Peru president blasts Chile for alleged military spying

President Alan García on Monday blasted “dictatorial, Pinochet-like” elements in Chile’s government for allegedly keeping a Peruvian air force officer on its payroll to turn over military top secrets to Peru’s southern neighbor.

García hastily left the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit in Singapore on Saturday — canceling a meeting with Chilean President Michelle Bachelet — after he learned about the arrest of Victor Ariza Mendoza, a non-commissioned officer in Peru’s Air Force.

Chile has dismissed the espionage allegations.

“After analyzing these investigations, I wish to express to the country, to the Chilean people, to South America and to the public worldwide my energetic, categorical rejection of this offense to Peruvian sovereignty,” García said in an address from the Government Palace, televised on state-run PeruTV.

“I believe these are repulsive acts that do not correspond to a democratic nation and that harm Chile in the world’s eyes,” Garcia said. “We want to believe that this was the act of certain sectors and not the Chilean government in its entirety and certainly not the Chilean people; that these are some sectors that still conserve dictatorial, Pinochet-like customs in relation to Chile with its neighbors.”

Ariza is suspected of selling the Chileans top secrets since September 2005, including the master plan for Peru’s strategic air defense through 2021, in exchange for monthly payments averaging $3,000.  García said Ariza received money from Western Union offices in Santiago, that investigators had determined military secrets were passed to Chile and that the source of  incriminating emails on Ariza’s computer were traced to a Chilean IP address.

Responding to García’s comments, Chilean Foreign Minister Mariano Fernández denied the spying allegation.

“The (Chilean) government does not practice espionage and we do not accept accusations from anyone,” Fernández said.

García pledged to turn over all the material to Chilean authorities and said Peru would call on Interpol or some other independent international agency to inspect and verify the authenticity of the evidence.

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