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Changing Foreign Military Missions and Impacts

Like most other Latin American nations, Peru received substantial assistance from a number of countries over the years to help improve its military capability. Each foreign mission played an important role during its time in Peru. The first missions were those of France, originally invited by President Nicolás de Piérola in 1896 to help rebuild the armed forces, which had suffered a major defeat in the War of the Pacific and which were rent by internal conflict. Except for its withdrawal during World War I, the French army mission operated almost continuously in Peru until 1940, and was supplemented by a French naval mission (1905-12) and an air mission (1919-21) as well.

Perhaps the most significant foreign military presence, the French occupied most of the key command positions, established and then staffed the Military Academy in Chorrillos for over twenty years, and set up (in 1904) and then directed the National War College (Escuela Superior de Guerra--ESG), also in Chorrillos. Many of the FF.AA.'s subsequent concerns--expanding the country's effective national territory, the educational role of conscription, data collection, the institution's civilizing mission, and the connection between national development and internal security--could be traced to the French missions. The origins of the modern professional army of Peru could be found in the work of a succession of French officers and instructors, beginning in 1896 with Colonel Paul Clément, the first head of the French military mission. FF.AA. members trained by the French military mission were on active duty through the 1950s; even CAEM, founded in 1951, had its origins over thirty years earlier in a French mission recommendation. The professional military that the French helped to create in Peru was an activist, interventionist one; it saw no conflict between military responsibilities and involvement in the country's economic, social, and political affairs.

The United States military presence in Peru began with a naval mission in 1920. It operated almost continuously until the difficulties that led to the termination of all United States military missions by the Peruvian military government in 1969. A United States air mission first arrived in 1924, and another began to function in 1941. The United States Army mission worked continuously with its Peruvian counterparts from 1946 to 1969. During the period from the 1940s through the 1960s, when the United States military role was most extensive, and on into the 1970s, almost 7,000 Peruvian officers and personnel were trained by the United States--in Peru, in the Canal Zone, and in the United States--in programs lasting from a few weeks to four years. United States training objectives included providing specialized technical competence, giving exposure to United States military approaches and relationships with civilian agencies, helping to professionalize in ways that would lead to less military intervention in politics, and assisting in giving the armed forces a development role, as in road-building or civic action.

When increasingly nationalistic Peruvian military leaders felt that the United States role was in growing conflict with their view of Peru's national development goals, they chose in 1969 to expel the United States military missions. However, Peru continued to purchase some equipment from the United States, with attendant instruction, and to send a small number of officers to the United States and its bases in the Canal Zone for training. Peru also accepted small United States military and paramilitary training units in Peru from the mid-1980s onward for short-term specialized instruction related to drug-trafficking interdiction. The February 1990 Cartagena Agreement signed by the presidents of the United States and the Andean countries, along with the PeruUnited States umbrella agreement on drug control and economic assistance of May 1991, envisioned substantially expanded United States economic and military assistance to Peru to help with the drug-trafficking and insurgency problem. Expanded military training assistance was approved by the United States Congress for 1992 as part of a US$30-million counternarcotics package, but was suspended in April 1992 after President Fujimori's self-coup.

Shorter-term foreign military advisers during the twentieth century included a German general from 1926 to 1930 and an Italian air mission from 1935 to 1940. Beginning in 1973, the EP and FAP developed a close relationship with the Soviet Union that included substantial military missions for both services. From the mid-1970s through the 1980s, some US$1.5 billion in Soviet equipment was purchased by Peru, more than from any other single country. From 100 to 400 Peruvian military personnel from the EP and FAP were trained in the Soviet Union each year at the height of the relationship. In the mid-1980s, the Soviet permanent mission in Peru consisted of 650 personnel. Up to seventy-nine technicians of Cuba's Antiaircraft Defense and Revolutionary Air Force at a time served in Peru in the late 1970s to help with the preparation of Soviet equipment purchased by the FAP. The matériel and support gave Peru significant opportunities to upgrade the EP and FAP at relatively low cost and on extremely favorable credit terms. Owing to economic problems, repayment was largely in goods rather than cash.

For the Soviet Union, Peru was the only Latin American country outside of Cuba in which it had a significant military presence. In fact, in the mid-1980s there were more Soviet military advisers in Peru (150 to 200) than there were United States military advisers in all of Latin America. Although the ongoing Soviet-Peru military relationship was reduced substantially by early 1991 and Peruvian military authorities were interested in new arrangements with other countries, severe economic problems made these very difficult to work out.

The impact of foreign military training missions on the FF.AA. over the years was significant, even decisive at times. The most important contributions were in the areas of establishing training facilities, providing instruction in an array of military subjects both in Peru and abroad, building the technical capability of the military with training related to equipment purchases, and making each of the institutions of the armed forces more professional. In Peru, however, as in most Latin American countries, military professionalization also better equipped the institution to become involved in politics when its leaders deemed that circumstances required intervention. Neither the French missions of 1896-1940, nor the United States missions of 1946-69 resulted in reduced Peruvian military intervention; the Soviet relationship originally developed while the Peruvian armed forces were in control of the government.

What the Peruvian military tried to do for many years, usually with success, was to maintain diversity in both foreign missions and sources of equipment in order to retain as much independence as possible as an institution. Although this strategy worked in the 1920s and 1930s, it was even more successful in the 1970s and early to mid-1980s. For example, of the more than US$1 billion in military equipment Peru obtained from 1974-78, some 63 percent came from the Soviet Union, 10 percent from the United States, 7 percent from France, 6 percent from the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany--FRG), 4 percent from Italy, 1 percent from Britain, and 9 percent from other countries. This pattern continued in the 1980s, giving Peru the most diversified military in Latin America in terms of equipment, as well as making the country the largest single importer of arms in the region. One of the prices of greater independence with greater diversity, however, was the technical and logistical challenge of trying to mesh widely varied matériel into effective and efficient military operations.

Data as of September 1992

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