Where Now For Peru and Chile After Spying Allegations Edge Closer to Fact?

The presidents of Peru and Chile during happier times. Peruvian government photo from Flickr.

The presidents of Peru and Chile during happier times. Peruvian government photo from Flickr.

This post was originally published on the blog Globalizado.

At the beginning of this month, Chile responded to a second note of official protest from Peru after a senior Chilean intelligence official appeared to acknowledge in a leaked conversation with his Peruvian counterpart that the country had snooped on its South American neighbour.

Chile continues to deny the accusations. Peru's President Ollanta Humala stated on March 31 that Chile must take responsibility and apologise, or face sanctions.

Humala has been in an abrasive mood since the conversation between the two officials, hosted on the messaging application WhatsApp, was leaked by a leading Peruvian journalist at the end of last month. The scandal — which dates back to the arrest of three Peruvian navy officers on espionage charges in February — has spilled over into Peru's lively domestic politics, where Humala is on the back foot

The Peruvian officers, accused of having sold sensitive information to the Chilean navy, are currently being investigated by a military court.

An alleged conversation between the directors of intelligence from Chile and Peru proving the espionage case was leaked. 

When news of Chile's confession via social media first appeared at the end of last month, gossip brewed that it could be a smokescreen to obscure alleged corruption cases involving people connected to President Humala from the media spotlight.

If that was the government's intention, it seems to have worked: Peruvian media is trawling over the espionage story and the Peruvian blogosphere has also focused its attentions on the incident.

In his blog, Cesar Gutiérrez says Peru's Humala was guilty of “outbursts of convenience” at a difficult time for him and his supporters politically.

No hay casualidades en política y la denuncia ha hecho que toda la clase política tenga que alinearse en una legítima y necesaria protesta enérgica contra la actitud chilena. Pero es exagerado que Ollanta Humala esté haciendo crisis de gobierno con intervenciones repetitivas y con voceros en el Congreso, que están pidiendo que se revise las relaciones comerciales entre ambos países. No sirve de nada el patrioterismo, queremos que el gobierno sea manejado con responsabilidad y no con exabruptos convenidos.

There are no coincidences in politics and the report has aligned the entire political class in a legitimate and strong protest against Chile. But Ollanta Humala's repeated interventions in Congress asking for revision on trade relations between the two countries are exaggerated. There is no use for flag-waving, we need the government to handle the incident with responsibility, not with outbursts out of convenience.

As for Chile's response denying espionage, Theodore Dale believes the matter should be brought, if duly proven, before international organizations such as the UN in Peru or the OAS.

Los últimos acontecimientos de espionaje chileno, que son “graves” para la integración del Perú con Chile y las buenas relaciones que deben existir entre dos pueblos hermanos, ponen de manifiesto, nuevamente, un tema que se conoce y que Chile realiza por décadas, acciones que aún no han tenido el escarnio necesario y suficiente, para que nuestro vecino del sur comience a respetar a un País que les abre las puertas a su inversión y a la integración y que generosamente les tiende la mano, mientras por debajo y en forma solapada y cobarde, nos siguen husmeando, identificando nuestra seguridad, nuestras riquezas, nuestros proyectos, nuestras estrategias, nuestras ideas y nuestro rumbo hacia el desarrollo. Acciones que son típicas de una política de Estado que se mantiene durante todos los gobiernos Chilenos y que amparado, justamente en “negar siempre”, demuestran y desnudan lo que realmente significa para el gobierno de Chile esta relación: envidia, ambición, deshonestidad, mezquindad y aprovechamiento.

The latest Chilean espionage incident, harmful for the good relations and integration between the two countries, reveals one more time a Chilean practise that has been going on for decades. Those actions have not yet been properly responded to, in such a way that our southern neighbour might begin to respect a country that opens the doors to its investment and reaches out generously for integration. Cowardly, behind the scenes they keep spying on us, trying to unearth Intelligence data on our projects, resources, strategies and ideas that mark our path towards development. These actions demonstrate a state policy sustained by every Chilean government that is based on denial, dealing with the relations between the two countries in a way that is greedy, exploitative and dishonest.

The espionage buzz has also triggered academic debate.

