AOC tries to block funding for U.S. military intervention in Peru
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., is proposing a halt to Defense Department funding over intervention in Peru. | AP

According to a report appearing July 8 on a Peruvian website—and apparently not yet in any English-language internet news source—Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act requiring that, until conditions are met, a hold be put on Defense Department funding for its activities in Peru during fiscal year 2024.

Ocasio-Cortez introduced her amendment on June 29; the House Rules Committee will take it up on July 11.

As long as any suspension of funding remains, the U.S. military would not be permitted to “provide, authorize, or assist in any way in the transfer of defense articles, defense services, crowd-control supplies, or any other supplies, to [Peru’s] Government, or to coordinate joint exercises with the military or police forces of [Peru’s] Government.”

Ocasio-Cortez introduced her amendment six weeks after additional U.S. troops with weapons began to arrive in Peru. That was two months after Peru’s military and police reached a crescendo of violence marking repressive actions for weeks against mostly Indigenous peoples. They were demanding elections, a new constitution, and the removal of President Dina Boluarte.

The protests were in response to the parliamentary coup that deposed President Pedro Castillo on Dec. 7, replacing him with Boluarte, vice president at the time. Castillo remains in prison.

Elected in July 2021 on the strength of rural and Indigenous votes, the inexperienced and often isolated Castillo tried to bring about progressive change. Opposing him was a well-entrenched oligarchy accustomed to holding political power and benefiting from foreign investments in Peru’s plentiful natural resources.

Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment calls for no funding until “the Secretary of Defense submits to the appropriate congressional committees the certification…that each of the following criteria has been met.” These include free elections in Peru, no repression of “peaceful protesters and indigenous communities,” investigation of “the killings of protesters in Peru on Dec. 14, 2022,” prosecution of those responsible, the return of free speech, respect for civil liberties, and more.

The ‘‘appropriate congressional committees’’ are the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees of the House and the same two committees in the Senate.

Peru’s Congress on May 19 authorized the entry of U.S. troops who will undertake “training activities” throughout the country and stay until Dec. 31, 2023. On May 26, Peru’s Congress approved additional authorization for 1,172 U.S. troops, who will be collaborating with Peruvian counterparts in an exercise called “Resolute Sentinel 2023” that will end on Aug. 29.

Legislation is on the books: the particular Leahy Law that applies to the Defense Department “requires that [funds appropriated to the Defense Department] may not be used for any training, equipment, or other assistance for a foreign security force unit if the Secretary of Defense has credible information that such unit has committed a gross violation of human rights.”

With 19 other congresspersons, Ocasio-Cortez signed a letter to President Joe Biden on Jan. 30 expressing “alarm regarding the human rights violations committed by Peruvian state security forces.” The letter called upon the Biden administration to halt “security assistance funding from the United States” to Peru until this “pattern of repression has ended.”

That Ocasio-Cortez signed this letter and introduced her amendment suggests an attitude on her part that is unusual among her progressively inclined congressional colleagues and even among her progressively-inclined fellow citizens. She is apparently one of the relatively few in both categories who take upon themselves the obligation to stand up against U.S. interventions abroad serving the high and mighty.

The time required for mobilizing support for Ocasio-Cortez’s amendment before it was presented to the Rules Committee was entirely lacking.  The appearance on that account has been one of low expectations and of hopes for the future, maybe.

The consciousness-raising effect of the effort is important. But the evident lack of supporters mobilized on behalf of the amendment has meaning, too. Clearly, there’s much work ahead for the anti-imperialist cause in the United States, and recruits are badly needed.


W. T. Whitney Jr.
W. T. Whitney Jr.

W.T. Whitney Jr. is a political journalist whose focus is on Latin America, health care, and anti-racism. A Cuba solidarity activist, he formerly worked as a pediatrician, lives in rural Maine. W.T. Whitney Jr. es un periodista político cuyo enfoque está en América Latina, la atención médica y el antirracismo. Activista solidario con Cuba, anteriormente trabajó como pediatra, vive en la zona rural de Maine.