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Tuesday, 11 June, 2002, 18:17 GMT 19:17 UK
Peru makes huge drugs haul
Cocaine seized in police raid
It was Peru's biggest drugs haul this year
Police in Peru have seized 1.76 tonnes of cocaine with a street value of more than $70m bound for the US and Europe via Mexico, the interior ministry has said.

Officers also arrested 27 people when they raided a warehouse in the northern port of Chimbote, about 250 miles (420km) north of Lima in Peru's biggest drugs bust so far this year.

The ministry said that the 15 Peruvians, 10 Colombians, one Mexican and one Guatemalan arrested were working for the Tijuana cartel - one of the most powerful drugs rings in Mexico.

Peru is the world's second biggest cocaine producing nation after Colombia.

Stacks of packaged cocaine were put on display by police and government officials at a news conference in Lima.

US co-operation

Police said that the US Drug Enforcement Administration's (DEA) Lima office helped with a three-month surveillance operation leading up to the bust.

"This was an excellent operation by Peru's anti-drug police in co-ordination with the DEA... and is an example of international co-operation in fighting illegal drugs," Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi said.

General Edison Tomasto, of the Peruvian police, said: "Since February we have had information about... an international group in Peru which trafficked drugs to the United States and Europe."
Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi
Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi praised the operation

He said the traffickers had set up a fishing company as a front to smuggle the drugs from Chimbote to Mexico by sea.

The cocaine was to be ferried on small boats from Chimbote to a larger ship off the coast that is still at large, he said.

But he added that a fishing boat, used to smuggle drugs, had been seized.

Processing stopped

The ministry said that police had also shut down the drug ring's main processing plant near Ayacucho, 350 miles (580 km) south-east of Lima. The region in Peru's eastern Amazon jungle is where most of the raw coca leaf originated, General Tomasto said.

Mexican police arrested the alleged leader of the Tijuana cartel, Benjamin Arellano Felix, in March.

His brother Ramon, the cartel's enforcer, had been killed in a gun battle with police in February.

Another brother, Francisco Javier Arellano Felix, is now believed to be running the group.

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