Challenged by a resurgent Shining Path rebel movement and increasing drug crops, Peru’s Congressional Defense Commission has set out plans for a 20 percent increase in the military and police budgets, and a doubling of the number of police officers.
Jose Urquizo Maggia, head of Congress’ Defense Commission, said that the police and armed forces suffer from budget shortfalls, lacking sufficient equipment. He suggested that mining taxes that are not spent by local governments could go towards making this up, reported La Republica.
Maggia’s proposal is that some 10 percent of the country’s budget next year go into defense: 11 billion soles ($4.2 billion), of which 6 billion would go to the Defense Ministry, and 5 billion to the Interior Ministry. Prime Minister Juan Jimenez announced in August that the military would receive a budget boost of 20 percent.
Another member of the committee said that the plan was to increase the number of police in the country from the current 33,000 up to 60,000 by 2016, La Republica reported.
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Budget shortfalls for the Peruvian security forces came sharply into focus after a disastrous mission to rescue 36 gas workers kidnapped by the Shining Path in April, which left five police officers and three soldiers dead. A policeman who spent 17 walking through the jungle to get help for his wounded companion, who was later found dead (see image, above), told the media that they had been using guns that dated from World War II, had insufficient ammunition, and had to communicate by cell phone because their radios did not work.
Another factor that could spur the government to accept an increase in the defense budget is a proposal to give the military a greater role in internal policing, which is currently being considered by Congress.
The security forces are currently caught in a battle against a resurgent Shining Path, which is carrying out attacks against companies operating in their territory, as well as against state agents. The VRAE region, where the rebels are based, is an inhospitable mixture of mountain and jungle which makes the job of soldiers and police difficult. It is here that coca crops are also concentrated, producing cocaine and money for the rebels.