Bogota, Colombia (Apr. 2)
— The Commander of the Peruvian Air Force, Lt. Gen. Luis Arias Graziani, has warned that if Israel sells Kfir fighter jets to Ecuador, Peru will expand its Air Force to maintain an “equilibrium.”
Graziani raised the possibility of an arms race between the two uneasy neighbors following the conclusion of an official eight-day visit to Peru by Italian Air Force Chief General Alberto Bertoluchi late last month. Graziani said “If imbalances are produced (with Ecuador), Peru will try all manner of maintaining the equilibrium (of forces).”
In January and February Peru and Ecuador skirmished at three border posts in the disputed territory of the Cordillera del Condor, which separates their two countries in a thick, uncharted jungle zone. Relations have been strained between the two Andean nations since 1942.
In that year they ended a war fought over the Amazonian jungle region they had both claimed, by signing the Protocolo de Rio de Janeiro. Ecuador subsequently abrogated the treaty, claiming that unfair terms had been forced on it by the signatory powers: the United States, Brazil, Argentina and Chile.
ISRAEL DENIES PLANE SALE
Military sources in Lima claim that several months ago Ecuador signed a contract to buy a squadron of 20 Israeli Kfir fighter jets. Nevertheless, Israel’s Ambassador to Peru, Gideon Tadmor, categorically denied the report by stating “there has not been any plane sale to Ecuador.”
Unconfirmed reports originating in Lima allege that several months ago when Ecuador’s interest in the Kfir become apparent Peru sent Javier Alva Orlandi, Second Vice President of the country, to Israel to “block or delay” the sale. On his return to Peru, Alva Orlandi announced the success of his mission.
Now, according to Peruvian Congressional Deputy Miguel Angel, if the Israeli-Ecuadorian arms sale is concluded the Congress will ask the Peruvian Chancellory to break relations with Israel for “disloyalty” to Peru.
Peru is presently negotiating a comprehensive military package with Italy that would include the technical training of Peruvian Air Force pilots, the sale of 14 MACHI M-339 trainer planes and the construction of an assembly plant for the MACHI. Italy has previously supplied the Peruvian Navy with four coastal patrol ships armed with rockets and has agreed to train the Peruvians to build such ships in the future.