Providing for Peacekeeping Project: Peru Profile (Update)
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Updated version, January 2017 Providing for Peacekeeping Project
Part 1: Recent Trends
As a founding member of the UN, the Republic of Peru has maintained a continuous interest in contributing to UN peacekeeping operations. For decades, Peru has deployed personnel from its security agencies (Army, Navy, Air Force and the Police) to over 20 UN missions. The three major Peruvian deployments have been to the UN missions in Israel (after the 1973 conflict) and the ongoing operations in Haiti and the Democratic Republic of Congo, where Peru has deployed hundreds of military personnel. Peru has also recently contributed to the UN mission in Central African Republic, MINUSCA. Peruvian contributions to other operations have been generally small, mostly military observers and small numbers of troops.
A Brief History
Peruvian military personnel have been deployed to 20 UN operations. The first mission in which Peru participated was the UN Observation Group in Lebanon (UNOGIL) in 1958. It also had a large contribution to the Second UN Emergency Force (UNEF II) and the UN Disengagement Observer Force (UNDOF) in the Middle East after the 1973 Arab-Israeli conflict. The Peruvian military contingent was deployed both in the Sinai Peninsula between Israeli and Egyptian forces, and then to the Golan Heights between Israeli and Syrian forces. The Peruvian deployment lasted two years and totaled 497 troops (with occasional troop rotations).
Peruvian officers have also achieved senior command status within UN operations. For example, Brigadier General Gastón Ibáñez O’Bríen of the Peruvian Army served as commander of the Brigada Norte of UNEF II, placing him in charge of the Peruvian contingent as well troops from other nations. Moreover, in 1992 Brigadier General Luis Block Urban became commander of the UN forces in MINURSO. Additionally, in 2008 Rear Admiral Mario César Sánchez Debenardi was appointed as Force Commander of the UN Peacekeeping Force in Cyprus (UNFICYP).
Official publications like Peru’s 2005 White Book, published by the Ministry of Defense, as well as the ongoing major deployment of troops to MINUSTAH, which now include female military personnel, and MINUSCA demonstrate a current interest from both the Peruvian government and armed forces in being part of the UN peacekeeping operations. In fact, Chapter VII of the 2005 White Book encourages Peruvian participation in these operations, as it is regarded as a way for the South American nation to promote its international presence, while at the same time providing real-life training for its security personnel.
Peru has participated in peace operations almost exclusively through the UN. The one exception is Peru’s participation in the Military Observer Mission Peru-Ecuador (MOMEP). The mission was created after a brief conflict in 1995 between Lima and Quito over a territorial dispute between the two South American states. MOMEP’s goal was to observe the ceasefire between the two countries leading up to a final demarcation of the disputed border.
A Peruvian peacekeeping training center was created in 2003, known as Centro de Entrenamiento y Capacitación para Operaciones de Paz (CECOPAZ). Located in Ancón, north of Lima, this training center prepares Peruvian military, police and civilian personnel for deployment to UN missions, as well as the training of senior officers to become military observers. CECOPAZ courses are not just for Peruvian personnel; the center regularly carries out courses to train military observers from regional states (i.e. a 2012 course included officers from Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador).
Part 2: Decision-Making Process
Decisions for military deployment abroad are fundamentally political, originating from the President of the Republic of Peru in his capacity as the commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The Peruvian president is the policymaker responsible for signing the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Peru and the United Nations through which Lima agrees to deploy troops to a UN peacekeeping operation. This pledge is then approved by the Peruvian Congress via legislative resolutions and ratified by Supreme Decrees. The Peruvian Ministry of Defense (MoD) and the Joint Command of the Armed Forces are then tasked with organizing the personnel that will be deployed (i.e. choosing the most-qualified troops) and any necessary logistics (i.e. transportation and determining the necessary military equipment). The Peruvian Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) and the Ministry of Economy and Finance provide support as needed.
Legislation that addresses Peru’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions includes the Decreto Legislativo N°1134 of the Ministry of Defense as well as Decreto Legislativo N° 1136 of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces. The MoD’s Directive is important as it explains the duties of the Peruvian Ministry of Defense, which prominently feature peacekeeping operations. For example, Article 5, section 25, explains that the MoD has the duty of consolidating and maintaining international peace. Meanwhile, Article 10, section 15, explains that the MoD and the MFA will supervise and foment the participation of Peruvian security personnel in peace operations. Likewise, Article 4.7 of the Joint Command’s directive explains that it is tasked with “planning, coordinating and carrying out the participation of the armed forces in peace operations.”
