Gen. Francisco Contreras Rivas, Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Of Peru, visited U.S. Southern Command recently and met with its commanders and received briefings on security issues in the region.
Gen. Francisco Contreras Rivas, Chairman Of The Joint Chiefs Of Staff Of Peru, visited U.S. Southern Command recently and met with its commanders and received briefings on security issues in the region. Afterwards, Gen. Contreras sat down with Dialogo to discuss the threats, priorities, and issues the Peruvian armed forces are facing today such as the rise in narcoterrorism. *What are Peru’s security priorities at the moment?* The threats Peru is facing at the moment are terrorism and drug trafficking. This is made worse because drug trafficking has colluded with terrorism, and a phenomenon called narcoterrorism has been produced. In previous decades, terrorism was a threat arising from an ideology seeking to seize power, and now it is becoming a matter of criminal gangs who no longer have the ideological intention of seizing power. They have an ideological façade, but the main thing is the business of drug trafficking with terrorism in order to keep supplying the consumer countries, and Peru is a producer country. Our main security issue is preventing this from spreading. *What are the Joint Chiefs of Staff doing to further the fight against terrorism and the fight against drug trafficking?* Generally speaking, in order to fight against this phenomenon, we work in two columns – intelligence and operations. Intelligence covers this kind of war because intelligence is what’s going to give us the location, the composition, the organization, and knowledge of the changes being made by this terrorist organization called Shining Path, because it’s mutating very fast and adapting quickly to new tendencies and starting to merge with drug trafficking. Hence, intelligence is an important component that gives us information about operations. Operations are the armed wing that intelligence has in order to act surgically and professionally, with respect for and in accordance with human rights, against these narcoterrorist criminal columns and ringleaders. *How would you characterize the current resurgence of extremist movements like Shining Path and the MRTA and the intensification of violence in the country?* We thought that we had finished our work against the terrorism of the 1980s and 1990s — and from 2000 to 2006 there was a period almost without activity, and the intensity of operations declined. This allowed them to restructure, and what had been a minimal issue started to increase, plus there is the fact that they are colluding with drug trafficking and forming this phenomenon called ‘narcoterror.’ Hence, they are growing financially and growing in their logistics and financing. Logistics that allow them to improve their weapons and equipment, and financing that allows them to live where they are. *So, what are the armed forces doing to confront this threat?* Dividing the narcoterrorists from the population, separating them. Isolating them, and working to isolate them. The narcoterrorist is a criminal. Criminals have to be pursued and punished, not mixed with the population. That’s where our great difficulty still is, separating them from the population, because they join with the population to obtain support – support with information, support with logistics, support with shelter, someplace to live. So, little by little, we’re separating them and isolating them. This is going to enable us to improve our operational actions. *Besides isolating these groups, what else could be done?* We want this to happen in phases. We’ve already finished the preparation phase; now we’re entering the intervention phase to capture the ringleaders, separating them from the population. Then comes the consolidation phase, which is giving the towns the infrastructure that will enable their people’s labor to have value in the market. What does this mean? Bringing them energy, bringing them highways, bringing them canals, improving their lives. Now, we can’t do this if they don’t have security. So, we’re going to give them security, and then comes intervention and development, which is the joint way in which we’re going to confront this issue. *What challenges is Peru facing?* Putting an end to terrorism, reducing drug trafficking to a minimum, but as the first priority, putting an end to terrorism, and this is going to make it easier for my country to develop in peace and harmony. *Would you like to add anything else?* Our visit here to the Southern Command has been very interesting for us and very beneficial, due to the exchange of experiences and because we’re working jointly, especially with regard to procedures that they’ve already tried and where we need to improve our procedures in order to make our armed forces more efficient, modern, and technologically effective.