Peruvian historian and university professor Parodi Daniel Rivero responded to an article penned by his Chilean colleague Joaquín Fermandois in the Chilean newspaper El Mercurio, wherein Fermandois argued that espionage is a normal state practice and branded the Peruvian reaction as hypersensitive, linked to the memory of the Pacific War between the two countries that lasted from 1879 to 1883.

me pregunto por las razones históricas que explican que Chile sostenga aún un discurso y práctica favorables al espionaje. Un primer elemento a considerar es la conformación de la identidad nacional chilena en el siglo XIX y la común referencia a la metáfora de la “fortaleza sitiada”; es decir, al pequeño y emprendedor país rodeado por tres rivales muy poderosos que lo amenazan. No parece casualidad, pues, que el diputado Jorge Tarud haya deslizado la idea de que esta denuncia de espionaje esconda una conspiración peruano-boliviana en contra de su país.

I wonder what historical reasons could explain Chile's defense of espionage. A first element to ponder would be the formation of the Chilean national identity in the nineteenth century and the common reference to the “besieged fortress” metaphor; i.e. the small and entrepreneurial country surrounded and threatened by three powerful rivals. There seems to be no coincidence, then, that the MP Jorge Tarud [who chairs the foreign relations committee in the Chilean parliament] has thrown up the idea that the espionage report hides a Peruvian-Bolivian conspiracy against his country.

Pointing out that conspiracy theories exist on both sides of the border, Rivero added a note about “Peruvian hypersensitivity”:

…no pretendo desechar las observaciones que Fermandois le hace al Perú. En efecto, nuestra excesiva sensibilidad frente a todo lo que viene de Chile es una realidad que debemos enfrentar desde las políticas educativas. Al contrario, lo que trato de mostrarle a mi colega es que en Chile también existen sensibilidades frente a sus vecinos, además de un nacionalismo férreo que acompaña un particular proceso de consolidación del Estado. Por eso nos debemos una mutua proclividad a tratar estos temas conjuntamente, porque la historia no la vamos a cambiar, pero si podemos difundir más los episodios que nos unen y comenzar a vernos con una mirada diferente,

… I do not intend to discard Fermandois’ analyses about Peru. Indeed, our excessive susceptibility to everything that comes from Chile is a reality we must face through education policies. On the contrary, what I try to show my colleague is that in Chile there are also sensitivities regarding its neighbors, plus a strong nationalism that goes hand in hand with a particular process of state-building. So we owe each other a compromise, history will not change, but we should propagate more of the facts that unite us in order to begin looking at each other with different eyes.

He then states what he considers to be the summary of Peruvians’ claim:

Es cierto que, en 2009, el ex-presidente Alan García aceptó las satisfacciones chilenas por el caso Ariza y sin embargo nos han seguido expiando. Por eso, más allá de las formas diplomáticas, el mensaje del Perú es clarísimo: no nos gusta que nos espíen y aunque queremos la integración, no la encontramos compatible con el espionaje. ¿El gallo canta más claro?

It is true that in 2009, former President Alan Garcia accepted Chilean explanations on the Ariza espionage case, but still, they kept spying on us.Therefore, beyond the diplomatic context, Peru's message is clear: we do not like being spied on and we don't consider integration compatible with espionage. 

On his blog, economist César Vásquez Bazán revealed the history of Chilean espionage cases in Peru, before the Pacific War broke out in 1879.

He also examined in the volume of arms imports from Chile in recent times, highlighting that the amount is three-and-a-half times more than what Peru purchases in the same categories, and noting a similar buildup in the prelude to the Pacific War.


¿Por que dedica Chile un promedio de cuatro mil cuatrocientos millones de dólares anuales a gastos militares? La respuesta expresada en pocas palabras es porque Chile tiene la conciencia sucia por el robo hecho de los territorios de Tarapacá, Arica y el litoral boliviano en 1879. Cree que gastando 2.5 veces más en fuerzas militares que el Perú, disuadirá cualquier intento de recuperación de esos territorios por sus legítimos propietarios. […]

Chile quema el dinero en armamento y en matones de uniforme, lo cual es una vergüenza en un país con dos millones de seres humanos viviendo debajo de la línea de pobreza, con 16.3% de desempleo entre los jóvenes de 15 a 24 años de edad, y con una educación cara y elitista que discrimina cada vez más contra los pobres.

Why does Chile spend an average of $4.4 billion annually on military expenses? The short answer would be because Chile is guilty of stealing the territories of Tarapaca, Arica and the Bolivian coast in 1879. They believe that spending 2.5 times more on military forces than Peru will discourage any attempt of recovering these territories by their rightful owners. […]

Chile wastes money on weapons and thugs in uniform, which, for a country with two million people living below the poverty line, with 16.3% of unemployment rate among people between the ages of 15-24, and with an expensive and elitist education system that increasingly discriminates against the poor, is a shame.


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