10 July 2015
Category : Opinion
Gerard Muñoz, coordinator of the EU project to combat drug trafficking in Peru, witnesses an operation conducted by the Peruvian port authorities at the Port of Callao.Activities to combat drug trafficking at the Port of Callao
It’s 6:15 in the morning and we are at the entrance to the loading docks at the Port of Callao, around 25 kilometres north of Lima. There is a quite odd and steady flow of workers, stevedores, seamen, customs officials, contractors and other people that you really can’t tell what they do at a port, which employs over 5,000 people and is one of the largest ports on the American continent. One of the characters milling around the port approaches me and asks me for a cigarette, I offer him the last one in my pack, telling him to keep it and that I’m going to give up anyway. Oddly, it’s the same brand as he usually smokes, or so he tells me. The guy smiles and asks me where I’m from, I tell him that I’m from Iceland, that usually means that people will leave me alone and not bother me with talk about Barça and Madrid. It’s very early and I got up at 4:15 am.
Here the days begin way before dawn and you never know when they will end, today is the second week of the course that we have organised on searching ships and shipping containers for drugs. Two German customs officials have come along to teach the primarily practical activities. From their height and build, it’s obvious that they are not from this land. Both the instructors and the students are excellent and have achieved some unbeatable results.
It’s calculated that 60% of the cocaine that currently arrives in Europe comes from Peru. The majority of this substance is transported to its destination by sea. It normally arrives at the commercial ports and recreational harbours of Spain, Belgium or Holland. Drug traffickers are usually ahead of the curve in terms of techniques for hiding drugs. We have seen everything from clothing impregnated with cocaine, drugs hidden in the stomachs of frozen fish or in babies’ nappies – anything goes.
No less surprising or dramatic is the situation faced by some people in Peru who become involved in this illegal trade, most due to need but others due to greed. From the poor farmer who is under a death threat to grow the coca plant (both he and his family) from the narco-terrorist group Shining Path; the young person forced to work in a chemical laboratory in the jungle to make base paste and who is a target of bombing by the army (something which is not reported in newspapers); the single mother who, to pay her bills, swallows 74 bags of cocaine and is arrested on arrival in Europe because she has been reported by the very same organisation that it trying to smuggle in other “drug mules” on the same flight and so wants to distract customs officials; to other more tragic situations that I prefer not to go into. It’s hard when you see the human faces involved in this business to get the ‘product’ to the end user.
Of course, the protagonists of the previous paragraph are just cannon fodder for this business. In reality, the real beneficiaries of this illegal industry are the large criminal organisations, fiscal paradises and certain powers that be, which have no regard for the human repercussions of this issue.
With a view to disrupting this illicit trade, the European Union has launched a project to support the fight against drug trafficking in Peru, led by FIIAPP, in collaboration its partners, the law enforcement agencies of Spain, Germany, United Kingdom, France and Czech Republic. The objective of this project is to improve the air, land and sea drug interception capabilities, as well as improving capabilities for obtaining intelligence, investigating and prosecuting drug lords.
At the time of writing this post, as part of one the project’s activities, we are working at the Port of Callao alongside the institutions responsible for drugs seizures at Peruvian port, namely customs, police, public prosecutors and coast guard.
As I said at the start, in the morning we build a profile of suspicious ships and containers, then we later carry out the practical search activities on them to see what we can find. For example, the port intelligence unit passed us some information about a container carrying frozen corn, passion fruit pulp and Rocoto pepper (very spicy) to Spain. Come on! As if there isn’t enough corn in Spain or it is cheaper to bring it frozen in a refrigerated container from Peru – it just doesn’t make sense. So we set the container aside to be searched. The students on the course disassemble the container’s refrigeration system and check the load and, indeed, among the corn and passion fruit pulp we find a suspicious box containing a security seal and instructions on how to apply it. This means that at some point between Callao and Spain, this container would be opened, loaded with cocaine and the new security seal would then installed. An investigation is currently ongoing into who placed the new security seal inside the container and into other issues relating to the container’s origin and destination. Curiously, a worker from the loading area in which the container was stored has disappeared and no one seems to know where he is.
At the end of the day we attend a debriefing session, where everyone explains what they have learned and how it can be replicated in their units. The idea behind this project is that every time you train someone, that person in turn conveys the knowledge gained to other members of the department to which they are assigned.
As night falls, our day’s session comes to an end and we make our way back to Lima, in rush hour traffic it will take us at least another hour to get home. Tomorrow we will begin again at dawn, I wonder what we will find…
Gerard Muñoz Arcos – Coordinator of the EU-ENLCD Project (Videoblog)
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