Furthermore, a significant development was the 2005 publication of Peru’s White Book of National Defense, which described the Andean nation’s defense priorities and objectives. The book was published during the presidency of Alejandro Toledo (2001-2006) and is an important achievement as it is the first time Peru has published a White Book. Moreover, Chapter VII of this document addresses Peru’s advocacy regarding participation in peace operations (see Part 3).
Part 3: Rationales for Contributing
National prestige: The Peruvian government and military regard participation in UN peacekeeping operations as a way to promote the country’s image abroad and to increase its international pedigree. Chapter VII of Peru’s White Book explains that participation in UN peacekeeping missions:
“Constitutes one of the objectives of our foreign policy and is of national interest, as it also provides an opportunity for the Peruvian government to have a relevant role in the international arena. Furthermore, [participation in UN peacekeeping missions] increases the high level of professionalism of the personnel of the defense sector. This participation in peace operations promotes international cooperation and confidence building mechanisms.” [Translation by the author.]
In addition, the Peruvian government and military are interested in providing UN peacekeepers to showcase the training and professionalism of their armed forces to the rest of the world. This is best exemplified by the events and ceremonies that are regularly organized by the Peruvian government and armed forces, in which the military’s participation in UN peace missions is highly praised. For example, senior Peruvian military officers gave a speech in during the 2009 ceremony in Lima to celebrate the UN Peacekeeper Day (May 29). Then-commander of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, Army General Francisco Javier Contreras Rivas explained that “because of [the] capacity of the Peruvian soldier, the United Nations looks to … our country … because our soldiers of peace are men [and women] that work for a better world.” In May 2013, the Peruvian Ministry of Defense carried out a ceremony in CECOPAZ to honor soldiers that have participated in UN peacekeeping missions. Deputy Minister of Defense and Rear Admiral Sánchez Debernardi, who was the force commander to UNFICYP, highlighted the “professionalism” of the Peruvian troops. Such praise has been echoed by UN officials.
In other words, the leadership of the Peruvian military sees its participation in peace operations as a source of national prestige.
Economic rationales: The Ministry of Defense and Ministry of Economy and Finance are in charge of working out budgetary details regarding the international deployment of Peruvian troops. The allowances received by security personnel deployed in UN missions are significantly higher than the regular wages they would receive in Peru. Hence, the possibility of an additional salary via the UN serves as an incentive for Peruvian military personnel to apply to UN peace missions. The Peruvian government does not keep a portion of the money paid to its troops by the UN.
Security Rationales: These are not relevant as there are no UN peacekeeping missions near the country (the closest being MINUSTAH in Haiti).
Institutional rationales: These operations are regarded as an effective way to train Peruvian troops in different environments that they may not necessarily encounter at home. These institutional interests are exemplified by the creation of CECOPAZ to prepare troops for these missions (i.e. MINUSTAH and MINUSCA). According to its website, CECOPAZ’s mission is to train military, police and civilian personnel, as well as providing advice to the Joint Command of the Armed Forces in the realm of peace operations.
Participation in UN missions is also regarded as a confidence-building mechanism, as Peruvian troops form friendships and close relations with soldiers from other countries, both during deployments and during the pre-deployment training sessions. For example, Peru has built military relationships with Argentina and Chile on this basis. In October 2008, Peru and Argentina created a binational company of engineers, known as “Libertador Don Jose de San Martin,” aimed at carrying out operations in MINUSTAH. A December 2011 directive (called a Resolución Suprema) by the Peruvian MoD authorized a trip by a military delegation from Lima to Buenos Aires to take part in further negotiations regarding the future of the company, but this author has been unable to find more recent information regarding this initiative.
In addition, during a May 2013 meeting in Lima, the ministers of defense and foreign affairs of Peru and Chile, known as the Reunión 2+2, discussed the possibility of creating a binational unit of military personnel for UN peacekeeping operations. Nevertheless, as of early 2017, this unit has yet to be formed, most likely due to recent diplomatic tensions between the two governments over a maritime border dispute that was judged by the International Court of Justice (a ruling was made in January 2014).
