U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) delivered a modern Regional Emergency Operations Center (COER, in Spanish) to Peru on October 11, 2018, as part of ongoing efforts to support the country’s security initiatives. The center will help military forces and other Peruvian government agencies respond to emergencies and natural disasters in the southeast of the national territory.
Representatives of the National Institute of Civil Defense (INDECI, in Spanish) and local authorities inaugurated COER in Moqueda department. The center has an area of more than 3,000 square meters, and is valued at more than $2.2 million. Part of a long-term project to increase response capabilities to imminent danger, emergencies, and disasters, the center includes a warehouse for disaster mitigation and a search and rescue operations site.
“The Peruvian government acknowledges SOUTHCOM’s support. For a decade, they helped us modernize our risk and disaster management procedures to contribute to timely decision making and reduce the impact of natural or man-made phenomena,” Peruvian Army Brigadier General Jorge Chávez, director of INDECI, told Diálogo. “This strategic cooperation enabled us to make a qualitative leap in managing emergencies.”
Moquegua’s COER is the 15th center SOUTHCOM built in Peru through its Humanitarian Assistance Program (HAP), an initiative focused on preventing and managing emergencies. The program also provides equipment, technological infrastructure, training, and instruction for emergency centers that local authorities manage.
HAP’s coordinators work with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to facilitate the development of these projects in Peru, in coordination with the country’s authorities. Three other COER are currently being built, while two others are in the planning stages.
“COERs proved to be operational when faced with natural disasters, such as the situations resulting from the El Niño weather phenomenon,” Brig. Gen. Chávez said. Since 2007, the U.S. government has supported Peru with more than $43 million through humanitarian assistance programs.
“This support strengthens the bonds of cooperation between both countries, and reaffirms the U.S. commitment to collaborate in security initiatives against natural disasters to support the civil population,” Brig. Gen. Chávez said. “Peru is exposed all year long to all kinds of emergencies, such as earthquakes, heavy rains, landslides, floods, tremors, and frost.”
A strengthened territory
Cooperation tools and mechanisms between Peru and the United States go beyond COER. Since its 1980s beginnings in Peru, SOUTHCOM’s HAP has funded the construction of schools, community centers, and clinics. The program also built bridges that restored communications and the supply of humanitarian aid to help vulnerable communities.
SOUTHCOM also delivered three emergency response mobile units, with expeditionary capabilities such as command, control, communications, and computing. “The cutting-edge units donated in 2016 helped the country optimize the management and coordination of relief operations after heavy rains in the region of Arequipa last year ,” Brig. Gen. Chávez said.
The heavy rains and landslides in the north of the country in March 2017, created an emergency situation that strengthened the partnership between both countries. After Peru requested assistance for the humanitarian emergency born from the El Niño phenomenon, the United States responded immediately with 10 U.S. Air Force helicopters to provide support to the most affected areas, such as Piura department, that had more than 25,000 victims.
“We have a partnership that grows stronger. The United States shows us the way and trains us to confront potential emergencies,” Brig. Gen. Chávez said. “Without the support of SOUTHCOM’s HAP, it wouldn’t be possible to respond immediately to emergencies and disasters.”
In an effort to help the country respond to weather conditions related to El Niño, the U.S. Navy and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration donated 12 buoys deployed in the Pacific Ocean to the Peruvian Navy in 2016. Buoys help authorities collect real-time information about oceanic conditions from depths of up to 2,000 meters.
The United States and Peru strengthen their bonds of friendship beyond cooperation against natural disasters. They also join efforts in the health sector. On November 1st-5th, the U.S. Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort provided free medical assistance to more than 6,200 people in the north of Peru, including Venezuelan migrants.
“It clearly demonstrates the good relations we have with the United States,” Peruvian Army Major General (ret.) José Huerta Torres, Peruvian Minister of Defense, told the press. The hospital ship’s voyage to Peru, its third, is part of SOUTHCOM’s Enduring Promise initiative, a symbol of the cooperation and fraternity that exist with Latin American nations.
“The USNS Comfort’s visits show the support and joint work of two nations to help those in need,” said Brig. Gen. Chávez. On this occasion, U.S. and foreign military doctors, nurses, and technicians assisted more than 700 people a day. In 2011, the hospital ship visited the port of Paita and provided health care to more than 7,000 patients. In 2007, the ship docked at the port of Salaverry, where its medical team assisted more than 9,000 people.
During the 2018 medical campaign, inhabitants of Paita, Piura department, received care in preventive medicine, pediatrics, dentistry, optometry, dermatology, and surgery aboard the USNS Comfort and at land-based medical sites. “Health has no borders or visa. Peru and the United States are together in the fight for peace,” said Cesar Villanueva Arévalo, president of the Peruvian Council of Ministers.