Rumsfeld in Peru to Discuss Mutual Security Interests
By Donna Miles
American Forces Press Service
LIMA, Peru, Aug. 18, 2005 Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is slated to meet here today with Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo and his new defense minister to show support for Toledo's democratic initiatives and further bolster on what a senior defense official traveling with the secretary called the warmest defense relationship between the two countries in 40 years.
Rumsfeld and Toledo are expected to discuss ways to build on Toledo's progress in cracking down on narcotics trafficking, cooperating with its neighbors in countering threats to the region, and modernizing Peru's armed forces and their obsolete 1970s-era Soviet equipment.
The leaders are also expected to discuss Peru's interest in increasing its role in peacekeeping operations, the official told reporters. As of July, Peru was contributing 210 troops to the U.N. Mission to Haiti, and had troops and observers supporting operations in the Congo, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Burundi, Liberia, the Ivory Coast and Sudan.
Arriving here Aug. 17 after visiting Paraguay, the secretary began his visit with a tour of this capital city's Larco Museum. The museum features archeological art, jewelry, textiles and tools of Peru's indigenous people for the past several thousand years and is purported to have the best archeological preservation technology in Peru.
Today, Rumsfeld will meet with Toledo and his new defense minister, Marciano Rengifo, who took office less than a week ago after a shakeup in Peru's cabinet.
During the flight to Lima, a senior defense official described Peru as "a good friend in an important region," the third-largest country in South America and the fifth-most-populated in Latin America.
It's a strategic partner that understands the threats posed by both drug trafficking and terrorism and drug trafficking, the official said.
Peru, in cooperation with the United States, has made steady progress in interdicting the flow of narcotics, particularly cocaine, to the United States. The two countries also cooperate in encouraging alternative development in coca-growing regions.
In addition, Peru has demonstrated a clear intolerance of terrorism. The terrorist group Sendero Luminoso People's Liberation Army, or "Shining Path," left some 60,000 Peruvians dead through indiscriminate bombing campaigns and selective assassinations in the 1980s, creating "a climate of fear" in the country, particularly in its rural areas, until its leader's capture in 1992. "It was a very dark time for Peru," the official told reporters.
"Peru fought and won a war on terror," the official said, noting that the Peruvian public is "very aware" of the dangers terrorists pose. Peru's leadership has seen and knows the issues concerning terrorism "and they don't want it to happen again," he said.
The senior official praised Toledo's efforts in promoting democracy and security reforms, but noted the leader is experiencing extremely low, single-digit popularity ratings in Peru. "We want to recognize these things and show support," he said. "Peru has every chance of succeeding."