New threats to National Security: A pending solution


Organized crime, common crime, illicit arms trafficking, human trafficking, illegal mining, health emergencies, among others, not only disturb the well-being of citizens but also affect the development of a country. In Peru, in addition to these threats, there are others that persist over time, such as terrorism and drug trafficking. In this article, statistical data of some of the threats that affect the security of the Peruvian State is analyzed in order to better understand their dimension and scope, but -mainly- with the purpose that the top decision-makers of the State adopt the necessary actions to deal with them effectively.


Threats – National Security – Illicit arms trafficking – Human trafficking – Money laundering – Common crime.


Globalization has been rapidly revolutionizing all spheres of national endeavor. However, although globalization has many positive aspects, it also has others that are not, such as the emergence of new challenges and threats to both national and international security. Today, threats such as international terrorism and transnational organized crime are clear examples of the greater connectivity that exists in the world.

Likewise, disasters related to natural events, common crime, illegal arms trafficking, human trafficking, health emergencies, among others, put a nation at risk, affecting not only the well-being of citizens, but also the development of the country. In Peru, in addition to the threats already described, there are others that are still active, such as terrorism and drug trafficking, mainly in the Valleys of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM). This article analyzes some statistical data on these threats in order to better understand their dimension and scope, facilitating the search for new mechanisms to confront them, through the involvement of State entities and, mainly, their decision makers.

From the White Paper on Defense to the new roles of the Army

The White Paper on National Defense, published in 2005, identifies two types of threats to Peruvian national security. On the one hand, there are external threats, that is, those that could be generated if security doctrines incompatible with the validity of international law were tried to be applied in the South American subregion, those that could arise from crises due to the scarcity of natural resources of strategic value, as well as terrorism, drug trafficking and international crime. On the other hand, there are internal threats such as terrorist and subversive groups – contrary to the constitutional order – that choose  violence, radical groups that promote social violence and popular excesses, organized common crime, illicit drug trafficking, corruption and depredation of the environment. However, despite the fact that more than 15 years have passed since the publication of this document, the threats described remain latent, being able to include others such as the current COVID-19 pandemic.

Perception of safety on the planet

Annually, various institutions carry out studies to measure the perception of regional and global security. One of the most recognized is the Institute for Economics and Peace, a brainstorming laboratory (a think tank) dedicated to collecting data to analyze peace and quantify its value through the development of indicators related to both internal and external security.1 The Global Peace Index is one of the main reports issued by this Institute each year. This report allows us to make some clarifications about the perception of security in Peru.

Figure  No. 1. Global Peace Index

Source: Institute for Economics and Peace

Figure Nº 1, prepared in 2020, shows the general scene of the state of peace or violence existing in the world. The more intense the red coloration shown in a country, the lower its rating and, therefore, its levels of violence are higher. According to this report, Peru is at an intermediate level, ranking 83rd out of a total of 163 countries evaluated,2 which could suggest that its violence indicators are not very high or that they are not perceived as such.

However, it is necessary to emphasize that the indicators of this index are related both to factors that affect the external security and the internal security of each country. In this sense, if it is considered that Peru currently does not have greater tensions with its neighboring countries, the highest score for these indicators would be related to threats to its internal security.

In this regard, in 2014, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) put an end to the maritime dispute that existed between Peru and Chile. In an act of respect for international law, both countries demonstrated to the world that it is possible to find mechanisms for a peaceful solution to existing disputes. In just two months, the specific coordinates were determined and the judgment of the Court was executed, an action that was highlighted as exemplary by the president of the ICJ himself, the Slovak Peter Tomka.

Likewise, analyzing the security environment in South America, evident advances can be seen in aspects of peace and cooperation, including an upward coordination in matters of foreign policy. Through instruments offered by international institutions, such as the Organization of American States (OAS), some agreements have been signed for the establishment of consultation and cooperation mechanisms on security and defense issues, fostering confidence among the countries of the region.3

Indicators in Peru

Illicit arms trafficking is one of the crimes that has grown considerably in the region, mainly due to the increase in organized crime and common crime, since they require these supplies for their illegal practices. In Peru, the Shining Path terrorist group –although its activities have decreased considerably compared to past decades– continues to be another of the organizations that also require weapons to carry out their illegal activities. In this regard, Gustavo Carrión, General of the Peruvian National Police in retirement and an expert on security issues, assured that Peru is experiencing a critical situation related to illicit arms trafficking, which is out of control and causes the criminals have all the implements to frighten the population.4

Figure 2:  General register of seized weapons


The Report on Seized Arms prepared by the National Superintendency of Control of Security Services, Arms, Ammunition and Explosives for Civil Use (SUCAMEC) shows the high rate of arms seized from crime. The more than 13,400 firearms seized between 2013 and 2016 reflect the alarming amount of weapons that circulate illegally in the country.

