471. Editorial Note

In a June 27, 1964, letter to Ambassador Jones, the Peruvian Minister of Government and Police requested U.S. assistance to equip and maintain a Special Police Emergency Unit (SPEU). (Airgram A–020 from Lima, July 8; National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, Central Files 1964–66, DEF 19 US–PERU) After considerable debate in Washington, the U.S. Government informed the Peruvian Government of its tentative support, citing the prospective role of the SPEU in dealing “with a variety of threats including riots, subversion, terrorism, demonstrations, land invasions, civil disobedience, and uprisings up to and including small-scale guerrilla activities.” (Airgram A–294 from Lima, October 29; ibid., POL 23 PERU) The formal negotiations to establish the SPEU were conducted primarily through the Agency for International Development and complicated by competing interests of the Department of Defense and the Central Intelligence Agency. In a December 10 letter to Jones, Nicholas McCausland, the officer-in-charge of Peruvian affairs, reported that the JCS feared the SPEU was “a pilot project by which CIA plans to get its oar into operational activities in Latin America.” (Ibid., Lima Embassy Files, Classified Personal Papers of Ambassador J. Wesley Jones: Lot 73 F 100, McCausland, Nicholas V.)

On April 8, 1965, the Special Group (CI) met to consider the counter-insurgency situation in Latin America, particularly in view of the SPEU proposal. According to the minutes of the meeting (Document 28), the participants “endorsed the CIA/AID proposal for a special airborne police unit to be tried on an experimental basis in Peru.” The provisional agreement stipulating U.S. assistance for the SPEU was signed in Lima on June 26. In a memorandum to Secretary Rusk, August 18, Assistant Secretary Vaughn reiterated the importance of supporting the program: “the insurgency situation in Peru has shaken the Peruvian Government and we are now hearing reports of a possible military coup if President Belaunde does not deal with it effectively.” “We believe that the correct way to deal with insurgency is first with civilian police forces [i.e. the SPEU]. When it escalates to the point where civilian police forces can no longer handle it, then it becomes a problem for the army.” (National Archives and Records Administration, RG 59, ARA Files, 1967–1969: Lot 72 D 33, Special Group CI (1964–1966))