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Cablegate: Pucallpa Mayor Arrested On Drug Trafficking Charges

P 312210Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9522
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C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 001733


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2018
TAGS: PGOV SNAR PE
SUBJECT: PUCALLPA MAYOR ARRESTED ON DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES

Classified By: Polcouns Alexis Ludwig. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Peruvian ...

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

id: 176319
date: 10/31/2008 22:10
refid: 08LIMA1733
origin: Embassy Lima
classification: CONFIDENTIAL
destination:
header:
P 312210Z OCT 08
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9522
INFO WESTERN HEMISPHERIC AFFAIRS DIPL POSTS PRIORITY
CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
USCINCSO MIAMI FL PRIORITY


----------------- header ends ----------------

C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 001733


E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/31/2018
TAGS: PGOV SNAR PE
SUBJECT: PUCALLPA MAYOR ARRESTED ON DRUG TRAFFICKING CHARGES

Classified By: Polcouns Alexis Ludwig. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d).

1. (C) Summary: Peruvian police arrested Pucallpa Mayor Luis
Valdez October 14 on charges of laundering drug trafficking
proceeds through an extensive network of commercial
enterprises. Twice elected mayor, Valdez enjoys significant
public sympathy in his hometown. Peruvian law enforcement
officials consider Valdez's arrest as on par in importance
with that of kingpin Fernando Zevallos in 2004, but serious
challenges in bringing him to justice -- and in confronting
other traffickers -- remain. End Summary.

2. (SBU) Units of the Peruvian National Police Anti-drug
Directorate (DIRANDRO) arrested Pucallpa Mayor Luis VALDEZ
Villacorta and 13 others October 14 on money laundering
charges. Arrest warrants remained outstanding for another 8
persons. Pucallpa is the capital of the jungle region of
Ucayali in eastern Peru. Valdez owns a number of businesses
in the region including a lumber mill, river ferry service,
and brewery. Authorities began asset seizure proceedings for
those operations, in addition to 34 properties in Lima,
Iquitos and Pucallpa; 44 boats; and 200 vehicles. Police
transported the suspects to Lima where they were to be held
while authorities prepared a formal indictment.

3. (SBU) The arrests were the result of an investigation that
began in February 2008, based on drug seizures dating back to
2003 in Guatemala, Panama and most recently in Holland. PNP
officials subsequently determined that financial records of
Valdez's enterprises showed at least USD 71 million in assets
whose origin could not be substantiated.

4. (C) Given that Valdez's companies employ some 3,000 people
in Ucayali and his election twice as Pucallpa mayor, he
enjoys strong support from the public. After his detention
some 30-40 supporters blocked streets and the entrance to the
airport, hoping to prevent the authorities from removing him
to Lima. Analysts explained to poloff that Valdez and his
organization controlled the flow of drugs out of Peru to the
east and northeast, primarily into Brazil. The organization
used its commercial network and logistical resources to
facilitate the movement out of the country of large
quantities of cocaine, say those observers. Even without good
estimates of the quantity of drugs the Valdez network moved,
one analyst told poloff that Valdez's arrest was the single
biggest blow to drug trafficking interests in Peru since the
2004 arrest of Peruvian drug kingpin Fernando Zevallos.

5. (C) Comment: While the Valdez arrest is good news in
Peru's fight against drug trafficking, many challenges
remain. First is whether the Peruvian justice system can
avoid external pressures and successfully prosecute the case
to its conclusion. Historical examples of lengthy
prosecutions such as the Zevallos or Sanchez Paredes cases
would put that result in doubt. Second, observers explain
there is at least one Luis Valdez equivalent for every major
exit route in the country, and many others waiting to take
their places. As one analyst told poloff, much of the traffic
previously moved to the northeast by the Valdez organization
already had been diverted to land routes to Brazil in the far
eastern region of Madre de Dios, along portions of the
Interoceanic Highway. Similar routes existed overland via
Puno to Bolivia; and out of ports in Arequipa, Lima, and
Piura to maritime distribution channels in the Pacific, they
said.


MCKINLEY

=======================CABLE ENDS============================

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