Part 4: Barriers to Contributing
Strategic Priorities: This is best exemplified by ongoing rotations of military personnel to MINUSTAH since 2004 and MINUSCA since 2016. A critical factor that may affect current and future deployments is the internal security situation in Peru. The country is still battling a narco-terrorist movement called the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso). The insurgent group has weakened and fractured compared to its heyday in the 1980s. Currently, Sendero is split into two factions and has suffered several major losses in recent years, including the capture of its last remaining leaders.Sendero is believed to have only a few hundred fighters left, nevertheless, the narco-movement remains active and occasionally carries out attacks against Peruvian security forces (an April 2016 ambush by Sendero resulted in the deaths of 10 Peruvian soldiers).
In general, there is a lack of sufficient security personnel, both for the armed forces and police, to carry out their duties (i.e. internal security and to serve as a deterrent force). This is a source of concern for the population as the country still has to tackle internal security threats such as Sendero Luminoso and drug-trafficking criminal syndicates. While Peru does not possess drug-trafficking entities as widespread and powerful as those in Mexico, it is now regarded as the largest producer of cocaine in the world, making operations to combat cocaine production and smuggling a high priority. The country is also experiencing an increase in street crime (i.e. robberies and kidnappings).
Hence, it is a priority of the Peruvian government to increase its security forces to tackle the aforementioned domestic threats. This is best exemplified by a law that the Peruvian government tried to enact to create a military lottery, essentially a draft to increase the size of the armed forces. In June 2013, the Peruvian Supreme Court of Justice suspended the proposed law after complaints by the Public Defender and protests by civil society and opposition politicians who argued that the law is discriminatory. In addition, former President Humala has declared that the Peruvian police, which numbers about 106,000, has a deficit of around 30,000 officers. In other words, a major caveat to greater participation in UN peacekeeping is the current lack of sufficient security personnel that can adequately address Peru’s internal security challenges.
Resistance in the military: This is not relevant. Several senior military officers have declared themselves in favor of Peru’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions.
One major reason for this sentiment is that, in spite of operating in conflict zones, there have been no significant losses among Peruvian peacekeepers. Three soldiers lost their lives in 1974 during the deployment to UNEF II due to an antipersonnel mine while another soldier was lost during the UN mission in Mozambique, ONUMOZ. Most recently, a peacekeeper in MINUSTAH perished due to health issues in 2016. The minimal fatalities suffered in peace operations to date helps maintain support among the military leadership.
Damage to national reputation: This is also not relevant. Even though MINUSTAH had controversial origins, namely the overthrow of Haitian President Jean Bertrand Aristide in 2004, there has not been particular concern that Peru’s reputation will be damaged by participation in this mission. In addition, Peruvian peacekeepers have not been involved in human rights violations or other crimes during their deployment. The Peruvian media regularly publishes articles praising the participation of Peruvian personnel in UN peace missions (i.e. in the 1970s in the Middle East and currently in MINUSTAH and MINUSCA).
Difficult domestic politics: There has never been a national debate, either among the general public or among policymakers in the Peruvian Congress, regarding the country’s role in UN peacekeeping missions.
Absence of pressure: There has not been any pressure by international organizations or governments or the Peruvian military directed at the Peruvian government to either participate, or avoid participation, in UN peace missions.
Part 5: Current Challenges and Issues
The Peruvian government maintains a positive disposition towards providing peacekeepers. Nevertheless, security barriers remain a critical issue that arguably prevents a greater deployment of Peruvian troops to UN peace missions. As mentioned in Part 4, internal security remains a concern, given the ongoing operations of Sendero Luminoso and other drug trafficking syndicates (Peru is currently regarded as the world’s biggest producer of cocaine).
Regionally, Peru maintains generally good relations with four out of its five neighbors: Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, and Ecuador. Tensions remain, however, with its southern neighbor, Chile, which date back to the 19th century War of the Pacific. In 2014, the International Court of Justice helped resolve a maritime border dispute between the countries. It is also important to highlight that tension between Peru and Chile cannot be overstated. While the two countries have generally strong trade relations and have carried out confidence-building mechanisms such as the attempts to create a binational military unit, distrust between the two governments, militaries and societies remains. Media articles and analytical reports were regularly published discussing whether one country could go to war with the other over maritime claims, while arms acquisitions by either side are viewed with concern.
