A group of civilian informants in Peru says the government failed to pay them the reward promised for providing information that led to a successful operation against drug traffickers, highlighting some of the issues with informant compensation programs throughout the region.
Between 2012 and 2016, a group of 20 civilians in the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM) participated with police and military forces in successful intelligence operations against drug trafficking groups operating in the region, La Republica reported.
Security forces in Peru circulated a flier that promised a reward of 2 million soles (about $600,000) for civilians who participated in the successful operation of “Tornado 2016” on May 20, 2016. The operation led to the death of Alejandro Abel Auqui López, a leader of the drug trafficking guerrilla group known as the Shining Path.
On the evening of May 19, 2016, police, military and four civilians left the town of Pichari, crossed the Apurímac river and traveled on through Junin Libertad, arriving near Llochegua around dawn while 16 other civilians provided intelligence support remotely, according to one of the informants involved in the operation.
Early on May 20, the informant explained, Auqui López entered the village and was identified by one of the informants. The informant then fired two shots, one of which struck Auqui López in his chest, killing him immediately.
After news of the operation spread throughout the area, the group of civilian informants received death threats, contributing to their frustration about not being compensated for their work.
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While it’s unclear how effective recent militarized strategies have been in terms of combating coca cultivation in the VRAEM, civilian collaboration with police and military forces has yielded some results, as was the case with the killing of Auqui López.
However, the decision of the Peruvian government to not compensate the team of civilians who aided in the successful operation in the VRAEM could have a negative impact on citizens’ willingness to participate in such operations in the future.
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More broadly, the Peruvian government’s decision also has the potential to diminish civilians’ trust in security forces. Leaving these problems unaddressed could undermine the public’s willingness to participate in these sorts of operations, thereby reducing the usefulness of the programs.
Similar informant compensation programs have also been met with problems where they have been applied elsewhere in the region. In some cases, informants are not paid what they are promised, and in other cases informants are wildly overcompensated for providing information of little value.