Operation Tenacious Strikes Narcoterrorism in the VRAEM

Operation Tenacious Strikes Narcoterrorism in the VRAEM

By Julieta Pelcastre/Diálogo
December 20, 2017

Operation Tenacious (Tenaz, in Spanish) in the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM, in Spanish) brought together the Peruvian Armed Forces’ Special Operations and Intelligence Command (CIOEC, in Spanish), the VRAEM Special Command (CE-VRAEM, in Spanish), and the Peruvian National Police. More than 1,000 personnel dealt a blow to remaining narcoterrorists. From October to November, authorities conducted several operations and seized vehicles and chemical supplies used in the manufacture of illegal drugs in the region.

“Working in the VRAEM is very complicated. By joining forces in a single operation, we managed to gain territorial control over parts of the area we hadn’t stepped into for various reasons,” Admiral Francisco Calisto Giampietri, commander of CIOEC, told Diálogo. “Through intelligence and teamwork, we got tactical advantage over them [the terrorists].”

Meticulous analysis of the terrain, tactical development, and patrols’ maneuvering capacity allowed for tactical advantage. A command and control system that enabled patrols to reposition themselves in real time also contributed to the success of the operation. These actions helped to maneuver in the area without losing sight of the main objective.

“It was a resoundingly successful large-scale operation. We went completely on the offensive,” Admiral José Luis Paredes, head of the Peruvian Armed Forces Joint Command (CCFFAA, in Spanish), told Diálogo. “Through this operation, remaining terrorists significantly lost operational and logistics capacities.”

Clashes and parallel operations

Thanks to the joint effort, a reconnaissance patrol from CE-VRAEM confronted a wing of the Shining Path rebel group in Ayacucho. During the offensive, an alleged terrorist known as “Ciro” was neutralized, and four others were injured.

“We worked on several scenarios at the same time, which isn’t what usually happens,” Adm. Calisto said. “These types of operations go through a logical learning process tied to the analysis of previous actions carried out in similar areas.”

In another confrontation, authorities clashed with criminals in the Montehuasi sector of the Vizcatán zone in central Peru, considered a terrorist stronghold. Two criminals died in the clash, and several others were injured. Following this second confrontation, combined units located a terrorist camp and an advanced logistics warehouse with food belonging to Jorge Quispe Palomino, alias “Raúl,” the Shining Path's second in command. Authorities also seized firearms, cartridges of different calibers, and radio communications equipment.

Military and police forces also conducted a series of operations against illegal drug trafficking in the VRAEM villages of Mayapo, Villa Aurora, and Junín. Authorities seized 15 kilograms of cocaine paste, destroyed two tons of coca leaves, and five tons of chemical supplies. They also destroyed five drug labs used to produce cocaine hydrochloride and two clandestine landing strips. Thirteen criminals were arrested in those operations.

“The configuration of Operation Tenacious is nothing more than a [version] of a concept that was pushed for [some] time now. Being under a unified command gave us excellent results. We’ve been able to share our assets and complement our efforts,” Adm. Calisto said. “It’s not about the quantity of personnel. It’s about complementing our operational capabilities.”

Government presence

“VRAEM has a problem that service members or police alone can’t solve. As long as [there is a government presence] in VRAEM, it will be under control. But the moment we leave, that vacuum will immediately be replaced by someone else,” Adm. Calisto said. “Military-police operations are just one component.”

“People need to feel supported,” Adm. Paredes added. “They must feel safe to carry on with their daily activities, because it’s not safe to live where the government is absent.”

Strategic simultaneous operations in VRAEM will continue. In 2017, the military’s 56 land and river bases deployed throughout the region conducted about 2,800 operations of various types. “The main objective of the operations is pacification,” Adm. Paredes said. “Operational success comes from restoring the rule of law and domestic order to the population.”

CCFFAA conducts operations and carries out other actions to promote sustainable development in VRAEM through various social programs that provide basic health and education services and create opportunities for economic development. Adm. Calisto noted the support from these combined operations. “This is not exclusively an Armed Forces or police effort,” he said.

All efforts in this part of Peru involve an absolute respect for human rights and international humanitarian law. “We’re trained and ready to employ the use of force while strictly complying with human rights. That’s what distinguishes our personnel from those who make their living from crime, narcotrafficking, and terrorism,” Adm. Paredes stressed. “For the government, pacifying VRAEM is a challenge and a commitment. We have to meet this challenge soon. We don’t see that objective as being very far off,” he concluded.