Peru, apparently undeterred by rejection of earlier proposals seeking to contain an arms race in Latin America, has proposed the creation of a South American peace force to avert a regional conflict amid rising tensions and increased arms buying.
Peru has been advocating heavy cuts in weapons purchases in Latin America, arguing there is no conflict on the continent to warrant an arms buildup that can only raise political temperatures.
Peruvian calls for a moratorium on arms purchases by neighbors Chile, Brazil and Venezuela were rebuffed or ignored by those countries. Most of them now argue the arms buying is part of a military regeneration program and is not part of an arms race.
Nevertheless, analysts point out, heavy investments in arms purchases over the year have accentuated differences. Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez put his citizens on a war footing, exhorting even ruling party adherents to join a national militia in preparation for war.
The fiery rhetoric employed by Chavez in his virtual mobilization campaign has much to do with his apparent conviction that the Colombian arms pact with the United States, which allows U.S. forces to use Colombian military bases to launch attacks on drug warlords, is a ruse for an invasion of Venezuela. Both Colombia and the United States have dismissed Chavez's claims.
Peru plans to propose the creation of a South American peace force when leaders of the Union of South American Nations Defense Council begin talks in Ecuador. Peru has been spearheading a campaign for arms and sending out diplomatic missions to press home the point.
The latest idea of the proposed peace force was revealed by Peruvian Production Minister Mercedes Araoz after she met with Uruguayan President Tabare Vazquez in Montevideo.
Araoz said Peru wanted "a clear agenda of non-aggression" built into the framework of Unasur. A South American peace force will be made up of armed forces, including officers, contributed by Unasur's member countries.
Peru's clearest success with the proposal seems to have been in Uruguay, where Araoz received enthusiastic backing from Vazquez.
As a leading contributor to U.N. peace missions, Araoz said, "Uruguay's expertise and experience is most valuable for any undertaking of this nature, be it with U.N. blue helmets, or possibly in a near future, South American helmets."
Peru has not made clear how the peace force will coordinate its activities with the United Nations, how it will be funded and where it will be based.