Navies of Peru and Bolivia Expand Joint Patrols on Lake Titicaca

By Dialogo
May 31, 2016

The Peruvian and Bolivian Navies conducted joint exercises on Lake Titicaca to improve their skills in search and rescue missions, contamination containment, and the fight against organized crime. The Navies held the training from May 16th-20th after Captain Marco Sangueza, the chief of the Bolivian Naval District Four-Titicaca, and Peruvian Navy Commander Juan José Gonzales, executive director of the Port Authority for Puerto de Puno, shared information and planned joint patrols on their shared lake during their sixth annual meeting in mid-April in Copacabana, Bolivia.

During the five-day training, 40 officers from the two Navies shared their experience and worked together in the lake’s Bay of Puno to improve their fight against crime and environmental disasters, namely oil spills. The lake, which is at an altitude of over 4,000 meters, is prone to flooding and continually at risk of pollution damage due to the high level of boat traffic. In November, the forces will train together on the Bolivian side of the lake.

“The joint exercises allow us to stay on the same page in the fight against mutual threats and problems, like drug trafficking, money laundering, smuggling, human trafficking, and environmental recovery in the lake shared by both countries,” Cmdr. Gonzales told Diálogo

Cmdr. Gonzales’ contingent used three 2012 model, 40-foot lake patrol boats manufactured by the Peruvian Navy Industrial Services (SIMA). The Bolivian force, led by Captain Pablo Valdiviezo Oña, used the Catamarán
and two Karachi

patrol boats from the Bolivian Navy to navigate the waves that can reach four meters in height.

Cooperation agreement

On June 23, 2015, Peru and Bolivia signed the Isla Estevez Declaration, which allows the Andean nations to work together to combat narco-trafficking and smuggling by working together along their shared border. Earlier this year, Peruvian and Bolivian service members participated in a joint exercise in which they trained inside and outside of the classroom to prepare them for May’s session.

The first part of the May session, held on the 17th, focused on containing contamination. The service members implemented a contingency plan for five simulated oil spills, as lake contamination is a major concern for residents who rely on the body of water. “We have almost 5,000 vessels on Lake Titicaca operating as passenger and tourism ships,” Cmdr. Gonzales said. “Each vessel has fuel on board, primarily diesel fuel. In the event of some incident involving an oil spill, we can activate procedures to combat and contain any sort of spill and recover the fuel, which would otherwise cause a great deal of damage to the lake and to the environment.”

Pursuant to the Isla Estevez Declaration, the governments of Peru and Bolivia signed an Inter-Agency Agreement for environmental recovery on Lake Titicaca and its biological diversity “under a common vision,” reported the Bolivian Ministry of Foreign Relations.

On May 18th, the training continued when officers and non-commissioned officers simulated routine inspections of boats on the lake. Criminals use ships to transport drugs, traffic persons, and contraband from one country to the other via the lake, reported El Diario
. The training was aimed at ensuring that all rules were followed, such as the proper way to deal with boats that refuse to stop, and how to deal with detained suspects. The next day on the 19th, the Navies performed a simulated search and rescue mission, which involved two Bolivian divers, to find a missing crew member who had fallen overboard.

Stronger bonds

At the end of the joint exercise, the Bolivian and Peruvian Navies held a “fellowship lunch to forge stronger bonds of cooperation between the two Navies,” Cmdr. Gonzales stated. “We fulfilled our primary directive: to increase communication and perfect procedures for joint exercises between the two navies.”

Since Peru and Bolivia began working together against drug trafficking and other crimes along the border between the two nations, they have been using a satellite system to detect drug shipments on Lake Titicaca, reported Diálogo on March 9, 2015.
“It is important that officers be up-to-date with the new procedures, techniques and changes not only in the operational area, but also in technology,” Cmdr. Gonzales explained. “Our mission is to improve security on both sides of the border.”

The continuing cooperation between Peru and Bolivia is at its highest point. The teams from the Peruvian Navy and the Bolivian Navy have reached an “excellent level of cooperation” in security and defense, Cmdr. Gonzales stated. “The mutual support is continual; there is a predisposition for continual and sincere support.”

The presence of authorities on the lake’s borders has positively impacted the region, as crime has decreased considerably. “Our presence on Lake Titicaca is a complete deterrent,” Cmdr. Gonzales said. “People are no longer very involved in perpetrating crimes. They know that if they run into us, they will not get a second chance to commit a crime, because we are being quite drastic.”