Colombian drug traffickers working for the FARC are using threats and blackmail to force farmers in Peru’s Amazon region to cultivate coca plants, according to Peruvian navy intelligence.
Residents of a village in the Ramon Castilla district of Peru complained to a navy command based in the Amazon port city of Iquitos on Friday that a man named “Javier” had tried to coerce locals to grow the illicit plant, which he would then buy and sell for the Colombian guerrilla group, reports Peru’s El Comercio.
Peruvian navy intelligence said that Javier planned to have 120 men in charge of the operation, and that this is just one of many similar cases which have plagued the region over recent years.
A few days after Easter of this year, Ramon Castilla, and Mario Rivera Gamboa, residents of the Peruvian town of Hawaii, were forced to flee their homes after the FARC threatened to burn them down if the peasant farmers refused to grow coca leaf.
The Putumayo region, which straddles the Colombia-Peru border, is a hotbed for large-scale illegal activity.
“We have drug trafficking, fuel and wood smuggling, informal mining, etc.,” said Vice Admiral Carlos Tejada, navy commander of the Amazon region of Peru.
Tejada admits that it is very difficult to keep Colombian criminals out of Peru, as the border regions are extremely remote and difficult to police.
Commenting on the influx of Colombian drug traffickers, the admiral said “Maybe it cannot be avoided, but we have to try to stop them staying.”
An atmosphere of fear is now well established in the region, as Peruvian authorities struggle to deal with the problem.
In early April, officials from Colombia and Peru met to discuss developing a system of information sharing, as part of a plan for international cooperation in the fight against terrorism and drug trafficking across their common border.