Peruvian Armed Forces and Police Work Together to Combat Narcotrafficking
DIÁLOGO: You mentioned interoperability between the Armed Forces and the Police and other security forces. Peru has a historical relationship of collaboration with other countries in the region and also with the United States… Admiral Moscoso: As with any group, there is the possibility of access to weapons to act against the state, and this should be neutralized by the police force. In this sense, we could say that this gang, this criminal group that – it must be said – uses ideology conveniently, must be neutralized by the state. I believe that this is the important point. We should not forget that we recently rescued some people who had been kidnapped. The 4- or 5-year-old children who grew up in these conditions were going to be the future combatants; there are members of the Shining Path columns who are 15 or 16 years old and have grown up following that rhetoric and ideology and don’t know anything else. The goal is to prevent this [scenario] from continuing. Just to give you an example: we have shelters in the Manzanares area for the care of, above all, boys and girls from vulnerable populations, some of whom have been rescued from Shining Path. An 8-year-old child may not know how to use school supplies, for example, for drawing, but this 8-year-old child knows how to arm and disarm a gun. This is exactly what we have to avoid, that this continues to expand. Admiral Moscoso: I could mention his concern for maintaining and increasing channels of cooperation at the hemispheric level. I believe that, over the years, the United States Armed Forces have been careful in making sure that the officers designated as commanders of SOUTHCOM fit this profile — of finding a solution to these problems. The concrete support, the operations, the training aspect –all these activities that seek to bring the hemispheric Armed Forces closer to one another– are a key aspect of General Kelly’s efforts. I have not had the opportunity to talk much with him in the past, but I think he is an officer who has given much to his country, and has successfully fulfilled SOUTHCOM’s objectives. DIÁLOGO: What does a country like Peru, which deals with narcotrafficking linked to terrorism, as in the case of the Shining Path, do to deal with the separation between defense and security tasks in the Armed Forces? DIÁLOGO: Does the fact that you consider that Shining Path is a criminal gang and not a terrorist group have any relevance to the form of combat you employ? Admiral Moscoso: Shining Path is not a threat to the Peruvian state, because the remnant is reduced. What we have to do is be intelligent and go forward so that we cut off their oxygen, so that they keep getting smaller, and so that the population continues to reject them, as it does now. Some part of the population may support them from the logistical point of view, but as the state offers better alternatives for living, the population will distance themselves from them and isolate them in a way that they become further reduced. The reality is that today Shining Path is not a threat to the Peruvian state. Diálogo met with Admiral Jorge Moscoso Flores, Head of the Joint Staff of the Peruvian Armed Forces, to talk about these and other topics during the South American Defense Conference (SOUTHDEC 2015), which took place in Asunción, Paraguay, from August 18 – 21. Admiral Moscoso: [Laughter] What happens is that the valley, as in all geographic units, has to be managed within that context, and it includes the Apurímac and Ene rivers, but it also includes the other river, which is the Mantaro. Therefore, it is correct to call it VRAEM. It is a geographic unit which has to be managed in an integral way, not only from the security point of view, which is what we handle, but also from the point of view of the presence of the state, in the form of means of communication, investment projects, improvements to the living conditions, which take place in that entire geographic environment. DIÁLOGO: Is this your first participation in the SOUTHDEC conference? What is your opinion of it? In the recent past, Peru has replaced Colombia as the top cocaine-producing country in the world. But in the last three years, coca-leaf plantations have been restricted to an area of 50,000 hectares thanks to the Peruvian government’s intensified efforts in the fight against narcotrafficking by means of its Armed Forces and the National Police. The country has an integrated policy of prevention, replacement, repression, and rehabilitation in addition to the government’s strong initiatives against the remnants of the illegal group Shining Path, who are practically limited to the region of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro (VRAEM) rivers valley. DIÁLOGO: General Kelly is about to retire after three-and-a-half years as head of U.S. Southern Command. Can you highlight the important exchanges that took place between both countries during that period? Admiral Moscoso: we maintain a very good relationship with the United States. The Armed Forces of the U.S. collaborate a lot with us, principally in training and support for cooperation matters, and this is always welcome. The U.S. and Peruvian Navies have a tradition of collaboration that goes back many years. Not long ago, we celebrated 50 years of UNITAS operations, one of the oldest exercises in the world and just one example of cooperation. On the regional level, we work a lot, principally with the countries with which we share borders. With Colombia and with Brazil, we have an uninterrupted history of more than 40 years of operations in the Amazon rivers. With Bolivia, we are growing closer in order to optimize control over air space; with Ecuador, we have a lot of work to do in order to avoid the crossing of people through illegal passages, and there is an interesting cooperation effort that we should continually improve, because, as we have seen in today’s news, these illegal immigrants have no nationality, and if a door is closed in one place they find where to open another. The big goal is to close all the doors. Admiral Jorge Moscoso Flores: From the doctrinal point of view, separating the tasks of defense and security is a totally valid concept. The training of the members of the Armed Forces is focused toward some very clear and specific tasks, principally based on the defense of sovereignty and territorial integrity. On the other hand, with regard to the topic of narcotrafficking — especially in the cases of cocaine-producing countries — this work is handled by the police, which has personnel who have been trained and developed for that activity. What we now envision is the need to work in an integrated manner. [During my presentation at SOUTHDEC], I gave two examples, one being the destruction of clandestine runways. That is police work, and that is how it is done, but given the complicated security situation of the area where the runways are located, the Armed Forces must cover that aspect. So the police demolition group goes in to destroy the runway, but everything concerning security, including aircraft and helicopter surveillance — those are military helicopters. This is an example of how the Armed Forces and the Police work in an integrated manner in a given activity like the illicit trafficking of drugs. The other area we can mention is that of intelligence, which has to be carried out in an integrated way, because this relationship between the remnants of the Shining Path and narcotrafficking, which is evident, poses the need to work on intelligence subjects in a very integrated way in order to obtain the results expected. Because Shining Path is a criminal gang; it is not a problem, nor does it pose any danger for the Peruvian state. It is a criminal gang that uses an ideology to form a relationship with the community, oppress it and exploit it for its own purposes. This situation is complex from the security point of view and must be controlled by the Armed Forces. By Dialogo October 06, 2015 Only the brilliant and powerful Brazilian Army can in no way help the police fight drug trafficking in the country. But, you can spend millions on having troops in Haiti. Congratulations to the Brazilian Army. I would like, rather the people expect more from you. No, to delivering baskets of food staples as a form of defending this poor country. Since you are very prepared for a war that won’t happen, at least let’s fight drug traffickers in the border regions. what the police does is very good and I support them but sometimes they go too far and mistreat robbers. I don’t support that test Admiral Moscoso: That it is a very interesting and very frank place for dialogue. I think the members of the region’s Armed Forces share common visions of the problems common to our countries, and this allows for interaction to solve [these problems]. The main goal, as we discussed among officers here, is to define clear plans for future projects down the line. We, who have arrived at the highest levels of military hierarchy in our careers, have to have the reassurance that our work has served that purpose. If so, then we have done a good job. DIÁLOGO: But Admiral, an M was added, not subtracted to the acronym VRAEM, so I have the impression that they expanded in that region, right? DIÁLOGO: Shining Path is not a threat to the Peruvian state?