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Cablegate: Ieds in Eradication Operations

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DE RUEHPE #3163/01 2612345
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 182345Z SEP 07
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 6876
INFO RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA 5090
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA 7588
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ SEP QUITO 1460
RHEHOND/DIRONDCP WASHDC

C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 003163

SIPDIS

SIPDIS

STATE FOR INL/LP
STATE FOR WHA/PPC
ONDCP FOR LT COL RONALD GARNER

E.O. 12958: DECL: 09/18/2011
TAGS: SNAR KCRM PTER PREL PE
SUBJECT: IEDS IN ERADICATION OPERATIONS

Classified By: Susan Keogh, NAS Director. Reason: 1(d)

1.(SBU) SUMMARY: Anti-personnel mines have increased in
recent months during eradication operations. CORAH and Police
encountered 68 Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs-also known
as booby traps) in coca fields by mid-September 2007. In a
recent 2-week period, 24 booby traps were either exploded or
disarmed during eradication in Tocache. Fortunately, the
recent explosions in the field have not produced any deaths
or permanent injuries, but they slow down eradication and
could result in harm to children or other innocent bystanders
in or around coca fields. Much speculation exists about the
IEDs origin and manufacture -- including that unnamed persons
or groups are paying between 50 and 100 dollars to lay an
IED. Recently eradicators discovered a booby trap on a farm
plot belonging to relatives of Congresswoman Nancy Obregon.
Obregon herself subsequently declared that booby traps are a
way for cocaleros to defend their coca crops. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) Eradication of illegal coca cultivation in the
Tocache area of the Upper Hualaga Valley is now further
complicated by the proliferation of anti-personnel mines or
IEDs. As a precaution, an anti-mine K-9 group routinely
sweeps the fields before CORAH begins to work. By
mid-September 68 IEDs had either been detonated by workers or
disarmed by the EDEX explosives team. Between August 25 and
September 15 alone, 24 booby traps had either exploded or
were disarmed during eradication operations.

3. (SBU) On September 3, Jorge Valencia, head of the
reduction of supply office at DEVIDA, reported a significant
increase in the number of attacks on coca eradication
brigades this year. Valencia said that there were 93 attacks
through the end of August, compared to 47 attacks in all of
2006 and only 23 in 2005. Valencia said that his office has
registered 7 direct attacks on eradicators and 23 acts of
harassment involving firearms. As a result of these attacks,
one eradication worker has been killed and 19 wounded in the
first 8 months of the year. Valencia also reported on the
deactivation of mines planted to injure or kill members of
the eradication brigades. Cocalera Congresswoman Nancy
Obregon declared September 13 that laying booby traps is "an
expression of the radical position many cocaleros are taking
in their desperate efforts to defend the coca leaf." Her
statement came after CORAH had discovered a hole with an IED
box inside it the previous week while eradicating the illegal
coca crop of Obregon's sister Marleni. Her field lay in
close proximity to 2 maceration pits.

4. (C) The IED's recently encountered are artisan-type
constructions, extremely sensitive and easy to detonate.
Recently unearthed mines were encased in a double D battery
flashlight to encase the explosive, normally a stick of
dynamite. It is the trigger mechanism however, that makes
these devices unique and lends meaning to the descriptive
"improvised". A large capacity mouse trap, such as would be
used for large rodents, is adapted to a block of wood with a
nail driven through and protruding out of the other side of
the board. The nail is positioned so that when the mouse
trap is released, the trap bar will strike the nail and move
it forward, barely touching the cut off primer end of a 16
gage shotgun shell. The primer has a blasting cap stuck onto
the shotgun shell primer, that is inserted into the dynamite
stick. Digging a hole as little as one foot and as much as
twenty inches deep next to a coca plant, the booby trap is
placed into a wooden box inside the hole. One end of a
string, fishing line or wire is tied off to the release
mechanism on the mouse trap and the other end to a root of an
adjacent plant. Once the plant is pulled, the release
mechanism allows the mouse trap to slam into the nail,
driving it forward where it strikes, in the same way as a
firing pin does on a weapon. The primer in the shotgun shell
causes it to fire, in turn setting off the blasting cap and
exploding the dynamite. Often, the device is coated with tar
as an attempt to make it more weather resistant. On at least
two recent occasions, pressure on the ground around the plant
apparently caused the release mechanism to function,
resulting in explosions.

