Peruvian police, including an agent who spent 17 days lost in the jungle during a botched hostage rescue mission, said that the security forces had inadequate equipment to face Shining Path rebels, forcing them to use old guns and communicate by cell phone.
Luis Astuquillca told news show Primera Noticia that a mission launched in April, to rescue hostages from the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas, was poorly supplied (see video below).
“We have obsolete equipment, old weapons … we are using guns from World War II and the Vietnam War,” said Astuquillca. “There is no logistical support from the state.”
Astuquillca explained that the troops had insufficient ammunition, carried bad quality food in cans so heavy that it was hard to move quickly, and sometimes had to pay, out of their own pockets, to stay in hotels.
According to the officer, the police did not have radios, satellite phones or GPS equipment, and so had to communicate by cell phone. When there was no cell phone signal they would use an emergency phone system, but that would also break down in storms, leaving them without a means of communication. His complaints were echoed by another officer, Jose Millones, who is now under pressure from senior police officers.
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Astuquillca’s account of the authorities’ failure to provide proper supplies for the security forces will further stoke anger in Peru over the failed rescue operation, Mision Libertad (Mission Freedom). The hostages were released, but it was widely suspected that the company had paid a ransom. Public outrage focused on the story of Astuquillca and another officer, Cesar Vilca, who were left alone in the jungle after a helicopter carrying the rest of their group was forced to retreat under rebel fire. With a bullet wound to his leg, Astuquillca left a seriously wounded Vilca, and walked for 17 days to find help.
Eventually Vilca’s father, accusing the authorities of having abandoned the rescue effort, went into the region himself, and brought his son’s body back in a taxi.
Four other police officers and three soldiers died in Mision Libertad, and the ministers of the interior and defense were both forced to resign.