The drugs industry and peasant self-defence in a Peruvian cocaine enclave

Int J Drug Policy. 2012 Nov;23(6):442-8. doi: 10.1016/j.drugpo.2012.01.007. Epub 2012 Mar 3.


This article gives a detailed account of the cocaine industry and the related violence in the Peruvian Upper Huallaga. It is argued that in this cocaine producing region violence increased during state-led forced eradication operations of the coca plants. Most of the violent incidents were closely related to the diminishing cocaine industry, but they were also related to the actions of the state security forces. Instead of receiving support from the state's security apparatus, the population mobilized its own forces to fight the violence. As will be argued, the causes of violence in this cocaine enclave are part of a dynamic interaction amongst many factors - an interaction that is influenced by the local context, a partial state vacuum, and the social utility and the economic advantages of violence. One needs to be aware that motivations of those who engage in the violent behaviour can change over time, as underlying power structures are influenced by changes in local conditions. The study covers an in-depth account of events taking place in the Upper Huallaga during the years 2003-2007. The research material was collected by several ethnographical fieldwork methods.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cocaine / economics
  • Cocaine / supply & distribution*
  • Commerce* / economics
  • Commerce* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Cultural Characteristics
  • Drug and Narcotic Control* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Government Regulation
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs / economics
  • Illicit Drugs / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Illicit Drugs / supply & distribution*
  • Law Enforcement*
  • Motivation
  • Peru
  • Power, Psychological
  • Public Opinion
  • Public Policy* / economics
  • Public Policy* / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Rural Population*
  • Social Justice
  • Transportation
  • Violence / economics
  • Violence / legislation & jurisprudence
  • Violence / prevention & control*


  • Illicit Drugs
  • Cocaine