Demonstrators are grouped to go to Lima to the call for this Thursday, January 19. ERNESTO BENAVIDES / AFP
With the death of six soldiers in Ilave, we have witnessed how the narrative to discredit the Armed Forces is gaining ground in the public debate. Until recently, the discourse of radicals who equated the Armed Forces as an enemy always and in all circumstances fell on infertile ground, but today we have not only seen a mob humiliate them, stone them, force them to cross a river and find their death, but also a discursive load that questions its function and the legitimate use of force in a State of law.
The reports of the Cuarto Poder and Punto Final television programs broadcast on Sunday, March 12, show that in Juli the day before the tragedy, a large group of extremists attacked and set fire to the Police Station and the Judicial Branch of Juli. From this, the two patrols, whose soldiers drowned, tried to reach Juli from Ilave as part of a support operation for the agents who were attacked the day before. In other words, it was about going to restore internal order in a place where a large group of protesters had already shown enough violence against public institutions and people.
However, this is not what is told when talking about this story, because some journalists began to put the spotlight on the Captain’s orders to cross the river, or on the fact that the soldiers did not know how to swim. They do not mention much about the situation, the degree and potential of violence from the day before, and neither about the same images that show how they do not let the soldiers pass to fulfill their function, and how they force them to go back with stones, threatening them all the time. with humiliating expressions and hate speech.
The news that spread tried to romanticize the extremists because there were civilians who saved some soldiers from drowning. And certainly there have been admirable people who did it, but it cannot be proven that they were from the group of attackers, nor that they were neighbors who had nothing to do with the violent ones. Either way, making the news was a rude attempt to minimize responsibility for violent protesters. The news should be that the Armed Forces assigned to restore internal order in a state of emergency were attacked and stoned, but this situation has not raised enough alarms, nor does it seem to worry many about its seriousness. The predominant chatter has been to discredit the military, and in the midst of all that we have been experiencing, one does not have to go far to connect and find out who is interested in spreading the sordid vision that the Armed Forces are enemies of the population.
In the midst of so much misinformation, therefore, it is important to remember some ideas and principles about the role of the Police and the Armed Forces in controlling internal order and the use of force.
To begin with, neither the Armed Forces nor the police are enemies of the citizens as they would have us believe. Their role in situations of violence and the use of force is limited by international human rights standards in our legal system. In a rule of law, the monopoly of public force belongs to the State.
Now, this use of force by the Police and the Armed Forces cannot be arbitrary, on the contrary, it is subject to the Constitution, principles, laws and regulations that also find inspiration and support in criteria of the Inter-American and Universal System of protection of human rights such as the Basic Principles on the Use of Force and Firearms and the Code of Conduct for Law Enforcement Officials.
So this vision that the Armed Forces or the Police are always the enemy or that they are murderers is really incompatible with a rule of law, in which their role and the force they exert will always be controlled and subject to the Constitution and respect from the human rights. It should always be limited to who holds power and who exercises force. It is known in advance that the use of force implies risks of abuse, errors, crimes, and for this reason, in a rule of law, all guarantees must be given so that those who use force are in a position to carry out a function whose interventions could affect the life and integrity of people. Hence the importance of limits, guarantees, the exceptional and restrictive use of force, and the control that it is exercised without violating human rights.
In this way, those positions that always point to the Police and Armed Forces as enemies of the citizenry are just as absurd and contrary to the rule of law, as are those who believe that their interventions should not be subject to controls that ensure that human rights are not violated. .
Let us remember that, since the first days of February, Puno has been in a state of emergency according to Supreme Decree No. 018-2023-PCM, which was established for sixty (60) calendar days, also in the departments of Madre de Dios, Cusco, Apurímac, Arequipa, Moquegua and Tacna. In all of them, the National Police maintains control of internal order with the support of the Armed Forces; except in the department of Puno where internal order control is the responsibility of the Armed Forces. The same decree specifies that their actions contemplate the protection of critical national assets and the protection of public or private institutions.
Legislative Decree No. 1095, which establishes rules for the employment and use of force by the Armed Forces in the national territory, states that internal order is “the situation in which stability and normal functioning are guaranteed of the political-legal institutionality of the State. Its maintenance and control demand provisions and actions that the State must adopt permanently, implicitly carrying the possibility of declaring the regimes of exception provided for in the Political Constitution.
The declaration of the State of emergency in Puno and that the internal order be assumed by the Armed Forces was carried out in accordance with article No. 137 of the Political Constitution, according to which the President of the Republic can decree for a determined period in part of the national territory a state of emergency, in case of disturbance of peace or internal order, or of serious circumstances that affect the life of the Nation. And within this power there is an assumption in which the Armed Forces can assume control of the internal order if so ordered by the President of the Republic.
There was already a situation of violence that led to the foundation of the State of emergency, and the two patrols of which six of its members ended up drowning were going to guarantee and protect internal order against extremists who had set fire to a police station and the Judiciary . The Armed Forces went from Ilave to Puno to fulfill a function that the Constitution and the law allow them, and through threats and violence they were prevented from exercising it.
Those patrols were there in accordance with the rule of law and were not using arbitrary force. Their presence was part of the preventive and dissuasive levels, however, they found an irrational and violent mob that attacked them with stones, degrading insults, and forced them to go back and cross the river.
With this, lines of protection of the rule of law have been exceeded that should rather outrage us and put us on alert. The death of the soldiers in key is as serious and sad as the fact that public opinion does not seem to care about the seriousness of such an event, since it cannot be something positive for democracy and the rule of law that is being attacked towards an institution in charge of protecting the internal order of Puno, is overlooked and that rather misinforms so much to discredit them.