Secretary Gates Visits Latin America to ‘Explore Opportunities for More Cooperation’

gatesDefense Secretary Robert M. Gates yesterday paid a visit to Lima, Peru, which is the first stop on his Latin America tour where he hopes to encourage continued multilateral cooperation in confronting common threats and to explore new ways the United States can help.

Gates told reporters he plans to recognize successes already made as the region faces insurgencies, drug trafficking and other challenges, and said he hopes to “explore opportunities for more cooperation.”

“We very much support and are prepared to facilitate … the growing regional cooperation that is going on among these different countries, Peru and Colombia, and I might say, Mexico as well,” Gates said. “This kind of cooperation is very important. They face similar types of problems with insurgents and narcotics and crime, and so figuring out how we can further help them in their own efforts and also in their cooperation with one another is an important opportunity.”

Gates is planning on meeting with President Alan Garcia and Defense Minister Rafael Rey today to discuss Peru’s fight against illicit drug trafficking and the Shining Path terrorist organization. Also known as Sendero Luminoso, the Shining Path has begun to resurface in recent years through sporadic violent attacks funded largely through cocaine trafficking, a senior defense official told reporters.

The Peru trip follows Monday’s signing of a new defense cooperation agreement with Brazil. Gates called that accord “an important step forward in our bilateral relationship [and] our military-to-military relationship with Brazil.”

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