US Drug War Money Funded Peru Indigenous Massacre
US Government Trained the Police Department that Participated in the Operation and Invested "Heavily" in the Killer Helicopters
On June 5, the Peruvian National Police (PNP) massacred up to fifty unarmed Awajún and Wampi indigenous people in Bagua who had blockaded roads in protest of land reforms related to a recently implemented US-Peru free trade agreement. Witnesses report that the PNP shot live ammunition from the ground, rooftops, and police helicopters. Anywhere between 61-400 people are reported missing following the attack.
Narco News has discovered that US drug war money is all over the massacre. The US government has not only spent the past two decades funding the helicopters used in the massacre, it also trained the PNP in "riot control."
The Peruvian National Police
The Peruvian National Police is a militarized police force and Peru's only national police force, meaning that Peru lacks a civilian federal police force. For this reason, the militarized PNP carries out regular policing functions in Peru, such as maintaining the peace and providing public security. Furthermore, "Counternarcotics operations in Peru are implemented primarily through the Ministry of the Interior by the Peruvian National Police," according to the US Government Accounting Office (GAO, now known as the Government Accountability Office). For this reason, the PNP receives a significant chunk of US drug war aid to Peru.
Basic details of the Bagua massacre such as exactly which police departments participated and how many indigenous protesters died remain unavailable two weeks after the massacre. Peru's La Primera newspaper--the only news outlet to provide information on specific police departments that participated in the massacre--writes, "The police operation was carried out by about 600 armed police from the Dinoes [Special Operations Department] and from the Anti-Drugs Department (DINANDRO), who shot head-on at protesters' bodies." Dinoes and DINANDRO are two forces within the Peruvian National Police.
Of particular interest is the participation of the anti-drugs police force, known as DINANDRO in its Spanish abbreviation. Between 2002 and 2007, the United States spent over $79 million on the PNP. 2002-2004 funds were for "training and field exercises to enhance the capabilities of DIRANDRO to conduct basic road and riverine exercises, as well as to provide security for eradication teams in outlying areas. These enhanced law enforcement efforts will require additional vehicles, communications, field gear, emergency/safety reaction gear, and drug detector canines." In 2007, the US government's funding for the DIRANDRO was expanded to "enhance the capabilities of DIRANDRO to conduct advanced road interdiction, riot control, greater security for eradication teams, and interdiction in hard-core areas." [emphasis added]. In 2007 the US government also debuted the first of at least four "Pre-Police Schools" for students that have completed secondary school education (that is, these schools are an alternative to high school). The "Pre-Police Schools" are free and designed to recruit and train young people to be members of the PNP.
As Peru became further militarized under the pretense of the drug war, the US State Department justified its 2008 budget request for Peru by noting, "The major change in the FY 2008 police program will be the requirement to support a much-enlarged presence of the Peruvian National Police anti-drug police (DIRANDRO) in the coca growing valleys." While the region in which the massacre occurred is not by any means a major coca-growing region, it is certainly on the UN Office on Drugs and Crime's (UNODC) map (PDF file--see page 192).
The US government has a propensity to fund "anti-narcotics" operations in rebellious territory, which is then used, either overtly (note the DIRANDRO's US-provided training in riot control) or covertly, to fund counterinsurgency operations. The mere mention of the region on the UNODC's coca cultivation map combined with the presence of indigenous resistance organizations practically assures a military-police build-up in the region. In fact, a 1991 GAO report stated, "The [Peruvian] executive branch policy is to use counternarcotics aid against drug traffickers and insurgent groups linked to the drug trade....we believe the policy is reasonable." The GAO report goes on to say:
"Of the 702 police trained for counternarcotics purposes since 1989, only about 56 per cent were from units having a counternarcotics mission. The remaining 44 per cent were from police units having a primary mission of counterinsurgency. These units include the Sinchis and the Departamento de Operaciones Especiales [Dinoes, who also participated in the massacre]....In December 1990, the State Department instructed the Embassy that it could not train certain types of units, including the Departamento de Operaciones Especiales, because they were not directly involved in counternarcotics missions. Despite this notification, the Narcotics Affairs Section provided training to 32 personnel who should not have been trained; these 32 made up almost 14 per cent of the total number of police trained after the instruction was issued. According to section officials, providing special operations forces with training would help US efforts to solicit their support for future operations.... Although police from the Sinchis and the Departamento de Operaciones Especiales may perform some counternarcotics operations, their primary mission is recognized to be counterinsurgency."
While the GAO report is from the Fujimori era, the right wing presidents that followed him have done little to rectify past wrongs. One of the more blatant examples of this fact is Peru's amnesty law that protects dirty war criminals. Furthermore, current Peruvian President Alan Garcia is currently serving his second non-consecutive term; he served his first term in 1985-1990, when Peru's dirty war was in full swing. The Garcia administration has always been characterized by massacres in the face of social unrest: the current president presided over the Accomarca massacre in August 1985 (47-74 dead peasants), the Cayara massacre in May 1988 (about thirty dead and more disappeared), and various prison riots in which over 200 inmates were executed.
Unfortunately, Garcia's massacre of the Awajún and Wampi indigenous peoples at the Bagua blockade is only the latest in a series. Garcia himself seems entirely unrepentant regarding the latest massacre, reportedly calling the indigenous organizations that participated in the Bagua blockade "ignorant" and relying on typical racist arguments to downplay the indigenous movement. Implying that indigenous people are incapable of thinking for themselves and making their own decisions regarding their well-being, he told press that the indigenous organizations were being manipulated by foreign leftist forces.
Witnesses to the Bagua massacre claim that police fired tear gas and live ammunition from police helicopters. The helicopters, Russian-made Mi-17s, were not purchased with US dollars, but US drug war money has maintained them for years.
As part of the Andean Counterdrug Initiative, a George H.W. Bush program that spawned the infamous Plan Colombia, the US government undertook the task of upgrading Peru's fleet of police aircraft. Peru's La Republica reported that the US government aimed to upgrade the PNP's entire fleet. The US began providing funds for Peru's aircraft under the auspices of counternarcotics efforts in 1988. In 2004, the US government provided "funding for pilots, aircrews, and support personnel for 15 USG-owned UH-1H helicopters and 14 Peruvian Mi-17 helicopters," the latter being the same type of helicopter used in the Bagua massacre. Given that US foreign aid can be delayed for several years before it arrives in the recipient country, it is within the realm of possibility that the US government funded the pilots and crew that were in the Mi-17s that were allegedly used to murder indigenous Peruvians in Bagua.
In 2007, the State Department mentioned the Mi-17s amongst other PNP aircraft in its budget justification, writing that "FY 2007 funds will also cover fuel, maintenance, hangars and warehousing, aircraft rental when needed, and operational support for PNP Aviation (DIRAVPOL) personnel." A year later, the State Department wrote, "FY 2008 will continue heavy investment of funds in training and career development of PNP aviation personnel in addition to budgeting for increased flight hours."
In addition to funding Peru's existing Mi-17 helicopters, the United States has donated about 24 armed Huey II (UH-II) helicopters to the PNP. Hueys were not used in the Bagua massacre, but the massacre should make the US government think twice about donating combat helicopters with multiple guns and rocket launchers mounted all over the aircraft. The donated Huey II's came with the M16 armament system, which includes a combination of M6 flexible quad M60C 7.62mm machine guns and two seven-tube 2.75 inch MK-40 rocket launchers.