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Peru - Security Doctrine

Historically, the major security challenges to the country and its military were external in nature, usually involving issues of borders and territorial disputes. Peru engaged in more foreign wars after independence than any other Latin American country, although most occurred in the nineteenth century. The conflicts were with Colombia, 1828; Argentina, 1836-37; and Chile, 1836-39; Bolivia, 1827-29, 1835, and 1841; Ecuador, 1858-59; Spain, 1863-66; Chile, 1879-1883. Most of the nineteenth-century conflicts went badly for Peru. The most disastrous was the War of the Pacific against Chile. In many ways, this conflict could be considered more significant than the gaining of independence, given the war's impact on the development of present-day Peru. In the twentieth century, the Peruvians had engaged in two wars and two significant border skirmishes. In the Leticia War of 1932-33, named after the Amazonian city, Peruvian army and naval units were unable to keep Colombia from holding onto territory originally ceded by Peru in 1922 in the Salomon- Lozano Treaty. The 1941 war with Ecuador, however, was a major success for Peruvian forces, but skirmishes continued into the 1990s.

From 1821, when Jose de San Martin declared independence from Spain, through 1991, military officials have served in the top political office more often than civilians, that is, fifty-two out of eighty-one heads of state, for ninety-eight out of 171 years. Furthermore, the military has been instrumental in helping to bring to power by force almost half of the twenty-nine civilian presidents.

The constitution of 1979 was approved by an elected civilian Constituent Assembly during Peru's longest sustained period of institutionalized military rule (1968-80); however, the constitution could not have been promulgated or put into effect on July 28, 1980, when power passed to an elected civilian president, without the acquiescence of the armed forces (Fuerzas Armadas—FF.AA.). The receipt of the presidential sash by Alberto K. Fujimori on July 28, 1990, represented the first time since 1903 that three elected civilians in succession had become head of state without interruption by military action. Put another way, the 1980-91 period represented the longest sustained era of electoral politics in Peru since that of 1895-1914, the country's only other time of continuing civilian rule through regular elections.

Peru's elected presidents increasingly used the state of emergency decree to try to cope with the country's difficulties, primarily the insurgency. Under the constitution of 1979, the president could declare states of emergency to deal with threats to public order. These presidential decrees permitted military authorities to temporarily assume political as well as military control of the districts, provinces, departments, or regions specified. Constitutional guarantees of sanctity of domicile, free movement and residence, public meetings, and freedom from arrest without a written court order would be suspended.

The government abdicated its responsibilities when it placed the handling of the counterinsurgency almost entirely in the hands of the Armed Forces during the 1980s. The government did not design a clear and appropriate antisubversive strategy and closed its eyes to repressive excesses by the security forces. The military thus assumed the principal responsibility for counterinsurgency, which allowed it to win legitimacy in the public’s eyes. This situation changed during the 1990s, when political power and the Armed Forces forged close links in order to combat terrorism.

With the active participation of the National Police, there were achievements in countersubversion, such as the capture of the founder and the top leader ship of Shining Path and the successful rescue of the hostages from the Japanese embassy several years later. These underscored the importance of coordinated efforts among the government, the Armed Forces, the National Police and the intelligence services. Nevertheless, much of the legitimacy gained in countersubversion was lost due to a series of excesses committed by some members of the intelligence services. One clear example was the killing of nine students and a professor from the Enrique Guzman y Valle teachers’ training cen ter, better known as La Cantuta. The killing came to light through the investigation of journalists helped by informants from the army intelligence service: there was an attempt by the Armed Forces and the govern- ment to cover it up. Something similar happened with another massacre, this time of people attending a party in the Barrio Altos district of Lima. Like the previous incident, this was attributed to the “Colina” group of officers who operated on the margins of the chains of command established by the Army and under the auspices of the National Intelligence Service.

The way in which government authorities, congress and the Court of Military Justice carried out their investigations and tried those responsible for these flagrant human rights violations left a great deal to be desired, and provoked strong citizen protests. Citizen rejection was exacerbated by the discovery that some members of the intelligence services who had informed the press about the killings were persecuted and tortured.

Loss of the legitimacy that had been won through the successes and sacrifices of many members of the Armed Forces is also due to deficiencies in due process and mistakes made by the Court of Military Justice. These made it necessary to set up a special commission to “pardon” innocent people who had been unjustly sentenced. Other problems include the illtreatment of young men “pressganged” into military service, and the arbitrary powers wielded by some heads of the so-called “political-military commandos” in the emergency zones, where they control virtually all instances of the public administration.

However, at the end of the 1990s the Armed Forces still retained a legitimacy, largely due to their successes in countersubversion. This should encourage a rethink of civilian-military relations. The changes in Peru in recent decades mean that the role of the Armed Forces in the country’s political life must be redesigned and their responsibilities limited to their own specific areas. They must be subordinated to democratic civilian institutions.

For a variety of political and military reasons, the Peruvian military regime expelled the United States military mission in July 1969 and began to diversify its training and supply relationships from the late 1960s onward. Beginning in 1973, the EP and FAP, but not the navy, undertook what was to become a substantial relationship with the Soviet Union that included the purchase of equipment totaling between US$1.2 and US$1 .5 billion, a sizable training component in the Soviet Union (between 100 and 400 Peruvian officers), and a significant Soviet military mission in Peru (between 25 and 100).

Peru's was the only Latin American military besides Cuba's to equip its forces with Soviet materiel. At the same time, the FF.AA. received substantial equipment from other supplying countries to become, by the end of the 1980s, the most diversified in the region in terms of foreign sources of arms and equipment.

Despite the substantial domestic insurgency, the FF.AA. continued to focus on potential external problems with Ecuador and Chile, and based the bulk of their forces (80 percent) in these border areas.

On Nov. 25, 2009, U.S. Ambassador Michael McKinley sent a confidential memorandum to the commander of the U.S. Southern Command, General Douglas Fraser, stating that “We have also sought to support Peru’s plan to reorient its security posture away from its perceived conventional threats from its neighbours (mainly Chile) and to modernise its military’s doctrines and retool its operational capabilities to confront its internal threats.”

In another cable, dated Dec. 15, 2009, McKinley was even more direct, expressing surprise over an announcement by García that Peru would buy Chinese MBT-2000 tanks to replace its T-55 tanks purchased from the former Soviet Union during the 1960s and 1970s, at the same time that he urged the region to curtail military spending. “These defence acquisitions come as something of a surprise, in light of President Garcia’s intensively pursued regional ‘Peace and Security Cooperation’ initiative,” the U.S. ambassador wrote.

“That the flurry of Peru’s high-profile peace-initiative diplomacy was punctuated by a domestic defence acquisitions announcement of this size has caught the government in a kind of double bind. But government officials have sought to deflect the apparent contradiction,” he added.

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