The Peruvian government has declared a no-fly zone over its most ungoverned coca-producing region in an attempt to stamp out the black market in the drug.
The ban stops aircraft from flying over the valley of the Apurimac, Ené and Mantaro rivers without prior approval from the Peruvian military. The area is one of the largest coca producing areas in the world – and is the direct location of Cool Earth’s largest and most at-risk project with the Asháninka tribe.
The ban will be a welcome development for our Asháninka partners. For many years cocaine trafficking has been increasing, raising the threat to the Asháninka’s forest. One fifth of all Asháninka communities are in land conflicts with colonists who seize territory and turn pristine rainforest into coca plantations.
The Asháninka have sent many delegations to Lima to discuss the problem with Ministries and Congress, but sadly most of the protests fall on deaf ears. Last year’s dry season in the Peruvian amazon saw several confrontations between Asháninka groups and well-armed gangs of cocaine smugglers and narco planes continually flew overhead.
As well as the aircraft ban, the government intends to destroy 35,000 hectares of coca plantations this year in an attempt to stop production in its tracks. But with 49,800 hectares planted in 2013 alone it may be a long time before the government’s current efforts have any significant effect.
We’re cautiously optimistic that the no-fly zone will improve the situation for our partner communities. It’s certainly a step in the right direction that the government is joining the battle against drug smuggling in the Amazon.