Peru General Police
Sources: The Library of Congress Country Studies; CIA World Factbook
The General Police (PG), formerly the Civil Guard and by far the largest of Peru's police forces (42,537 in 1986), were organized into fifty-nine commands (comandancias) throughout the country across five police regions (whose boundaries and headquarters were the same as the country's five Military Regions), with overall headquarters in Lima. The general staff was similar to the military's, and included sections for operations, training, administration, personnel, legal affairs, public relations, and intelligence. As of 1989, commands were located in each of Peru's 24 department capitals and in the constitutional province of Callao, as well as in the largest of the 183 provincial capitals. Smaller police stations and posts operated in most of the other provincial capitals and in a significant portion, though by no means all, of the 2,016 district capitals. Detachments varied in size, depending primarily on population density, from a single police officer, to three or four commanded by a sergeant, to thirty or forty commanded by a lieutenant; a department-level command included up to several hundred police and was headed by a colonel or a general. Lima-appointed mayors and deputy mayors had some influence over local posts, but primarily chains of command went through police channels. Some commands had specialized duties, such as riot control, radio patrol, and traffic, and one guarded the presidential palace.
The PG instruction center, located at Chorrillos, included an officers school that provided a four-year curriculum to police cadets comparable to the service academy programs, a school for lieutenants preparing for the required examinations for promotion to captain, and training schools for enlisted officers--recruits, corporals, and sergeants. In the 1960s, the police received training support from the Public Safety Mission of the United States Agency for International Development (AID), and some officers attended the AID's International Police Academy in the United States during its years of operation (1963-74). AID support for the police was renewed in the 1980s in the Upper Huallaga Area Development Project and the Control and Reduction of Coca Cultivation in the Upper Huallaga Project; the AID assistance was part of the United States government's effort to control coca production and cocaine-paste trafficking. Both projects were created in 1981, but passed from the Ministry of Agriculture to the Ministry of Interior in 1987. The United States Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) also worked closely with the police to impede drug production and trafficking; a new base, Santa Lucía, completed in the Upper Huallaga Valley in 1989, gave the police and the DEA significantly greater local capability to directly confront the drug problem in the area.
Because the reorganization of the police forces into the PN was not fully implemented by the Congress until 1987, the Ministry of Interior substantially reduced its training programs for new officers and enlisted personnel in the late 1980s by postponing the admission of an entire officer class and two enlisted classes. With normal retirements, losses to the insurgents, and the large number of forced retirements ordered by President García, a decline in police personnel occurred just as insurgency, crime, and drug trafficking were increasing. Only in 1988 did the first joint police officer class of 682 graduate, combining the PG, the PT, and the PS. Some 814 were scheduled to complete their studies in 1989, none in 1990, and about 600 in 1991.
To cover the growing shortage of trained enlisted personnel, the Ministry of Interior established a new National Police School (Escuela de Policía Nacional--EPN), with centers in Lima, Chiclayo, Arequipa, and Cusco--and planned to open programs in Chimbote and Pucallpa as well. The eight-month training prepared some 1,288 high school graduates who had already had some secondary school military orientation, with a somewhat longer program for 1,618 recruits without high-school diplomas. With its six locations fully operational, the EPN was capable of providing up to 5,500 graduates a year for the PN enlisted ranks beginning in 1989. As of mid-1991, however, police training remained inadequate, with courses ranging from three to nine months at most.
The insurgency of the 1980s frequently targeted police stations for attack as part of a strategy of acquiring arms and equipment and of forcing the abandonment of smaller and more exposed posts, particularly in rural areas. Individual police were often targeted also for the same reasons. From 1981 through 1990, at least 735 police of all ranks were killed at the hands of the insurgents, most by the SL; many analysts believed that seized police arms provided a large share of the guerrillas' stock.
As the incipient insurgency began to grow in Ayacucho, where the SL originated, the new civilian government's initial response in October 1981 was to send the specially trained police antiterrorist unit to the area to combat it. The Sinchi Battalion, named after pre-Incaic warriors by that name, had proven quite effective on previous missions, including riot control, squatter eviction, and replacements for the 1980 Cusco police unit work slowdown. However, in Ayacucho the Sinchis appeared to make a difficult situation worse by some acts of indiscriminate violence and abuse, and were withdrawn before the Belaúnde administration decided to put the area under military control in December 1982. It was believed that the Sinchis underwent a thorough vetting and retraining before being committed to other actions, where their performance was much improved.
