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American Forces Press Service

Gates Meets With Peruvian Leaders, Discusses Security Issues in Peru

By Fred W. Baker III
American Forces Press Service

LIMA, Peru, Oct. 6, 2007 – Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates met with top Peruvian leaders here yesterday to hear their plans to step-up the fight against drug trafficking along the country’s rivers and coasts.

Gates stopped here on his fourth day in Latin America. He has been meeting with top leaders in the region to discuss shared security issues, including drugs and arms trafficking, narco-terrorism and transnational crime.

“The United States and Peru have traditionally enjoyed a friendly, cooperative defense relationship, and we hope to be able to work even more closely together in the future,” Gates said.

Peruvian defense officials presented Gates with a plan for combating a recent shift to arms and drug trafficking up its rivers and coasts, a Peruvian official said, commenting on background. The government would like more assistance from the United States to equip their national police with boats, weapons and training, the official said.

Peru is the third-largest country in South America. It is about three times the size of California. According to reports, Peru is the second largest coca and cocaine producer in the Andean region, which includes Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. Columbia is the top producer.

The official said that his government would like to see a 30-percent increase in river patrols in some regions of the country. He called the United States its main partner in support and said that the Peruvian defense minister made specific proposals to Gates, although he stopped short of giving details.

Peruvian Defense Minister Allan Wagner, during an announcement at the presidential palace, said said the meeting with Gates and Peruvian President Alan Garcia was “very productive” and said that they “without a doubt have given a new dimension to the contents of the cooperation.”

Gates also said the talks were productive and said that common regional security issues require a close cooperation among the nations.

“Today’s problems require close cooperation among nations. So this visit is an opportunity for me to listen and a reminder of our shared commitment to countering narco-terrorists, combating trafficking of all kinds and fighting trans-national crime,” Gates said.

The secretary also said that Peru has strengthened its governmental institutions, pursued economic reforms, and bolstered security forces making Peruvians safer from criminal enterprises like drug and arms traffickers.

The results of the increased security climate has been more investment in the country, more trade and increased economic growth. Poverty in the country has declined in the country, although about half of its 29 million residents are still considered living below poverty level. The proposed U.S.–Peru free trade agreement with help consolidate this process, he said. The Unites States is Peru’s greatest trade partner.

Also during the visit, Wagner presented Gates with the nation’s highest honor for a civilian, the Peruvian Order of Ayacucho. The order is a military decoration awarded to military, civil and republican guard personnel for distinguished service in positions of command. It is also awarded to foreigners who have expressed sympathy towards Peru and for exceptional service rendered to national defense.

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