The Peruvian Armed Forces are committed to the defense and development of the nation. Guaranteeing the independence, sovereignty, and territorial integrity of the republic, commanding units to combat terrorism and illicit drug trafficking, illegal mining, and other crimes, as well as directing multisectoral civic campaigns and the participation of the Armed Forces in Disaster Risk Management are part of the tasks led by Army General Manuel Jesús Martín Gómez de la Torre Araníbar, head of the Peruvian Armed Forces’ Joint Command (CCFFAA).
Gen. Gómez de la Torre spoke with Diálogo during his participation in the U.S. Southern Command- (SOUTHCOM) sponsored South American Defense Conference 2023 (SOUTHDEC), in Cartagena, Colombia, August 22-24.
Diálogo: How has SOUTHDEC strengthened Peru’s operations to counter security threats?
Army General Manuel Gómez de la Torre Araníbar, head of the Peruvian Armed Forces’ Joint Command: SOUTHDEC is an extraordinary forum where South American defense leaders meet together with SOUTHCOM, where there is an excellent exchange of information and ideas on common threats that the region is experiencing. SOUTHDEC has allowed us to generate greater capabilities so that each country can face these threats, and this year we are working on the themes of security in cyberspace, the environment, and natural disasters.
Diálogo: Cyberthreat is one of the themes of SOUTHDEC. How is the Cyber Defense Operational Command preparing to confront cyberthreats?
Gen. Gómez de la Torre: We have been increasing the capabilities of our Cyber Defense Command. The information and exchange of experiences we have had at SOUTHDEC further enhances this increase in cybersecurity capabilities such as confidentiality, availability, and integrity of information; in cyber defense, through training, acquisition of digital security tools, and cyber hygiene. In addition to this, we establish and interact with our neighboring countries in a joint and integrated way to deal with any threat that may arise in this area.
Diálogo: What progress has been made with respect to the dismantling of the central committee and terrorist elements of the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist Communist Party of Peru (PCP-MLM) in the VRAEM?
Gen. Gómez de la Torre: We have conducted operations in a sustained manner over time since the creation of the VRAEM Special Command. The advances have been permanent. Today, the Marxist-Leninist-Maoist organization, as they call themselves, Shining Path Communist Party in the VRAEM, is mostly focused on the Vizcatán region. It is precisely in this geographical area where in 2022 we conducted the successful Operation Patriot, in which we dealt a hard blow to this organization, managing to penetrate its security rings, destabilize, and disorganize its central committee. After this military action, thanks to the information obtained, we have continued to conduct successful operations on an ongoing basis.
Diálogo: How do the Peruvian Armed Forces support the national effort against illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing?
Gen. Gómez de la Torre: Our Armed Forces, through the Peruvian Navy and specifically the General Directorate of Captains and Coast Guards, have the permanent job of surveilling and monitoring of our territorial sea. Through this action, we act against anyone who enters our sovereign sea and intends to carry out this illicit action. We count on the participation and support of partner countries of the region, with information, training, and multilateral exercises that allow us to increase our capacities for this type of action.
Diálogo: What new developments are there in terms of risk management in the face of natural disasters in the Peruvian Armed Forces?
Gen. Gómez de la Torre: In Peru, the Armed Forces, as first responders, act immediately by law. We participate in two specific phases in preparedness and response. We increase our capabilities, the instruction of our personnel, and integrated training. Within each operational command, located throughout the national territory, there are immediate action commands for natural disasters, very flexible, well organized, and autonomous organizations that allow us to counteract or act in any type of these situations, always for the benefit of our citizens.
Our personnel is in constant training in order to be able to participate in any type of phenomenon that may occur and cause damage to our population. We are currently preparing to face the global El Niño phenomenon, which, according to specialists, will cause heavy rains mainly in the Pacific coastal region and will affect us from October onwards. For this reason, we have been training our personnel, with the support of SOUTHCOM and other partner countries and participating with them in multilateral exercises in order to be in the best conditions to always react in support of our population.
Diálogo: What are the results of the multisectoral civic campaigns promoted by the CCFFAA to bring medical assistance and state social programs to the country’s most remote and vulnerable populations?
Gen. Gómez de la Torre: Our multisectoral civic campaigns allow us to bring State services closer to the vulnerable population with three components:
Health component: Specialized doctors and health personnel from the Armed Forces, National Police of Peru, Social Health Insurance, and Ministry of Health.
Programs and services component: Social programs through which the State provides social services to the most needy families, the elderly, children, and the disabled with the support of other state institutions and private organizations.
Private activity component: Composed of private companies and non-profit institutions that join the efforts of the CCFFAA, such as the Virgen de La Merced Association, the National Association of Pharmaceutical, Health, Food Supplements, and Medical Devices Industries, Buckner Peru, Juguete Pendiente, the Association of Young Entrepreneurs, etc.
In these multisectoral civic campaigns, medical attention is provided in more than 20 specialties, X-ray support, ultrasound, laboratory, as well as a pharmacy with free medicines. The results are evident, since the population receives us with hope and satisfaction, having offered medical care, from 2013 to date, to more than 1.1 million.
Diálogo: What progress has been made in the fight against illegal mining?
Gen. Gómez de la Torre: The Armed Forces, in support of the National Police, are tackling illegal mining as an illicit activity, through permanent, integrated, and very efficient work. We are currently focusing our efforts in areas in the interior of the country, with personnel deployed specifically in the sector of La Pampa, Madre de Dios and also in the northern border.