Although the police had primary responsibility for dealing with drug-trafficking activities in Peru from the mid-1970s onward, that role expanded markedly during the 1980s. The Peruvian military consistently held that coca eradication and drug interdiction were designated by the constitution of 1979 as responsibilities of the police rather than of the armed forces. However, the army did indicate its willingness to assist with security against the insurgents, so that the police would be better able to carry out antidrug operations. Because Peru was the world's largest producer of coca used to make cocaine, the police concentrated on eradication and interdiction. The Upper Huallaga Valley produced most of the cocaine (between 60 and 65 percent of world supply), so the police concentrated there. The United States government helped with DEA personnel, an AID assistance program, and, in 1989, resources and assistance for the Santa Lucía base, including a 1,500-meter runway. Three United States mobile training teams (MTT) of Green Berets helped prepare National Police units in base defense and interdiction techniques with short-term training in 1989-91, and contracted United States specialists continued narcotics tasks subsequently.
Although United States financial support for the antidrug production and trafficking program in Peru was modest, it did increase from about US$2.4 million in 1985 to US$10 million in 1990. Even so, both the hectarage under cultivation and the production of coca in the Upper Huallaga Valley increased to 79,000 hectares by United States government estimates, which were quite conservative compared with those of Peru's Ministry of Agriculture (from 8,400 hectares cultivated in the Upper Huallaga Valley in 1978 to 150,000 in 1990). Estimates as of early 1992 were 100,000 hectares (United States figures based on aerial surveys) or 315,000 hectares (Peruvian figures based on ground site inspection).
Efforts to reduce drug production and trafficking in the Upper Huallaga Valley were hampered by a number of negative factors. One was the insurgency; both SL and MRTA forces began to operate in the valley in 1985 and 1986. Then attacks on police and government employees working on eradication and interdiction forced suspension of most antidrug operations in the Upper Huallaga Valley between February and September 1989. The guerrillas positioned themselves as the protectors of the coca- growing peasants, while collecting "taxes" and drug-flight protection payments estimated at between US$10 million and US$30 million per year. Only when the army was able to drive the insurgents out of much of the valley, as occurred for a time in late 1989 and early 1990, could antidrug-trafficking operations resume. When they did, the emphasis shifted to interdiction rather than eradication.
Other problems included the perception among much of the local population that many of the police stationed in the Upper Huallaga Valley were either abusive or corrupt, or both. This led to a substantial overhaul of the police forces (and of the army as well) by the García administration during its first year in office, when a reported 2,000 to 3,000 police members were removed, reshuffled, or retired. Shortly after President Fujimori took office on July 28, 1990, another reshuffling took place that forced the retirement of nearly 350 police officers and 51 police generals, some of whom, United States officials believed, were among the drug-trafficking initiative's most able and experienced personnel.
A number of incidents involving the police during the first year of the Fujimori government led Minister of Interior general Víctor Malca Villanueva to disclose that 23 officers and 631 police members had been dismissed and another 291 officers and 600 police members were facing administrative action. Among the events leading to this announcement were the shooting down of a Peruvian commercial plane in the jungle at Bellavista, San Martín Department, with the loss of all seventeen on board; the murder of a medical student and two minors in Callao; the disappearance of fifty-four kilograms of cocaine after a police seizure; the release of a Colombian drug trafficker's plane after large payments to police involved in its capture; and the hold-up of buses on the highways to rob their passengers. General Malca announced on July 12, 1991, that evidence of "enormous corruption" and serious excesses committed by some of the PN's members required "a total restructuring," and that the Peruvian government was in contact with the Spanish police to enlist their assistance in the task.
The underlying factors contributing to the problems of the PN included the following: the constant threat and frequent reality of guerrilla attacks; the low pay (only US$150 per month for top generals and between US$10 and US$15 for new enlisted police) resulting from inflation's impact on the capacity of government to keep up with previous levels (which were considered quite adequate by Peruvian standards through the mid-1980s); and continuing tensions with armed forces counterparts, particularly the army, over roles, responsibilities, coordination, and support. These difficulties eroded the capability of the police forces, particularly the PG, to operate efficiently and with a high degree of professionalism.
The problems with the armed forces had spilled over into a direct confrontation between striking police in Lima and the army in February 1975, a confrontation that was settled only after a shoot-out in the police command with considerable loss of life (thirty police members and seventy civilians were killed). Other, less dramatic incidents occurred as well. In March 1988, when the military failed to respond to urgent requests for assistance by a police force besieged by SL guerrillas at Uchiza, in the Upper Huallaga Valley, the police felt that they had been humiliated by another branch of their own government, as well as defeated in that encounter with the guerrillas. General Malca saw no alternative but to resign as minister of interior. The explanation that no helicopters were available and that no order had been given was unconvincing. Others blamed the failure to respond on interservice rivalries and a perception by some military personnel at the time that the police in the Upper Huallaga Valley were getting more than their share of the technical and material assistance available to fight drug production and trafficking.
Data as of September 1992
NOTE: The information regarding Peru on this page is re-published from The Library of Congress Country Studies and the CIA World Factbook. No claims are made regarding the accuracy of Peru General Police information contained here. All suggestions for corrections of any errors about Peru General Police should be addressed to the Library of Congress and the CIA.