Big pieces of plaster are falling off the green wall. Black molds have spread, and outside the police station, the asphalt surface changes into gravel. The headquarters of the anti-drug police in Pichari are old and have become too small for the 2000 police officers that were sent over in recent years when the government announced their intention to fight drug trafficking.
According to insiders, the cartels pay the communities up to 8000 dollars to keep the airstrip in shape.
A new barrack outside the town is under construction, but captain Jorge Cayas feels comfortable here. In the new building, he will have to work together and coordinate with the military. But the rivalry between the two units is undeniable.
While the military still chases the remnants of Shining Path, calling it a "war on terrorism", Cayas has long ago identified another enemy: "The terrorists don’t fight for political ideas, they are defending the drug business, charging the drug lords for giving security. Virtually everybody here is in the business: the farmers are drug entrepreneurs, the whole population protects the mafia, and entire villages are occupied protecting and maintaining secret airstrips. When we come and bomb them, they repair them again the next day", the frustrated officer tells me. His boss is once again in Lima, while Cayas holds the fort in the jungle. Pichari is not a very popular appointment.
According to insiders, the cartels pay the communities up to 8000 dollars to keep the airstrip in shape - almost Cayas’ annual salary. In order to be paid the money, communites have to be creative, concealing, for example, the runway with palm trees in rolling flower pots. And should a runway ever get destroyed, the mafia knows hundreds of smuggling paths leading to the surrounding villages. Especially young people work as "mochilero", even some students take the offer to earn some money during the holidays. They carry, on average, ten kilograms in their backpack. A night march is paid up to 350 dollar - enough money for a smartphone with modern headphones or a pair of brand sneakers. Luxury consumer goods are highly demanded among the rural youth, but are usually too expensive. Nevertheless, in Pichari there are dozens of shops selling designer clothes and mobile phones. According to officer Cayas that is a revealing sign of a "drug culture".
Especially young people work as "mochilero", even some students take the offer to earn some money during the holidays.
„The other day we went to destroy laboratories, and the coca growers simply blocked the street, throwing stones at us and menacing with machetes. They put children and women in the first line. As we have to respect human rights, we quickly withdrew", sighs Cayas. In 2013, the police seized three tons of coca paste – out of an estimated 180 tons that are being produced in the valley each year. A drop in the ocean, admits Cayas. If it were up to him, he would track the drug clans down with modern technology: scanners, drones, telephone recordings, infiltration of agents, shooting down suspicious small airplanes. "But nobody wants to assume the political cost", he says, staring at the ceiling. "My hands are tied."
If it were up to Cayas, he would track the drug clans down with modern technology: scanners, drones, telephone recordings, infiltration of agents, shooting down suspicious small airplanes.