SOUTH AMERICA - Peruvian security forces have dynamited 54 airstrips run cocaine smugglers in a futile attempt to stop secret flights in and out of the country. The runways are hidden across the flood plain of the vast Apurimac and Ene river valley in the South America nation. While the bombings cut in the profits of the traffickers, they often pay villagers around £60 each to fill the holes so flights are unaffected.
As authorities wound up a 54-airstrip 'cratering' mission, Peru's counter-narcotics police chief General Vicente Romero told reporters that two of the landing strips targeted in the latest operation have each been repaired four times this year. He also revealed that the 500-meter airstrips are occasionally fixed overnight.
The area is the world's number one coca-growing valley in the world, with traffickers pocketing thousands of pounds for every Bolivia-bound flight.
Four or five small planes fly daily into Peru from Bolivia, picking up about 300kg each of coca paste, which is worth about £200million in Bolivia, where it is further refined, authorities say. General Romero says pilots earn between £6,000 and £15,000 per flight.
The border has no radar coverage and the neighbouring nations' air forces are limited so drug flights can only be intercepted on the ground. General Romero said 14 planes have been seized this year.
The Daily Mail/Sept. 22, 2014
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