Peruvian Armed Forces Deploy New Aircraft in Fight against Drug Trafficking and Terrorism

By Dialogo
June 02, 2016

Peruvian authorities have strengthened the operational capacity of the Armed Forces by adding new aircraft to fight terrorism and drug trafficking in coca-growing regions. In these locations, wild vegetation and geographical complications work in favor of the criminals and terrorist groups like the Shining Path, which is engaged in narcotrafficking.

The Military has added 24 helicopters, seven Cessna 172 Sky Hawks, a Piper PA-44, and four other aircraft that can transport Troops and strengthen the Armed Forces' efforts to fight the illegal drug trade and terrorism, according to an analysis by Roberto Chiabra, Defense Minister under the administration of President Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006).

Consequently, strengthening the operational capacity of the Armed Forces has improved public security, particularly in the country's main coca-growing regions, such as the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM) and in the regions of Ayacucho, Junín, and Cusco.

“With its new capabilities, the Armed Forces will also be able to handle crime, El Niño, and other acts of nature,” Chiabra said. “That equipment has multipurpose characteristics that are vital to operating efficiently in the difficult Peruvian geography.”

Peruvian Armed Forces and police cooperate

The additional aircraft will assist the Armed Forces in their ongoing efforts to fight organized crime and terrorism in the VRAEM. For example, in May 2016, the Peruvian Police’s Executive Counter-Terrorism Directorate (DIRCOTE) seized explosive material, garments such as boots and scarves, a solar panel, and others belonging to the Shining Path in the VRAEM area.

Police General José Baella, DIRCOTE’s executive director, told Diálogo
that the intervention was carried out in the Cusco districts of La Convención and Echarati, in the jurisdiction of the VRAEM, under the framework of the 2016 Caletas II Operation. “We have located at least 10 caches or hiding places [in the jungle] where terrorists kept war materials for use in different subversive operations.”

"Security forces seized 49 sticks of dynamite, 20 plastic containers [booby traps], an ammunition belt for a machine gun, material for making apparel [cartridge belts, backpacks], a rocket-propelled grenade, and a minesweeper," Gen. Baella explained.

The Special VRAEM Command Chief, Peruvian Army General Fernando Acosta, stressed that the Peruvian government’s strategy, which consists of coordination between the police and Military, is enabling an expansion of government presence in areas that had been overtaken by narcotrafficking. “There is an intelligence committee that is operating on a permanent basis in the VRAEM area to determine the circumstances and the perpetrators of the ambush.”

Fighting drug trafficking

"Government security forces are confronting drug trafficking in the VRAEM, which poses the greatest security challenge in the region," Gen. Acosta stated, adding that the government is also investing in roads, schools, and providing health care in the region.

Using public funds to improve conditions in areas where organized crime groups and terrorists operate is a good investment, said Rubén Vargas Céspedes, a security analyst who studies drug trafficking, adding that providing legal alternatives to farmers is also an important component of the government's anti-crime strategy. “It is important to generate a greater number of productive chains in the coca-growing areas focused on the export of quality products like cocoa and coffee to the international market. They could even create special credit and advisory programs.”

Céspedes applauded the government “investing in roads, prioritizing investment in social infrastructure, and increasing social programs that reduce poverty and provide basic services such as water, sewage, and electricity”.

The National Commission for Development and Life without Drugs (DEVIDA), stated there are plans to invest about $5.1 million in 2016 to combat the illegal cultivation of coca in the VRAEM. The institution said the budget represents a 10 percent increase over 2015.

The investment in the VRAEM includes assistance and incentive programs for farmers who replace illegal coca crops with alternative crops. The funds will also go towards implementing police stations and other initiatives.