The Peruvian Armed Forces work with professionalism and commitment to contribute to peace and face threats to national security. Peruvian Navy Admiral José Luis Paredes Lora, commander of the Armed Forces’ Joint Command (CCFFAA, in Spanish), said that his personnel’s dedication is crucial to conduct joint operations with the National Police for the national fight against terrorism and narcotrafficking.
Adm. Paredes took part in the South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC) held in Buenos Aires, Argentina August 28 and 29, 2018, to analyze South American military contributions to world peace. Adm. Paredes spoke with Diálogo about his country’s peacekeeping operations, joint and interagency work to respond to security threats, and the contribution of the armed forces to regional peace.
Diálogo: What’s the importance of Peru’s participation in SOUTHDEC?
Admiral José Luis Paredes Lora, commander of the Peruvian Armed Forces’ Joint Command: It’s very important, because it’s a forum where the commanders of the different regional armed forces, and obviously Canada and the United States, share their experiences and lessons learned in the fight against common threats in the region. We can draw some conclusions based on lessons learned and use them to improve our doctrines and procedures.
Diálogo: SOUTHDEC’s main topic was South America’s contribution to peace. How do the Armed Forces of your country contribute to achieve this regional objective?
Adm. Paredes: We contribute to the fight against transnational threats by working hard, like we do with Colombia, for example. We have common threats and illicit activities on our borders, which are extensive and porous. Currently, border commanders carry out ongoing coordination in intelligence and exchange other information of interest. They also constantly collaborate with their peers, engaging in combined operations and humanitarian assistance.
Diálogo: How does Peru participate in the United Nations’ peacekeeping missions?Adm. Paredes: Peru has extensive experience in peace operations, participating since 1958. Currently, we have 205 elements deployed as part of the Engineering Battalion in the Central African Republic, as well as 27 units working as staff and observers in different missions in Sudan, South Sudan, and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Taking part in peace operations is a government policy. We also have a peacekeeping representative in the UN, and we have another battalion prepared for deployment, possibly at the end of 2018.
Diálogo: What are the lessons learned from this participation?
Adm. Paredes: We acquired plenty of experience throughout the years. Our stay in Haiti, where we worked to strengthen peace, was quite long, and we learned very good lessons. We believe in the importance of complementing the deployment of our battalions with our own security resources, since this gives us greater confidence due to the different doctrines and procedures each individual country use. One of the most important experiences is having thorough knowledge of the culture, religion, and customs of the countries where contingents are deployed, because in many cases they are different from ours, and with this knowledge we can better interact with the population.
Diálogo: Why is it important for the Armed Forces to conduct combined and joint work not only at the national level, but also with partner nations to confront common threats?
Adm. Paredes: The Armed Forces of our country have a joint doctrine that is constantly applied and crucially important. This allows for better synergy, command unity, and interoperability of components during military operations and actions. In the case of the forces currently under the Joint Command’s operational control, which are those that operate in emergency areas, we use joint resources. The designated Special Command has three components: naval, air, and land, all operating jointly and fully interoperable. In the future, the Armed Forces will have a joint vision throughout their structure based on the strategic plan approved in 2017 that runs until 2030. There are no longer plans for institutions or weapons. It’s a single plan that brings together all the requirements to fulfill the capabilities needed for the different roles assigned by the government in its security and defense policy.
Diálogo: What is your main challenge?
Adm. Paredes: When I took over [in January 2017], the goal was to consolidate peace and contribute to our country’s development. And we are doing it. Throughout the years, and I say it confidently, the emergency area was reduced. We are increasing our actions in different parts of the VRAEM [Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley] area to consolidate them and facilitate the intervention of other government sectors to bring different services, such as health, education, and other activities to benefit the population. The remnants of terrorism in that area are no longer a threat to the state. Little by little, we have to consolidate the areas so that all other agencies, or ministries or sectors of the government, can go in and do their job.
Diálogo: When you assumed command, you urged members of the Armed Forces, especially those deployed in the VRAEM, to work with the sole objective of making Peru a country threat-free. What specific actions were strengthened to pacify the region?
Adm. Paredes: In the military arena, we practically defeated terrorism. There are some remnants linked to narcotrafficking, a highly lucrative activity that makes coca leaves more valuable in this area than traditional crops, such as cocoa, coffee, and others that are produced on a smaller scale. But the VRAEM is a very rough area, with vast coca crops. About 70 percent of the national production of coca leaves is located in these valleys. In Peru, coca crops cover about 40,000 hectares, out of which 20,300 are located in these valleys. This is about 50 percent of the production area at the national level, but it’s extremely productive due to the geographical conditions. There’s work to do, and we are coordinating with organizations involved in the Strategic Plan for the Development of the VRAEM 2018-2021. This plan seeks to close economic and social gaps in the area, and will soon be ready for approval and launch.
Diálogo: The Armed Forces just carried out a joint operation in the VRAEM with the National Police in August 2018, where they dealt a blow to the logistics of remnants of the Shining Path terrorist group. What’s the importance of this coordinated work?
Adm. Paredes: Remnants of the terrorist organization are located in a very hard-to-reach area due to its rugged geography. This rough area is located in the districts of Vizcatán del Ene and Canayre, which are separated by the Mantaro river. There, the Armed Forces conduct close coordinated work with the National Police’s two specialized directorates: the Counter-Terrorist Directorate [Dircote] and the Anti-Drug Directorate [DIRANDRO], organizations that have a lot of experience in operations against illegal acts. Since 2017, we’ve implemented an integrated group of special operations, consisting of 400 qualified special forces units coming from the Armed Forces and the National Police, under the command of the Armed Forces’s Intelligence and Special Operations Command (CIOEC, in Spanish) of the Joint Command, aimed at high value targets. This allowed us to integrate intelligence and perform operations with very good results, as in the intervention in various terrorist camps in the Vizcatán area, where we were able to seriously disrupt their logistics and gear, such as weapons, ammunition, and communications equipment.
Diálogo: Interoperability and joint operations are part of your strategies to carry out CCFFAA’s mission. What’s the importance of joint and interagency work among the Armed Forces to respond to security threats?
Adm. Paredes: We know that joint operations are vitally important, which allows for interoperability, crucial to conduct operations. Any acquisition by any institution of the Armed Forces within the strategic plan has to be assessed by CCFFAA first, so that the technical bodies can approve it and ensure that it’s completely interoperable with the systems we currently have. We are working on interagency, and we had excellent experiences in that regard. The coastal El Niño phenomenon of 2017 was about interagency work, in which the Joint Command conducted the operations during the emergency as first response, but it was an important job for all government sectors. We are currently doing the same interagency work in areas affected by frost and extreme cold in the high Andes and Amazon regions, and also in the VRAEM, with the different governmental ministries and agencies.
Diálogo: What’s your message for commanders about the contribution to global and regional peace?
Adm. Paredes: Apart from lessons learned, SOUTHDEC allowed us to get closer to commanders of the region’s armed forces, to coordinate work and reinforce mutual support to confront common threats that endanger our borders, and collaborate on risk management in case of disasters. The threats are the same, but they differ from one country to the other, and it’s not possible to counter them alone. We must be integrated and seek to establish synergy between the countries of the region and be predisposed for mutual support to combat common threats and risks.