With regard to the economy, Peru has enjoyed a positive decade, which supports the deployment of troops to UN missions. In addition, as noted above, military officers are interested in participating in UN missions, in part, for the additional UN allowances. Nevertheless, it must be stressed that Peru’s financial good fortunes are very recent. Factors like the Peruvian financial crisis of the 1980s and the slow economic jumpstart in the 1990s undermined Peru’s ability to produce military hardware, provide training and even the appropriate number of personnel. In recent years, there has been a program to acquire new platforms (including a new satellite, PeruSat-1, for its space program and a new training vessel for the Navy) but this has occurred at a slow pace. Moreover, the country still has internal security threats and, from the Peruvian perspective, an external one. Hence, the defense mindset among Peruvian policymakers and security officers is that additional personnel are needed first and foremost to safeguard the homeland.
Part 6: Key Champions and Opponents
There are no major policymakers or military officers who are particularly supportive or opposed to Peruvian participation in UN peacekeeping missions. Former President Ollanta Humala (2011-2016), a former military officer, has praised the participation of Peruvian security personnel in UN missions. The current head of state, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has not reportedly made any major declaration for or against participating in UN missions. As previously mentioned, General Block, a former MINURSO force commander, has written articles in favor of Peruvian participation. Nevertheless, it would be an overstatement to label Presidents Kuczynski, Humala, or General Block as “champions” of Peru’s participation in UN peace operations.
Other senior policymakers occasionally visit Peruvian deployments to UN missions. For example Peru’s Defense Minister, Pedro Cateriano, visited the Compañia Peru in Haiti in December 2012, and expressed his support for Peruvian participation in the operation.
No Peruvian policymakers or military officers have made public declarations against Peruvian participation in UN peacekeeping missions. Apart from occasional mentions in talk shows and other discussion panels by security experts, Peru’s participation in UN peacekeeping missions has never been a controversial topic. This issue was not addressed in the debates over foreign policy and defense during the recent 2016 elections where President Kuczynski was elected. It is worth noting that in spite of the tragic loss of a number of Peruvian peacekeepers, a debate has not materialized within the Peruvian government or the general public to reconsider the country’s provision of UN peacekeepers.
The lack of a discussion regarding Peru’s role in peace operations exemplifies not only the lack of an opposition to these missions, but also the lack of interest or knowledge about them by the government and the citizenry in general. Events like the 2010 earthquake in Haiti raised the profile of Peru’s contribution to MINUSTAH, and, as mentioned before, the Peruvian media regularly publishes (brief) reports about Peru’s participation in UN peace missions. But increasing the country’s role in UN peace missions does not seem to be a priority for policymakers or military leaders in Lima.
Part 7: Capabilities and Caveats
Peru’s contributions to UN peacekeeping have increased in the past years, with a particular focus in MINUSTAH and, as of 2016, MINUSCA. At the time of writing, overall contributions close to 400 personnel are large for Peru. Nevertheless, MINUSTAH’s mandate is scheduled to finish on 15 April 2017. It is unclear if the Peruvian government will offer to join another mission with a large deployment of contingent troops, or if MINUSCA will remain the sole peace operation in which Peru will have a major participation.
It is worth noting that female Peruvian military personnel have also been deployed to MINUSTAH. This development was featured in a January 2011 article in Diálogo magazine, published by the U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM).
As a final point, it should be clarified that while Peru has a substantial number of helicopters, they have not been deployed to UN peace missions. The one exception occurred during the Alberto Fujimori regime, but this transaction was marred by money laundering allegations. Russia recently concluded the delivery of a new fleet of 24 Mi-171Sh helicopters, however the platforms will probably be utilized for internal security operations rather than to be deployed to the UN. Peru has sent construction equipment to MINUSCA, as the engineer company is in charge of the construction and maintenance of roads and landing strips for planes and helicopters.
Part 8: Further Reading
Comando Conjunto de lasFuerzas Armadas. 50 Años al Servicio del País: 1057-2007. El Comercio (Peru). Suplemento Contratado. May 10, 2007.
 Unless otherwise stated, data is drawn from IISS, The Military Balance 2016 (London: IISS/Routledge, 2016).
 The IISS figure of 114 helicopters likely includes a sizeable number of helicopters that are no longer operational or are limited to training uses. A more accurate estimate of helicopters currently in operation by all three branches of the armed forces is 47.
Armed Forces Spending is a country’s annual total defense budget (in US dollars) divided by the total number of active armed forces. Using figures from IISS, The Military Balance 2016.