5. (C) While the target is the CORAH eradicator or police,
the booby traps are indiscriminate. Anyone in proximity to
the blast will be affected. Since August 25 when the new
wave of IED's began appearing, the charges have been
relatively small and have not included any items to increase
the damage such as nail and glass, although bags of nails and
broken glass have been found in the zone, along with booby
traps under construction. Consequently, the protective
measures taken to protect workers so far have precluded major
injuries, apart from blast damage and dirt debris in the
eyes. However, it is important to note that the methodology
utilized up to now could adapt to more dangerous charges,
including some type of improvised shrapnel.

6.(SBU) CORAH has adopted diverse security measures to
minimize the damage caused by booby traps. Utilizing
protective vests, eyewear and helmets, personnel now stand up
hill of the coca plants whenever possible. More importantly,
CORAH is now using two tools adapted to keep a distance of
around 3 meters between the eradicators and the plants: the
telescopic "cococho" and a long spade-like implement that
allows eradicators to dig around the plants, feeling for the
wooden boxes used in the IED's. These measures were put into
place after the first day of operations in this zone when 2
CORAH workers set off devices causing minor eye injuries.
Their overall effectiveness is clear: since being put into
effect, eradicators have experienced no serious injuries.

7.(SBU) Explosive detecting dogs are being employed
successfully, albeit results are less than perfect. The dogs
have detected some, but not all of the devices encountered
prior to exploding. The CORAH Operations Director is
preparing a report covering the K-9 deployment during this
phase of the operations with details on what the dogs
actually discovered, what they did not, and what may be
preventing more effective utilization. NAS continues to work
on remedying shortcomings in the program; however, the
psychological effect of having K-9s in the field is a bonus
to workers and security personnel.

8. (SBU) Members of the PNP's explosive disposal unit, (EDEX
by its initials in Spanish) accompany the eradicators and
have successfully disposed 9 devices, primarily by way of
controlled explosions. On September 9, 2 EDEX personnel were
seriously wounded at the Santa Lucia base in what are still
cloudy circumstances. According to the official police
report, they were preparing their equipment to take to the
field in their rooms when an explosive went off. A full PNP
investigation is underway.

9.(C) Comment: Explosive devices have become a daily part of
the eradication operations. So far this year, the devices
have not produced any permanent injuries in the field, but
officials directing eradication operations are concerned that
these "indiscriminate killers" could result in either death
or serious injury to workers, or to children or innocent
bystanders in or around coca plantations. Despite the
anxiety of working in minefields, having explosives go off
without causing major harm is actually improving workers'
morale as CORAH feels the countermeasures they take do pay
off. The major challenge is to emphasize personal safety,
while maintaining the pace of eradication.

10. (C) Comment Continued: The established presence of
Sendero Luminoso in the area leads to speculation on who is
behind the IEDs. As yet, nothing conclusive has emerged to
clarify whether cocaleros are undertaking these actions on
their own, have undergone training by subversive groups to
learn how to fabricate and place IEDs, or whether it is
strictly an outside action. At least three farmers have
reported that the going price for "someone" to place an IED
in coca fields is between 50-100 USD. Police Intelligence is
currently investigating two names provided by different
cocaleros. In addition to looking for the culprits, police
are also searching for the purpose of the mines. The most
recent devices do not appear to be as forceful as those found
earlier in the year in Yanajanca, and do not use shrapnel.
They could carry an implied threat that if CORAH does not
cease operations violence will escalate. For now CORAH and
the GOP are intent on continuing operations and not
abandoning the area until all the coca there is eradicated.

NEALON

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