Peru navy officials are held amid spy allegations

World Today

Peru said it has placed two naval officers in detention amid an investigation into claims they committed espionage on behalf of Chile.
CCTV America’s Dan Collyns filed this report from Lima.

Allegations of spying united Peru’s political forces in a way that previous calls for dialogue had failed to do. Key opposition figures joined talks on the issue of national security. Military courts are trying two naval officers with treason and are investigating a third after claims they were spying for Chile.

“Certainly it’s an absolutely reprehensible incident, shameful that naval officers could have made these kinds of leaks,” Pedro Cateriano, Peruvian defense minister said. “We urge the military justice system to act swiftly and, if it finds them responsible, to apply the maximum penalty.”

Peru’s defense minister said suspicions were raised when the officers made frequent trips abroad and did not explain how they were paid for.

Chile, Peru’s biggest Latin America trading partner, said it had not been officially notified by Peru of the spying case. If confirmed this revelation could dampen relations between the neighboring countries. In spite of improving diplomatic and commercial ties during recent years the two nations have a historic rivalry which could easily come to the surface.

In 2014, Peru won a key international ruling against Chile over disputed maritime territory and the two neighboring countries are still involved in a dispute over a land border.

“If an accusation of this nature turns out to be true, it would be very serious for bilateral relations between Peru and Chile, which we have been strengthening, but this cannot happen just like that.” Peruvian President, Ollanta Humala said.

Peruvian prosecutors allege that Chilean agents paid the suspects for confidential information about Peruvian navy surveillance on fishing boats. Both countries are major exporters of fish and have previously disputed fishing rights in the Pacific.

In Peru, if convicted of treason during peacetime, the men face sentences of up to 25 years.