Additionally, human trafficking is another crime that has been alarmingly increasing in Peru. Most of these victims are women, who are subjected to acts of sexual exploitation, labor exploitation and domestic exploitation, among others. For this reason, Peru is considered a country of origin, transit and destination, for both men and women (adults, adolescents and children) in a situation of trafficking.

Chart 3: Complaints registered in the Public Ministry for the crime of human trafficking – 2018

Source: INEI

According to the National Institute of Statistics and Informatics (INEI), the number of complaints for the crime of human trafficking registered with the Public Ministry in recent years amounts to more than 6,500 cases. However, most victims do not report their situation to the authorities for fear of reprisals from the people who exploit them or, in some cases, because they are not aware of their victim status.

In this regard, the Australian Non-Governmental Organization Walk Free Foundation, in its latest estimate of cases of slavery by country, considers that in Peru there would be approximately 80,000 cases of human trafficking.5

Another crime that mainly affects the country’s economy is money trafficking or money laundering. This activity consists of concealing the origin of goods from criminal activities, inserting them into the formal market through banking operations. In Peru, the highest percentage of this crime comes from illegal mining and drug trafficking.

According to the Superintendency of Banking, Insurance and AFP (SBS), the Financial Intelligence Reports show that the accumulated amount of banking operations related to money laundering between 2010 and 2019 amounts to almost 15,000 million dollars. However, Olga Johnson, a lawyer from the Peruvian Association of Receptive Tourism Operators (APOTUR), during the Workshop on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorism Financing in Travel Agencies (2018), assured that laundering activities assets would have amounted to about $ 20 billion in 2017 alone.6

Chart 4: gathered  amount in millions of dollars of banking operations related to money laundering

Source:  SBS

On the other hand, common crime, which seriously threatens citizen security, although it is not among the most serious at the international level, is the crime that Peruvian citizens perceive as their main threat. For this reason, the fight against this type of crime is a fundamental part of the work agenda of any authority in the country. Unfortunately, this criminal phenomenon is very complex and multi-causal, so the strategies to combat it have been ineffective. On the contrary, victimization and risk perception are at the highest level, since eight out of ten Peruvians believe that they will be victims of some type of crime.7 According to the Barometer of the Americas, formulated each year by Vanderbilt University, Peru is the country with the highest rate of victimization in Latin America. In this regard, a Technical Report on Citizen Security prepared by the INEI shows that only during the second half of 2017, 25.5% of the total national population (that is, 4 out of 10 people) was the victim of some criminal act.

Likewise, disasters related to natural phenomena are other factors that significantly impact Peruvian society. During the “Niño Costero” of 2017, the National Civil Defense Institute (INDECI) pointed out that this phenomenon had caused a total of 162 deaths, as well as 285,955 people damaged and 1’559,487 affected. Regarding damage to infrastructure, 66,093 houses were completely destroyed and 371,730 affected, as well as more than 150,000 cultivation areas destroyed or affected, among other damages that resulted in incalculable economic losses.

The figures are alarming; However, Peru also faces other threats that must be considered, such as the illegal exploitation of natural resources (which translates into the depredation of the Amazonian forests for the illicit obtaining of wood), illegal mining (which is becoming increasingly common). stronger, controlling areas that are difficult to access for law enforcement agencies), cyber attacks (which constitute one of the great concerns due to existing vulnerabilities and technological progress), climate change (which constitutes a risk condition due to the serious damage that it can generate in agriculture, livestock, among others), and epidemics/pandemics (which generate great human and economic losses, as the current COVID-19 pandemic has been demonstrating). All these threats can cause devastating effects, being able to continue listing some other risk factors that appear or that gradually increase in intensity until they become a latent threat to national security.

