World

Narco planes ferry cocaine from remote valley under nose of Peru's military

  • In this July 28, 2015 photo, Peruvian counternarcotics police blast a hole in a clandestine airstrip used by cocaine traffickers in Ciudad Constitucion, Peru. President Ollanta Humala points to the cratering of these landing strips more than 550 times as part of the country's success against the drug trade. Traffickers quickly fill the holes using local labor, police say.(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

    In this July 28, 2015 photo, Peruvian counternarcotics police blast a hole in a clandestine airstrip used by cocaine traffickers in Ciudad Constitucion, Peru. President Ollanta Humala points to the cratering of these landing strips more than 550 times as part of the country's success against the drug trade. Traffickers quickly fill the holes using local labor, police say.(AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  (The Associated Press)

  • In this July 28, 2015 photo, a Peruvian counternarcotics police officer stands in a crater blown into a clandestine airstrip used by cocaine traffickers in Ciudad Constitucion, Peru. Sonia Medina, the public prosecutor for illicit drugs, said in an interview that trafficking has gone “from bad to worse” on President Ollanda Humala’s watch, along with narco-corruption in politics, the criminal justice system, the police and military. “What we are doing in counternarcotics is completely distorted, incoherent and inert.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

    In this July 28, 2015 photo, a Peruvian counternarcotics police officer stands in a crater blown into a clandestine airstrip used by cocaine traffickers in Ciudad Constitucion, Peru. Sonia Medina, the public prosecutor for illicit drugs, said in an interview that trafficking has gone “from bad to worse” on President Ollanda Humala’s watch, along with narco-corruption in politics, the criminal justice system, the police and military. “What we are doing in counternarcotics is completely distorted, incoherent and inert.” (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)  (The Associated Press)

  • FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2014, file photo, clandestine airstrips in Pichari, Peru, are seen from a military helicopter in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley, or VRAEM, the world's No. 1 coca-growing region. Peru’s government has barely impeded the airborne drug flow. Prosecutors, narcotics police, former military officers and current and former U.S. drug agents say that while corruption is rife in Peru, the narco-flight plague is the military’s failure because it controls the VRAEM. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd,File)

    FILE - In this Sept. 19, 2014, file photo, clandestine airstrips in Pichari, Peru, are seen from a military helicopter in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley, or VRAEM, the world's No. 1 coca-growing region. Peru’s government has barely impeded the airborne drug flow. Prosecutors, narcotics police, former military officers and current and former U.S. drug agents say that while corruption is rife in Peru, the narco-flight plague is the military’s failure because it controls the VRAEM. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd,File)  (The Associated Press)

About four times a day, a single-engine plane drops onto a dirt airstrip in the world's No. 1 coca-growing valley. The planes deliver cash and pick up cocaine. Then they fly back to Bolivia.

Police say roughly half of Peru's cocaine has departed this way since the Andean nation became the world's top producer in 2012.

Drug corruption is rife in Peru. But an Associated Press investigation found the narco-flight plague to be a failing of Peru's military because it controls the remote Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valley where the planes land.

A new law gives Peru's air force the go-ahead to begin shooting down drug planes. But its fate is in doubt as the government scrapped plans to buy the state-of-the-art radars needed for the job.