and opposite the San Norberto high school. A total of over 200 plants were found and destroyed.

Police sources state that an investigation is underway to find those responsible.

La Victoria is a central district of Lima, and the terminal for many buses to and from the capital. However, many parts of the large district are generally poorly policed and unsafe for foreigners.

Israeli tourist arrested at Lima airport with 5.2 kilos of cocaine

A 27-year-old Israeli citizen identified as Larissa Blick has been arrested at Lima airport as she boarded a flight to
Madrid. She was found to have 5.2 kilos of pure cocaine concealed in her luggage. She admitted that “some friends” had offered her US$3000 to take the suitcase to
Madrid.
 

This comes just days after German Marko Vehit was arrested at the same airport, trying to take 15.9kg of cocaine to the same destination in exchange for $8000.  

Police have not ruled out the existence of a gang of smugglers taking advantage of tourists, and advise foreigners to report any offers directly to them.

Coca growers may turn away from cocaine and towards biofuel

Peruvian national anti-drugs group Devida has stated that crops such as sugar cane and oil palm, used for making ecologically safe biofuel, may prove an alternative crop to replace coca in the country’s mountains. Although coca can be grown legally in Peru, over 90% of the annual crop is siphoned off for the illegal production of cocaine and related drugs.

Devida Chief Rómulo Pizarro stated today that his group is studying the possibility and profitability of turning over land currently used for coca for growing biofuel crops, providing growers with a viable and legal alternative.

He added that this would be an interesting alternative given that the biofuel industry is growing fast and seems to have a great future ahead of it, so the market will probably be strong in the near future – something missing from many other alternative crop plans.

“Our idea is to support this possibility because it could be an excellent alternative to coca, providing a sustainable crop and, above all, a guaranteed market.”

He said that for this project to succeed, it needs not only private investment but a joint venture including several government bodies, such as national oil company Petroperu, the Ministry of Agriculture, and local and regional governments.

Drug growers may switch from cocaine to cocoa

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Coca eradication in Huánuco

The farmers of Huánuco, who have recently been involved in violent civil unrest to protect their right to crow cocaine-precursor crop coca, have requested temporary financial aid from the state while they change over to growing cacao, from which chocolate is made. According to Grover Pango, who represents the government in talks regarding coca eradication, this is the first major breakthrough that has been reached.

Talking to the Andina agency, he added that the government will stand firm on the eradication of the coca crops of the Upper Huallaga area, which are used almost exclusively for cocaine production rather than for traditional and legal leaf chewing and coca tea production. “That is not a point at issue, the eradication of coca will continue,” he said.

He stated that the talks are about the people of Huánuco and the problems they face, and include Regional President Jorge Espinoza as well as representatives of the coca growers’ movement. They were recently started as a measure to quell growing civil unrest in Huánuco, and will last until July 9th, with the aim of forming an inclusive development plan for the region.

Pango revealed that one of the key demands of the growers’ movements is to know what will happen to the 34 of their members who were arrested during the recent outbreak of violence.

They also demand explanations for the allegedly violent and abusive invasion by police of fields growing crops other than coca in the same region. Government sources say that the case is currently under investigation.

Talking to RPP radio news, he said that the talks are a key opportunity for substituting illegal coca growing with alternative crops, which he hopes will be part of the development plan. He added that cacao presents an interesting possibility for the region, and that the government is considering investment in increased cacao production as a replacement for the coca – which has historically been the only profitable crop in the region.

900,000 opium poppies destroyed in Cajamarca

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Counter narcotics police destroyed over 900,000 opium poppies in the highlands of Cajamarca yesterday.  Following a tipoff on their DEA-funded public telephone line, officers from Lima and the local state prosecutor walked six hours from the nearest road to reach the plantation, where the plants were camouflaged amongst maize and quinoa. 

In a total area of twenty hectares, they found a large number of mature plants up to six feet tall, many of them showing signs of a recent harvest of raw opium, as well as a nursery growing up thousands more seedlings. The Celendin region of Cajamarca is a national center for opium poppy cultivation due to the good growing conditions, poor access (deterring inspections) and dense cloud cover that hinders detection by aerial and satellite photography. Last year over a million plants were eradicated in the region, but it seems that cultivation is on the rise.

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Talks hope to solve Huanuco coca problem

In 90 days the number of maceration pits, or first level cocaine labs, present in Huánuco will be known exactly, according to regional president Jorge Espinoza. The valleys being inspected will be those of Monzón, Puerto Inca, Yanajanca, and Tingo Maria. This is the first decision to come out of talks started yesterday to solve the problem of violent protest by the region’s coca growers. The dialogue aims to discover which areas are growing coca that finds its way into cocaine production, and which areas are suitable for conversion to alternative crops. 

“We will go with representatives of the Public Defense and the Public Ministry to identify the maceration pits in all of those valleys,” Espinoza told the Andina agency. He added that Agriculture Minister Juan Jose Salazar will be visiting Huánuco on May 22nd to implement a variety of measures aimed to find a definitive solution to the coca problem in the region. 

The agreement signed in Lima that ends the coca growers’ strikes that started on April 26th stipulates talks that will last 90 days. During this time, the aim is to identify the social and economic problems facing coca growers in the region and find solutions based on development initiatives and alternative crops. During the 90 day course of the talks, forced eradication of coca and destruction of maceration pits will continue as planned.

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German tourist arrested with 16kg of cocaine

A German citizen was arrested on Thursday at Lima’s international airport, as he attempted to board a flight to Madrid with 15.9 kilos pure cocaine, according to local police.

The 30-year-old man, identified as Marko Vehit, had hidden the drugs in shampoo bottles and jam jars in his checked luggage.

He told police that he arrived in Lima twelve days ago, and was offered US$8,000 to transport the drugs. His taxi driver, who accompanied him as far as the check in counter, was also arrested.

According to the UN, Peru is now the world’s number two producer of both coca leaf and refined cocaine, with only Colombia producing more. 

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