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Peru: Air Force Officer Charged with Spying for Chile

On November 12th, news broke that Victor Ariza Mendoza, a member of the Peruvian Air Force was taken into custody for the alleged spying for Chile within the Peruvian Armed Forces. This incident, which takes place during the ongoing tense relationship with its southern neighbor, caused Peruvian President Alan García to cancel a meeting with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet during the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) meeting being held in Singapore, as well as his subsequent return to Peru to evaluate the situation. In addition, the Peruvian Ambassador in Santiago was called back to Peru for consultation, and the Prime Minister requested that the Production Minister, Mercedes Aráoz suspend her planned trip to Chile.

The official Chilean response has been a denial that it had anything to do with the matter, first regretting the incident, and then saying that Peru's reaction was hasty [es]. A Chilean deputy stated that due to “Peru's constant aggressive attitude” that “it should serve so that we do not continue to turn the other cheek to Peru.” Some of the Chilean press has been calling this one of the worst crises between the two countries [es].

Tensions between the two countries comes at a time when Peru is pushing for disarmament in the region [es]. The scheduled trip by Minister Aráoz was to discuss the initiative in Chile. General Ricardo Ortega, head of the Chilean Armed Forces stated that “it is no coincidence” that the spy's arrest took place just when the United States announced that they would authorize Chile to purchase additional missiles. He adds that the Peruvian government has “an interest in provoking” the Chilean government.

As the facts are being revealed, such as the information revealed to Chile includes the Armed Forces Strategic Plan, as well as the Basic Core Defense [es], public opinion and bloggers showed their anger and rejection. Carlos Yancul of the blog Cortina de Humo [es] was surprised:

Lo último que un ciudadano peruano podría esperar, es que un militar traicionara a su patria por unos cuantos miles de dólares. Y más aún, si es espía de nuestro vecino país del sur, con quienes las relaciones políticas y diplomáticas no están en su cause normal. … Según las informaciones que surgieron desde la fecha, el militar ya habría confesado su grave falta, por lo que sólo estaría esperando el término de los interrogatorios para ingresar por largos años al penal de máxima seguridad Piedras Gordas en Ancón.

The last thing that a Peruvian citizen could hope for, is that a member of the military would betray his or her country for thousands of dollars. Even more, if he or she is a spy for our neighbor to the South, with whom political and diplomatic relations are not normal. … According to the information that has come out since, the member of the military had already confessed to the serious action, and is only waiting to finish the questioning in order to enter the maximum security prison of Piedras Gordas in Ancón for many years.

Others are more drastic and are calling for the death penalty for the alleged spy. This Facebook note [es], for example, already contains more than 180 comments, including those that include the terms “traitor,” as well as calls for the firing squad. There has also been the creation of a campaign against buying Chilean products. In the discussions taking place in Foros Perú [es], one can see the diverse opinions about the issue, and related to this, Gustavo Alayza of the blog Marcamasi [es] writes:

Y así los peruanos firman TLCs y demás cosas con el enemigo histórico?, ahora se confirma lo que varios veniamos diciendo que no se puede tener politica de cuerdas separadas con un país que en 130 años no ha dejado de ser el mismo. Todos los que ahora trabajan para negocios chilenos apenas abran empresas homólogas de capitales nacionales y extranjeros deben migrar a trabajar en estas nuevas empresas como Oeschle o Peruvian Airlines y facilmente podamos todos los peruanos reducir al minimo posible el consumo de productos y servicios chilenos, a por nuestra dignidad nacional.

And the Peruvians sign Free Trade Agreements with the historical enemy? And now it has been confirmed what many of us have been saying that there cannot be politics separated by a string with a country that in 130 years has remained the same. All who are working for Chilean businesses open similar businesses with national and foreign capital should move towards working with these new companies like Oeschle or Peruvian Airlines and all Peruvians can easily reduce to the minimal possible consumption of Chilean products and services, for our national dignity.

Arturo of the blog Crónicas del Basurero [es] was in Chile when the news broke, and writes that initially he saw a “little coverage of the news in the Chilean press, which was briefly limited to what was published in the newspapers of Lima,” but changed the next day. Later, he adds his thoughts on the campaign to boycott Chilean products:

si esta gente manipulada es consecuente con lo que dice, en primer lugar – aparte de no comprar en Wong, Ripley o Falabella – deberían dejar de usar luz eléctrica en sus casas y volver a usar velas, ya que las compañías que la suministran como EDELNOR y Luz del Sur, pertenecen a capitales chilenos. Y por otro lado, a quien deberían reclamar con mayor razón es a Alan García Pérez, más interesado en proteger las millonarias inversiones de ese país que nuestras fronteras ¿a que te enteras? :(

if these manipulated people are consequent of what they say, then in the first place – apart from not buying from (Chilean companies) Wong, Ripley or Falabella – they should stop using electricity in their homes and return to using candles, because the companies that supply electricity like EDELNOR and Luz del Sur are owned by Chilean companies. On the other hand, the one who should complained to the most is Alan García Pérez, who is more interested in protecting that country's million-dollar investments than our own borders. Do you understand?

The blog Renatto Real Politik [es] also criticizes the government for allowing for these things to happen:

Después de leer tantas cosas que, como peruano, joden y amargan la vida, uno se pone a pensar en las causas y consecuencias de tal acontecimiento tan nefasto para la nación. ¿Qué pasó con el SIN? Al parecer, en el Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional ya no existe mayor movimiento después de la salida de Vladimiro Montesinos … Mi indignación como peruano llega a niveles sotánicos. Hace falta que el gobierno se ponga una mano al pecho y la otra en el bolsillo derecho para comprender que no vivimos en un barrio de amigos, que nuestros vecinos son cualquier cosa menos pacíficos, que estamos descuidando nuestras fuerzas armadas, y que nuestro discurso pacifista está cayendo en tierra infértil.

After reading so many things that, as a Peruvian, bother and sour one's life, one begins to think about the causes and consequences of such a nefarious occurrence. What happened with the SIN (Peruvian Intelligence Service)? It appears that in the SIN, there has not been much movement since Vladimiro Montesinos’ exit … My indignation as a Peruvian has reached basement levels. We need the government to put a hand on its chest and the other one in its right pocket to understand that we do not live in a neighborhood of friends, and that our neighbors are anything but peaceful, that we are neglecting our armed forces, and that our peaceful rhetoric is falling on infertile ground.

Additional facts are emerging about the investigation into the alleged spying that began in 2007 [es], including the evidence of an increase in bank deposits originating in Chile, as well as the ownership of numerous properties that are not justified according to his salary as a member of the military.

Finally, Javier Fernández of the blog Javi270270: ¿Qué pasa? [es] writes about other cases of espionage in Peru, and Francisco Canaza of Apuntes Peruanos [es] provides three important things from his point of view regarding the case, one of them has to do with the legal issues:

¿Cómo y por qué el espía chileno estaba siendo procesado en el fuero común? La distinción es importante. El fuero militar acoge causas tipificadas en la normatividad propia de la justicia militar. El agente encubierto (el suboficial de la fuerza aérea que trabajaba para Chile) en su condición de militar en ejercicio, función sobre la que ejercía su papel de espía (sin la cual su acceso a la información era imposible) debió ser procesado oportunamente en el fuero militar y no bajo tribunales comunes.

How and why is the Chilean spy being tried in civilian courts? The distinction is important. The military court receives cases in the legislative powers of the military justice system. The undecover agent (the Air Force official who worked for Chile) in his condition as active member of the military, which helped him in his role as spy (it would be impossible without access to the information) should be tried in military court and not in civilian court.
Translation by Eduardo Ávila

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