Peru has a long standing tradition of participating in peacekeeping missions; it is even a founding member of the Organization of the United Nations (UN). It was under the leadership of Peruvian UN Secretary General Javier Pérez de Cuéllar that the UN Peacekeeping Forces received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1988.
Diálogo leveraged the participation of Peruvian Admiral Jorge Moscoso, chief of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces at the South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC) 2016, held in Montevideo, Uruguay, from August 16th to 19th, to to speak to him about these and other related topics.
Diálogo: Can you tell us about your country’s participation in international peacekeeping missions and other related activities?
Admiral Jorge Moscoso: Part of our state policy includes support for the international system and for international law. We have been participating in peacekeeping operations for many years, both as part of the staff and as observer officials, as well as with contingents. We currently have a contingent in Haiti, which is a combined battalion with Uruguay, and it is providing us very interesting experiences that will serve us for future missions. We have the support of partner nations, including the United States, that always help us with training and with some equipment. The other mission we have is in Central Africa, where an engineering company, consisting of 260 men, plus a large amount of engineering equipment and machines, has been deployed. The company is supporting the Force Commander in Central Africa in maintaining airfields, and all related infrastructure. It is a very interesting new experience, because the creation and deployment of the company have generated many experiences that have taught us many lessons. The sustainment phase is next. Logistics in Central Africa is a very complicated matter that will require very fine and very coordinated work among the Force Commander, our partner nations, and us.
Diálogo: If the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH) phases out this year, as the UN announced, what will happen to the Peruvian contingent over there? Is it going to be deployed to another region?
Adm. Moscoso: Indeed, as part of Peru’s offer to the UN, we will maintain an infantry company ready to be deployed with minimal warning time, and we are complying. The idea is that as part of the participation process in Central Africa, the company will deploy throughout the country’s territory, because, right now, we are in one or two places, and that will require an important security component. Therefore, the idea is to prepare the company, build their capacity to move it to Central Africa so it can assist in the deployment process for the engineering company over time. It is a process that we maintain in coordination with the UN in New York, and with the Force Commander in Central Africa.
Diálogo: Can you tell us a little more about the Peruvian mission in Central Africa?
Adm. Moscoso: The mission that we are participating in with the UN has given us a range of responsibility. For the moment, we are working on airfield maintenance in two places, but the idea is to advance progressively and, in order to do that, we must keep improving our skills, and training our people. In fact, we have encountered technical issues that require professionals who are accredited by international organizations to certify the airfield for insurance purposes, or issues related to security. So, we are preparing people, Army and Air Force officers, who are certified to do the work and can properly provide guidance for the airfield maintenance work.
Diálogo: In terms of the evolution of the military role in Latin America, the main topic of SOUTHDEC 2016, Peru has had that in mind for many years. Likewise, it has served in the fight against drug trafficking for many years, especially against the Shining Path, a function that is not specific to the military. How is that joint collaboration between the Armed Forces and the Peruvian Police going?
Adm. Moscoso: Indeed, we have been involved for quite a few years in the fight against what we now call the remnants of this illegal organization, the Shinning Path, which has a close tie to drug trafficking. The mission of the Armed Forces is to fight the remnants of the Shining Path. However, we manage the integrated operations with the police, because you cannot separate one from the other. There are areas or scenarios where there is greater presence of elements of the Shining Path, while there are others where the two coexist. Because the Shining Path provides security for the movement of drugs, for which it charges money, and this has already been proven. In this scenario, in that part of the country, we work with the police in an integrated manner so that if there is evidence of a crime, and if it is drug trafficking, we provide the entire security component, and the police intervene. So, as shown in that example, we are working jointly with the Peruvian Police.
Diálogo: Shining Path, as has been published by the government and the military forces of Peru, is actively present in the region of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro rivers Valley, better known as VRAEM. But is it in other areas of the country as well? Is there participation of the Armed Forces in other regions specifically for that reason?
Adm. Moscoso: In other parts of the country, the only service that has the legal authority to intervene with criminal activity is the Navy, through the General Directorate of Captaincy and Coastguards. They have their own law and also work with the police in other areas, mainly at sea, in ports, in coastal areas, maritime areas, navigable river areas, the Amazon, Lake Titicaca, and other lake areas. There, the Navy has the power to intervene in the presence of crimes, including drug trafficking.
Diálogo: And the Air Force?
Adm. Moscoso: The Air Force controls the airspace through a capacity that is governed by the law on airspace control, which allows for intercepting hostile aircraft, which are aircraft that do not have a flight plan or an authorized destination, and invade the airspace. They are then intercepted by our aircraft, so they cannot commit a crime. This is regulated by a law with all its protocols.
Diálogo: How do the Peruvian Armed Forces participate in terms of humanitarian aid, particularly internally in the country?
Adm. Moscoso: Within the country, we organize the military internally into security subzones that allow the armed forces to provide support to the population. For example, after an earthquake like the one just two or three days ago, an airlift is immediately established, and the Army uses helicopters to transport aid from the civil defense system to the area of the event, in this case, the earthquake, and transport the injured to cities so that hospitals can take care of them. That is a very clear example of how the armed forces participate. In the case of flooding in areas of the Amazon, for example, the Navy provides support to evacuate victims, or the Army or Air Force organizes airlifts or shelters to protect the population. In Peru, the Armed Forces participate in preparedness and response within the civil defense system. We have much evidence on the highly qualified and prepared response we provide, because we have capabilities for this: command and control, logistics, assets, and the Army, Navy, and Air Force that can help mitigate the impact of these disasters if they occur.
Diálogo: Do you exchange this kind of assistance with neighboring countries?
Adm. Moscoso: We maintain a very good relationship with them. The Air Force continually conducts exercises with them, because there are administrative and logistical aspects that are very important. I may want to help a country if they suffer a disaster, and the first thing you want to do is send aircraft, but the loads must be placed on pallets so packages can be transported in different kinds of aircraft. This logistics system is used by the Air Force with its peers in the region, so that when the aircraft arrive, we send the packages that are properly packed in pallets that can can be shipped and not create a problem for the country we are trying to help.
Diálogo: Such as in Haiti, for example, right after the earthquake in 2010...
Adm. Moscoso: Exactly. Everyone wants to help, but they send boxes or packages that cannot be shipped. This organization is handled by the Air Force very well, so that when help arrives, no time is wasted sorting cargo or support. It comes already prepared with a logistics plan. In the case of the Navy, we have units such as a logistics ship that allows us to transport medical personnel and drinking water units. We have helicopters on board to conduct local airlifts. There are a number of capabilities that we coordinate with partner nations and neighbors to provide support if an event occurs, such as the one that took place in April in Ecuador, which was a significant event that allowed us to transport aid, carry cargo, and also provide support in the affected areas.
Diálogo: Do you work together with the United States in that part of humanitarian aid?
Adm. Moscoso: Yes, we have a very good relationship with the United States in terms of training and preparedness. We also have the possibility of the United States sending support vessels and medical personnel to conduct humanitarian work in coastal areas. There is good coordination work and community support.