Peru To Begin Shooting Down Cocaine Trafficking Planes

Fourteen years after a Peruvian air force pilot shot down a 35-year-old American missionary with her infant daughter on the suspicion that the aircraft was smuggling drugs, Peru's legislature has authorized the country to resume the practice. So-called aerial interdiction was authorized unanimously by Peru's Congress on Thursday to shoot down flights that police in the country say moves more than a ton of cocaine daily.

The United States isn't exactly happy with the prospect of resuming aerial interdiction. The country has expressed opposition to the measures in the past, but had not commented to the Associated Press on the recent vote. The U.S., through a program run by the CIA, had been an active supporter of the practice from the mid-1990s until the missionary was shot down in 2001.

Peru is not, however, the only country in its immediate surroundings to allow planes suspected of smuggling drugs to be shot down. Columbia, Brazil, Venezuela and Bolivia all allow the practice. It is rare in most of those countries for planes to be shot down, however. Peru became the world's top producer of cocaine three years ago, and about half of the cocaine produced there is shipped to Bolivia in small planes that could be shot down.

While the vote could obviously lead to more planes suspected of carrying cocaine getting shot down, the likelihood of the shootings happening frequently is seen as unlikely. The country only has one radar capable of detecting the planes, Pedro Yaranga, a drug policy expert, told the AP. To actually implement aerial interdiction on a significant scale Peru would need to install three or four more radars and provide more resources to do so.

Latin America in general is seen as a particularly important corridor for drug smuggling, according to the Drug Policy Alliance. Colombia -- long known for their cocaine production -- is joined by Bolivia and Peru as the top producers of the cocaine, which is then generally brought into the United States through either Mexico or Caribbean island countries. As a result there has been an uptick in violence in those Latin American countries and some of the most dangerous cities in the world can be found there.


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