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Peru has accused Chile of paying a Peruvian Air Force non-commissioned officer to spy for us. The supposed spy is Victor Ariza, and Peru says he was paid thousands of dollars by Chile to provide sensitive information. He has been imprisoned in a high security prison in Peru for several weeks, but only this past Monday did the news break out.
When it did, the presidents of both countries were at an APEC summit in Singapore. Peruvian President Alan Garcia abruptly ended his stay and returned to Lima, canceling a bilateral meeting with his Chilean counterpart Michelle Bachelet.
The Chilean government has denied any espionage and believes the Peruvian accusation is part of an artificial escalation of a two-pronged conflict that has strained relations between the two countries in recent months: For one, Peru has taken Chile to The Hague over claims to territorial waters, and more recently, it learned that the United States had authorized the sale of weapons to Chile. Peru believes this — and Chile’s ongoing weapons purchases over the past decade — upsets the military balance in the region.
Peru claims that Ariza’s liaisons were two Chilean air force officers, but Chile’s Defense Ministry has said the two men were not members of the military.
Throughout the week, Garcia and Bachelet have been sending each other acid messages through the media. Garcia said that “only those who feel weak” resort to spying. Bachelet said Garcia’s statements were “offensive and bombastic.” Garcia retorted that “our country progresses and grows, and that’s why they are jealous and spy on us to find out what our secret is.”
Peru’s foreign minister has announced that if Chile continues to deny the accusations, “the entire relationship with Chile will have to be reassessed.” On Wednesday, Peruvian members of Parliament asked Congress to review the free trade agreement with Chile.
Yesterday, Peru delivered what is says are 2,000 pages of evidence of the espionage to the Chilean embassy in Lima on Wednesday. No details of their contents have yet been disclosed.