Peru Empowered to Confront Drug Trafficking

By Dialogo
October 16, 2012

Ten military bases will be set up in Peru’s main coca producing valley in December, as part of a new government policy which is promoting a law to empower the Armed Forces in the fight against drug trafficking, a move considered risky by analysts.

The ten bases will be located in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM), a vast mountain region that extends from the southeastern jungle to the central jungle, where drug trafficking gangs operate jointly with remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla.

On October 9, the Congressional Defense Committee approved a bill to eliminate constitutional obstacles in order to broaden the Armed Forces’ capacity to act, according to pro-government congressman José Urquizo, head of that parliamentary group.

For his part, Prime Minister Juan Jiménez stated on October 12, that “a theater of operations of war is taking place in the VRAEM, where terrorists want to jeopardize the State, and this calls for the military intervention of the armed forces during a state of emergency.”

In turn, Minister of Defense Pedro Cateriano, indicated that the government is confronting two enemies: “the Shining Path guerrillas and the drug traffickers that fund them. Together, they intend to weaken Peru’s democracy, and the government’s decision is to confront them.”

Former antidrug czar during the current government Ricardo Soberón, said that “the tendency to militarize the fight against drug trafficking while strengthening the military institution instead of the civil sector is worrisome.”

The expert indicated that the military influence is risky if not accompanied by other elements, such as “citizenry empowerment and democratic strengthening. But all this is missing in the government’s speech.”

Soberón stated that the decision was influenced by U.S. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta’s official visit to Peru on October 6, during which he met with President Ollanta Humala.