La República: Paramilitaries, Inc.

Op-Ed piece from Saturday’s La República

By Alberto Adrianzén

Calling things by their name is enormously difficult for Peruvian politics. Frequently, politics is a refuge for lies, and a source of confusion. If politics is in crisis, it is because it has yet to establish new communicative connections allowing it to construct truths that are socially accepted by citizens. Politicians aren’t “listened to,” aren’t “believed,” and least of all “understood.” Politics is no longer an important source for explanation, or for a sense of what is “happening” in the “world.” The problem is that neither politics nor politicians “call things by their name.”

The criminal incidents that occurred in the Majaz mine (Rio Blanco) in late July and at the beginning of August 2005 — as evidenced by the photos published by La República — consisted in the repression, kidnapping and torture of a group of campesinos (and also the murder of a resident) from the communities of Yauta, Segunda and Cajas, located in the Piura provinces of Ayabaca and Huancabamba, and were nothing short of paramilitary action. What happened there was collusion between the government and the company’s agents — those who acted like paramilitary groups with the clear intention of intimidating and repressing social protest.

It’s not surprising that Father Marco Arana has been one of the few people to say that we were, in fact, faced with the work of paramilitary groups. In 2006, as can be remembered, Arana and various members of the Cajamarca NGO Grufides (dedicated to protecting the environment) were the target of death threats, slanderous campaigns and (para)police surveillance. Those responsible were members of some from of private security company (in effect, paramilitaries) that, according to several media, worked for a mining company.

In fact, it was said that the members (or agents) of that security company not only carried prohibited weapons, but also that they were recruited from the “underworld,” or, in other words, that they were “armed gangsters” willing to do anything.

The same can be said for the case of the new scandal that has developed from the “petroaudio” affair. What Business Track Co. and some of its members did could also be categorized as paramilitary action. In this case, not only are we faced with illegal behavior but also, I suspect, suspicious and collusionary action (or collaboration) with government agencies. It wouldn’t surprise me if many of the “private companies” that today engage in “wiretapping,” conduct surveillance and operative actions and are, simply, front organizations for intelligence services.

It’s not credible that an intelligence service, such as that of the Navy, did not know that two of its active agents were moonlighting for a private company, carrying out espionage and wiretapping work. Accepting that explanation (including the “moonlighting”) should be grounds for all the intelligence chiefs to resign, and later close down that service.

So, the problem is not only the proliferation of this type of private company dedicated to espionage —it has been said that there are about 30 of these companies— but also this sort of organized and controlled “informality” in which intelligence services are involved. The intelligence agents who work for these “security companies” are not the equivalent of police officers that guard banks or other institutions on their days off because their salary isn’t sufficient (that, yes, is moonlighting), but extensions of intelligence agencies in these companies – therefore part of what is called the “intelligence community.”

In Peru, it’s not about “intelligence” being privatized because of the proliferation of this type of security company. Rather, what is occuring is the (re)birth of paramilitarism and of parapolitics, which reached their height during President Fujimori’s government and a little before that, with the Comando Rodrigo Franco*. The lines that tell us where intelligence services’ activity (including police work) must end and where that of this sort of private security company’s begin are not only grey, but are overlapping. The Majaz case, but also that of the illegal wiretapping and political persecution (including Raúl Wiener, to whom I express my solidarity) are proof that we are en route towards the Colombianization of our country, or its paramilitarization, and toward parapolitics, which is different, of course, to what is decried by others with a vested interest, as the conversion of drug traffic and Sendero into a sort of Peruvian FARC. And that, yes, is a “car bomb” for our fragile democracy. That is why it is time to call a spade a spade.

*Editor’s note:
Active during García’s first term, the paramilitary group Comando Rodrigo Franco is blamed by Peru’s Attorney General for the murder of union leader Saúl Cantoral, two MRTA members and Manuel Febres, the defense lawyer of Shining path leader Osmán Morote. It was also accused of murdering renegade APRA members. Former Interior Minister and García’s former personal secretary Agustín Mantilla, as well as other prominent APRA members, are currently facing trial on charges of being part of the Comando Rodrigo Franco.

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