On Oct. 23, National Police in Peru apprehended in Lima an accused commander of one of the two surviving remnant factions of the Sendero Luminoso guerilla movement. The Interior Ministry named the detained man as Rolando Pantoja Quispe, and said he was under the orders of Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala AKA "Comrade Artemio"—the notorious Sendero commander who was captured last year and condemned to life in prison. The ministry said Pantoja Quispe controlled cocaine trafficking in the Yanajanca Valley of Huanuco region, and hailed the arrest as a further blow against Artemio's crippled network. (BBC Mundo, Oct. 23)
On Oct. 19, a patrol of Bolivia's Joint Task Force, coordinating National Police and army troops in coca-eradication missions, was ambushed by unknown gunmen at Miraflores pueblo, Apolo municipality, in the coca-growing Yungas region, sparking a gun-battle that left four dead—three troops and a medic. Up to 30 were injured, but all the assailants seem to have escaped. Government vice-minister Jorge Pérez said the attack was "planned by people related to the narco-traffic," adding that the partially buried remains of a cocaine lab had been found nearby. Days later, Leopoldo Ramos, the public prosecutor appointed to investigate the case, said that "by the form of execution, for the Public Ministry it is probable that those who attacked in Miraflores are persons trained by Sendero Luminoso."
On Sept. 13, the White House released its annual score card on other countries’ compliance with US drug policy demands, the presidential determination on major drug producing and trafficking countries. It identified 22 countries as "major drug transit and/or major illicit drug producing countries," but listed only three—Bolivia, Burma, and Venezuela—as having "failed demonstrably" to comply with US drug war objectives. Among those countries that are not listed as having "failed demonstrably" are the world's largest opium producer (Afghanistan), the world’s two largest coca and cocaine producers (Colombia and Peru), the leading springboard for drugs coming into the US (Mexico), and the weak Central American states that serve as lesser springboards for drug loads destined for the US. They are all US allies; Bolivia and Venezuela are not.
Colombia's campesinos, miners, truckers and other sectors launched a nationwide strike Aug. 19, with clashes reported as strikers launched roadblocks and President Juan Manuel Santos deployed elite National Police units. Central arteries were blocked in Boyacá, Nariño and Putumayo departments. In the town of Segovia, Antioquia, hundreds of protesters reportedly threw firebombs and tried to burn the police station, leaving six officers injured. Authorities say the strike has affected 12 of Colombia's 32 departments, but press accounts have put the number as high as 28.
The area of land planted with coca leaf in Colombia has fallen by 25%, and is now about a third of that in 2001, according to the latest report from the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC)'s Integrated Illicit Crops Monitoring System. The report finds that land planted with coca has dropped from 64,000 hectares in 2011 to 48,000 hectares in 2012, the lowest figure since monitoring started in Colombia more than a decade ago. Although the National Police actually eradicated less coca than in previous years, the force increased its presence in coca-growing regions, apparently preventing campesinos from planting coca in the first place. But while coca areas fell nationwide, they rose in three departments still especially wracked by armed conflict—Norte de Santander, Chocó and Caquetá.
The First Supra-provincial Court of Lima on July 30 issued an order of preventative detention against ex-lawmaker Nancy Obregón, on suspicion of narco-trafficking and "collaboration with terrorism." Obregón, who rose to prominence as a leader of peasant coca-growers, was taken into custody by troops of the National Anti-drug Directorate (DINANDRO), and turned over to judicial authorities for interrogation. Her case will then return to a judge who will decide whether she is to be held for the full 15 days permissible under Peruvian law.
Indefinite strikes brought coal mining operations of Alabama-based multinational Drummond Co to a halt on July 23 in the north of Colombia, putting further pressure on the country's economy amid a growing wave of labor actions. After negotiations failed between the Sintramienergetica union and Drummond over wage increases, union workers declared an indefinite end to operations. The strike threatens a halt to nearly all production in the world's fourth coal-producing nation. Two companies, Drummond and Cerrejon, account for 85% of Colombia's coal industry. If Cerrejon, whose union went on strike earlier this year, also declares a halt to operations, Colombia's GDP growth could fall significantly. President Juan Manuel Santos has said the strikes could "damage the entire world," and that "no one wins because every day that passes [there are] forgone royalties and foregone incomes that for the most part go to social investment." (Colombia Reports, July 24)