LIMA — The United States and Peru are boosting their military ties as they work to step up joint counternarcotics and counterterrorism efforts, the country’s defense chiefs said Oct. 6.
“The United States is part of the family of the Americas and we face some common challenges, we face the challenge of terrorism, of drug-trafficking,” U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said after meeting with President Ollanta Humala and his counterpart, Pedro Cateriano.
Cateriano echoed Panetta’s remarks, adding that Lima and Washington would update their bilateral defense cooperation accord dating back to 1952.
“Our country will do whatever it can to work with our friends here in Peru to provide whatever assistance is necessary in order to make sure that Peru can provide better security and prosperity for this country and can help provide for the security and prosperity of this region,” Panetta said, saluting “strategic partner” Lima.
Peru — where drug traffickers work in concert with Shining Path guerrillas — became the world’s prime producer of cocaine last year ahead of Colombia, according to estimates by the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration.
In 2012, Washington is devoting $84 million of aid to Peru, according to estimates by the Congressional Research Service, with $29 million going toward the fight against drug trafficking and $4.5 million for defense and counterterrorism efforts.
The budget is expected to drop to $74 million next year.
“The United States stands ready to work with Peru on joint planning, on information sharing, on trilateral cooperation with Colombia to address our shared security concerns,” Panetta said.
In South America, Washington’s effort is not aimed at establishing permanent bases but rather “at working with countries to develop their capabilities so that they can provide for the security and prosperity of their own countries,” he added.
A U.S. defense official who requested anonymity said Panetta also proposed integrating U.S. advisers into the Peruvian Defense Ministry.
To date, only Afghanistan and Montenegro benefit from the new Ministry of Defense Advisers program, known as MoDA.