Claims that a Peruvian air force officer has been wrongly imprisoned over accusations that he helped supply military weapons to Colombia’s FARC guerrillas may point to a lack of will to thoroughly investigate the allegations, which date back to 2004.
In 2004, Colombian troops seized a FAL assault rifle with Peruvian Air Force markings from the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). A 2011 Colombian inquiry revealed that official records showed it had been decommissioned in 2005, and destroyed along with more than 1,200 other rifles in 2008.
A Peruvian military investigation found that only 165 were destroyed, as La Republica reported. The rest were allegedly taken by a group of people, dressed in civilian clothing and driving a civilian vehicle, who entered the military installation and took the weapons without showing any documentation, claiming they were taking the arms to another base.
One of the accused named Major Dennys Manrique Alcazar as having taken the weapons, winning himself a reduced sentence. Manrique was detained in December 2011.
Peru’s Legal Defense Institute, a human rights NGO, has come to the defense of Manrique, who maintains that he is innocent. One of the group’s lawyers said Manrique was likely accused for personal reasons, according to the La Republica report.
InSight Crime Analysis
If Manrique is innocent, this could indicate a lack of will on the part of the Peruvian military to properly investigate the siphoning of weapons to illegal armed groups.
It is possible that many of the missing rifles ended up with the FARC, and indeed there are suggestions that the trade continues. A Peruvian congressman told press in 2011 that the Colombian rebel group still buys weapons stolen from Peru’s military. In one scheme, Peruvian soldiers delivered weapons, reportedly including anti-aircraft missiles, to a FARC operative at the Ecuadorian border, who then trafficked them to Colombia.
The FARC obtain their arms from a variety of sources. A 2005 study (see pdf) by the RAND Corporation says most of the illicit arms entering Colombia from Ecuador and Peru are stolen by those countries’ soldiers and private security guards from their stockpiles. The FARC also sources arms from other illegal actors. Last month, Colombian authorities intercepted a shipment of around 160 rifles, four grenade launchers, and other equipment, apparently belonging to the Rastrojos drug gang, that was set to be traded with the FARC for narcotics. In March 2011, Ecuador raided an unlicensed weapons factory that had apparently supplied the 29th and 48th Fronts of the rebel army.
Image, above, shows Peruvian soldiers standing guard with FAL rifles, similar to that seized by Colombian soldiers in 2004.