Peru signed an air security pact with the United States that will strengthen surveillance in Peruvian skies to combat drug trafficking. The agreement aims to jointly address shared security challenges, including the fight against illicit drug trafficking and transnational organized crime.
“This unidentified aircraft interdiction initiative is a breakthrough in terms of cooperation between the United States and Peru to effectively combat aerial drug transport, especially in the VRAEM [Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro River Valley] and Putumayo areas,” Arturo Huaytalla, a Peruvian security analyst, told Diálogo on September 22. “With this agreement, the capabilities of law enforcement agents in charge of air security will be strengthened, through resources, training, and aircraft identification, among other areas. Surely the agreement will have a global impact in the fight against drug trafficking.”
U.S. Ambassador to Peru Lisa Kenna and Peruvian Foreign Minister Ana Gervasi signed the Non-Lethal Air Interdiction Agreement on August 24.
Although specific details of the agreement were not disclosed, the Presidency of the Peruvian Council of Ministers said on September 4 that the United States will provide radar and aircraft support, as well as intelligence information, financing, communications, maintenance, training, and technical and logistics support, the Latin American Strategic Center for Geopolitics (CELAG) indicated.
“Let the country’s drug cartels be warned of the beginning of an immense fight against the entry of illegal light aircraft that violate our skies daily,” said Peru’s Prime Minister Alberto Otárola, Spanish news agency Europa Press reported. “We are going to redouble our efforts with Ecuador and neighboring countries to shut once and for all the drug trafficking that affects nations and creates an illegal economy among the population.”
The U.S. Embassy added that U.S. assistance will not be used for activities related to harming, destroying, disabling, or threatening civilian aircraft in service.
The Non-Lethal Air Interdiction Agreement will enter into force when both sides complete the necessary internal procedures. Twenty-four helicopters, new radars, and “the intense collaboration of a sister country with which we are working in this fight against drug trafficking will be provided,” Prime Minister Otárola said.
“Air interception is understood as the act of a tracking or intercepting aircraft of approaching and remaining close to an aircraft, with the objective of identifying said aircraft,” Ambassador Kenna said. “If necessary, the aircraft will be directed back to its intended route, escorted out of restricted or prohibited airspace, or directed to land.”
From January to July 2023, some 700 planes suspected of carrying drugs entered Peru before heading abroad, Voice of America reported on August 25, according to data from Peru’s Defense Ministry.
Drug trafficking also affects the country because organized crime has managed to infiltrate and implant corruption within governmental institutions, Argentine news site Infobae reported. The Defense Ministry said that non-lethal air interdiction will help to obtain more information and intelligence.
In January 2023, the United States announced an $8 million donation in addition to the established annual contribution of $5 million to the Special Project for the Control and Reduction of Coca Cultivation in Alto Huallaga, CELAG reported on September 4.
“We are going to act without remorse to intercept these planes,” Otárola said. “This entails the upgrade of 24 helicopters, the acquisition of radars that are going to guard our border, and the intense collaboration of a sister country, with which we are working in this arduous fight against illicit drug trafficking.”