According to the Single Victims Registry of the Reparations Council of the Ministry of Justice, terrorist organizations in Peru caused more than 140,000 victims during the 1980s and 1990s However, its actions remain latent in the VRAEM. On the other hand, drug trafficking continues to be a phenomenon that generates other crimes in Peru, such as illicit arms trafficking, money laundering, human trafficking, or common crime. This situation is currently aggravated since in the VRAEM drug trafficking is closely linked to terrorism in a kind of symbiosis of mutual support, coining a new term: narco-terrorism. In this regard, various experts point out that the association between drug trafficking and the Shining Path is widely proven, sharing common objectives such as freeing this territory from the presence of the State and providing mutual facilities for their illicit activities.8

Why are they threats?

In simple terms, a threat to national security is the presence of something harmful and imminent to the nation. However, there are some circumstances that cause many victims and damage to the population, such as traffic accidents in Peru, which in the last four years have caused 19,203 deaths and 23,540 injuries; that is, almost 9 deaths per day 9, what forces to look for a better definition for this term. In this sense, the National Defense College of Mexico states that threats are internal and/or external actions or situations that threaten the sovereignty, independence, freedom or territorial integrity of the nation. This definition, although it is much more extensive, is framed within the classic conception of national security.

In Peru, the former Secretariat of National Defense (SEDENA) pointed out that threats are configured by the recognition by the State of the existence of risks to their security, giving rise to conflicts and disasters. For its part, the Center for Higher National Studies (CAEN), in its Manual of Doctrinal Approaches, defines threats as events or situations that endanger the physical integrity of a person, social group or the entire country, or of resources, heritage, historical heritage, etc. In an attempt to provide a broader definition, considering current circumstances and reviewing some other literature, security threats can be defined as the real or perceived actions, consciously or unconsciously provoked, in a manifest or covert manner, that can give rise to disasters or conflicts and that have the capacity to affect the freedom, integrity and sovereignty of a person, an entity or a State.


In this changing and globalized world, the relative regional stability, the increase in domestic risks (which endanger the freedom and security of the population and the State), as well as the concepts of national defense and internal security seem to merge to be coined in both sides of the same coin. However, these perceptions are not new since terms such as “new threats” or “non-traditional threats” have been outlined for decades in Peruvian doctrine. Unlike traditional threats, which have a known origin and manifest intentions, emerging threats – as their name implies – are new, varied and changing.

Peru is no stranger to these new threats. The analysis of statistical data that reflects its negative consequences serves, not only to appreciate its increase and impact, but also to sensitize decision-makers so that they take the necessary actions to face them. In this sense, the Armed Forces must effectively prepare and fulfill the various roles assigned by the Peruvian State. For this, the State must ensure the allocation of resources that allow the development of the capacities of the armed institutions for the benefit of the society they serve.

Final Notes

1 Institute for Economics and Peace, Affiliations and partners,

2 Institute for Economics and  Peace, Global Peace Index 2020: Measuring peace in a complex world (Sidney: Institute for Economics and Peace, june 2020),, 9.

3 OAS General Assembly, Recognition of the South American Zone of Peace and Cooperation (Guayaquil: July 27, 2002), Declaration of the Presidents of South America in its 2nd. Meeting held in Guayaquil.

4 Gustavo Carrion, “El trafico ilícito de armas en el Perú está fuera de control,” Inforegion (march 16, 2016),

5 Walk Free, Índice Global de Esclavitud 2018 (2018),

6 América Economía, “Advierten que el lavado de activos en Peru alcanza los US$20000M al año,” América Economía (march 21, 2018),

7 Encuesta Nacional de Programas Estratégicos (ENAPRES),

8 Cesar Astudillo Salcedo, Un Ensayo Sobre la Seguridad y la Defensa en el Perú: Nuevas amenazas, nuevos roles (Lima: Escuela Conjunta de las Fuerzas Armadas, december 2017),

9 Instituto Nacional de Estadistica e Informatica, “Denuncias de accidentes de transito no fatales por tipo, según departamento,” (2019) “Victimas de accidentes de transito fatales, según departamento,” (2012-2019), excel skecht,


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The ideas contained in this analysis are the sole responsibility of the author, without necessarily reflecting the thoughts of the CEEEP or the Peruvian Army.

Image: CEEEP