Peru Bolsters Strategy Against Narco-Terrorist Alliance in Coca-growing Areas
By Pedro Hurtado Cánepa/Diálogo October 25, 2016The Peruvian government officially ordered the Armed Forces to directly intervene in coca-growing areas of the country in its continued battle against criminal elements engaged in narcoterrorism. The measure took effect on October 11th, and will remain in force for 60 days. The order calls for the development and implementation of a new strategy in the region of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley of the (VRAEM, per its Spanish acronym), which includes areas located in the Peruvian highlands such as Ayacucho, Junín, Huancavelica, and Cusco, cities with high levels of poverty affected by terrorist violence from 1980-2000. According to a 2015 report from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, there are 18,333 hectares of coca cultivation in the VRAEM alone. The document shows that Peru has at least 40,300 hectares in 13 production areas, which is surpassed only by Colombia. As a result of this new strategy, in early October, Fernando Zavala, president of the Council of Ministers, announced a state of emergency in different VRAEM districts. "This new strategy consists of the Armed Forces assuming control of internal security, and they will have the support of the National Police," said Andrés Gómez de la Torre, a Peruvian expert on national defense and intelligence issues. Peruvian legislation establishes that the fight against drug trafficking is a function that rests with the police. "The intention of the VRAEM strategy is to look at the situation objectively and to have a unified command in charge of the Armed Forces Joint Command and joined by the National Police of Peru," said Gómez, indicating that the new operations will be more proactive. Working together According to the Interior Minister, the National Police will continue engaging in those aspects in which it has exclusive inalienable jurisdiction, such as the investigation of crimes like illicit drug trafficking. For purposes of the legality of their actions and the full respect for human rights, law enforcement will be under the direction of the Peruvian Attorney General's Office. Peruvian police officers will continue to be in charge of the arrest and prosecution of individuals, as well as public safety, among other duties. "The issue of drug trafficking in the VRAEM began 10 years ago, and it has become a war of attrition due to the multiple threats to national security,” said Gómez. "The remnants of Shining Path in the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley are no longer the ideological or political apparatus of a terrorist group questioning the rule of law. They have now become allies with drug-trafficking mafias operating in the area," said Minister of Defense Mariano González. For González, the current reality of terrorist groups in Peru is causing a rethinking of certain strategies and what the sector's position is. "With this rule, the Armed Forces are empowered to fight drug trafficking," he said. González admitted that among the risks in the fight against drug trafficking is the emergence of cases of corruption in the very same law enforcement agencies (due to the large amounts of money they handle). "Supervision processes will be established to prevent members of the Armed Forces from falling into temptation," he said. Peruvian Congressman and retired Vice Admiral Carlos Tubino, believes that these measures should be accompanied by others geared towards enhancing military intervention in this jurisdiction, such as allowing the Armed Forces to directly carry out interdictions against drug traffickers. "There are currently 64 Army bases in the VRAEM, and they cannot do direct interdiction, seize drugs they find, or hand those involved over (to the courts)," said Vice Adm. Tubino. He believes that the Armed Forces should directly participate in confiscating drugs, drug paraphernalia, capturing individuals involved, and handing them over to the police. Defense Minister Mariano González will detail the new military strategy to congressional members at the National Defense, Internal Order, Alternative Development, and Drug Control Committee during the first week of November in order to determine its continuity.