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Researching UFO Cases in Peru: My Collaboration with OIFAA (the Office of Investigations of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena)

In the year 2001, just after the ignominious end of the Fujimori regime, the Peruvian Air Force publicly announced in Lima, Peru the creation of an office that would research UFO (unidentified flying object) events. These events were technically called "anomalous aerial phenomena" and were of interest to the Peruvian state because of broad national security concerns. In previous months there had been 'flaps' of UFO sightings over Lima, some of which had been filmed or photographed. Obviously, if large solid objects of unknown origin were occasionally flying without restraint over national air space, data gathering and intelligent analysis in relation to their origins was required. The issue of air safety and the recognition that there were non-authorized flying objects and/or unknown devices moving about over the territory were good reasons to investigate more proactively. Moreover, there are testimonies that in 1991 former president Alberto Fujimori had a clear UFO sighting in the Amazon during his first term. After this, I suspect that elements of his administration might have been more inclined to set up a UFO research office.

Air Force Commander Julio Cesar Chamorro (who eventually disclosed Fujimori's sighting after the latter no longer was president) was assigned to lead the OIFAA headquarters located in the modern district of Miraflores, a predominantly middle class, tourist destination in Lima. In fact, Peru was not unique in these endeavors since already in South America the governments of Chile, Uruguay, Brazil, and Argentina had officially established their own similar offices. Furthermore, it was known that in Chile there was some degree of collaboration between universities, private researchers and the FACH (the Chilean Air Force). In fact, I suspect that the OIFAA followed a structure similar to Chile's CEFAA (Research Committee of Anomalous Aerial Phenomena) which, after being discontinued for some years was reactivated in 2010. Interestingly the original announcement for the prompt inauguration of this office was a public affair to which the Peruvian press, Spanish paranormal reporter Juan José Benitez, contactee Ricardo Gonzales and researchers like me attended. This kind of openness reminds me of the first attempts made by the U.S. Air Force in the 1940' s and 1950's attempting to conduct similar research by establishing projects Sign, Grudge and Blue Book. Today the U.S. Government denies having a similar research office particularly interested in UFOs but, in Perú, there still is a sui generis degree of openness. While the OIFAA is currently inactive, DINAE (the Division of Aerospace Interests which was the Peruvian Air Force's department under which it operated), is -at least in theory- still publicly accessible for UFO reports.

According to my sociological observations, to those of anthropologist Fernando Fuenzalida Vollmar (an important collaborator with OIFAA), and also to Commander Chamorro's, generally speaking, there's an interesting socio-cultural difference between Peruvian and U.S. citizens: In the U.S. upon seeing a UFO, a typical U.S. citizen will tend to be extremely shaken, perhaps experiencing a life-changing event, but in Peru, he or she may more easily assimilate it, perhaps not even bothering to call authorities. Commander Chamorro recounts that one day the OIFAA received a call from peasants in a remote part of Peru and, rather than being concerned with a scary 'alien invasion' or with a national security issue, they asked the air force to interfere with the unknowns in order to stop the racket raised by their animals every time an unknown object landed near their fields and strange creatures came out. This lack of mind-altering interest (perhaps associated with a greater cultural-attitudinal 'naturalness' toward miracles, mythic and anomalous events) was perhaps one of the reasons why, upon opening the office, many mass media interviews were granted asking citizens to call in and to report any strange happenings. In fact, the degree of openness was exemplary in terms of the spirit that should prevail in democratic countries as even unequivocal UFO cases that involved the military with visual, radar, collective and other strong degrees of evidence were publicly discussed. One such cases was that of Captain Oscar Santa María Huertas who, in 1980 (after approximately 1800-2000 eye witnesses saw a well-defined stationary UFO during at 7.15AM over the 'La Jolla' Peruvian Air Force Base), intercepted and several times shot at the object hitting it with high caliber rounds with no apparent results. A very serious declaration can be found at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f8vYDcSGSis

Although I'm more interested in philosophy now, back in the year 2000 I was best known as a UFO researcher. I had befriended and interviewed many alleged contactees, abductees and other researchers and (along with real estate attorney and lively paranormal researcher Anthony Choy Montes and anthropologist Fernando Fuenzalida Vollmar) was invited to collaborate as a civilian researcher with the OIFAA. The work environment in our small budget office was welcoming and friendly and (having conducted some field work and read important manuals -like MUFON's- on UFO field work) I carefully prepared a dossier explaining many conceptual aspects of Ufology including general protocols and specific procedures for conducting objective UFO research.

At the OIFAA I met some air force pilots that had experienced UFO encounters and did enjoy many learned conversations with the erudite anthropologist and university Professor Fernando Fuenzalida. I learned that no Peruvian Air Force pilots had been shot down by UFO-related aggression but that -after a UFO sighting- one of them had experienced three hours of 'missing time' without the corresponding loss of fuel. Shortly before distancing myself from the OIFAA I learned that -after a UFO sighting- a high-ranking military officer began to automatically write latitude and longitude coordinates. During my time at this office, I didn't detect any attempt at covering up any aspect of UFO events to the citizenry. Furthermore, I didn't detect any restrictions from higher military or governmental echelons other than the implicit imperative to maintain a rational-scientific approach that would support the respectable image of the Air Force. Commander Chamorro was always welcoming and mentally open toward many approaches to the UFO Phenomenon and -trying not to overwhelm him with the complexities of the subject matter- I gradually shared in a convivial setting some of the knowledge I had acquired in Ufology since my initial involvement 1974.

I collaborated with the OIFAA for about a year and a half and also tried to convince its officers to use the abilities of alleged telepathic and/or physical Peruvian contactees in an attempt to witness and to film an agreed-upon extraterrestrial vehicle overfly, or perhaps a unique maneuver or landing. Thinking that the Peruvian cultural mindset was not overtly condemnatory in a religious way against the possibility of extraterrestrials visiting us, and thinking that there might at least be a small chance of success, I wanted the Peruvian Air Force to be the first air force in the world to verify the existence of a technologically advanced extraterrestrial presence. Unfortunately, as feared, I found that there was no interest to this approach. The Peruvian culture didn't seem to be too original or creative to take the lead in extraordinary affairs in the world today and, moreover (and understandably) there was little faith in contactees who, for the most part, also generate profuse mythic-like cosmologies and who may or may not deliver the expected unequivocal sightings. There was no interest in giving it a try. Nonetheless I understood that, in spite of positive results being of potentially important worldwide consequences, since a public institution was involved, there was a fine line between being democratically open to the public and exposing the institution to an experimental attempt that might not only end in failure but in publicized ridicule. Going out to the fields with contactee and camcorders on tripods, even if for a simple, innocent attempt was due to a combination of fear, lack of interest and prejudice, blocked away. Perhaps it would have been a failure but at least a discreet attempt would have been fun a reasonable part of our research. Thus, once again, I verified that in the UFO field lofty expectations for grand disclosure events capable of raising worldwide collective interest and cultural awareness sturdily tend to be -in one way or another and however plausibly and rationally promoted- thwarted and/or resisted upon.

During an annual Air Force public relations fair we set up a booth and I was surprised by the sheer number of individuals that approached eager to give us their testimonies. Then there were those that called the office and who were later interviewed. Some of them not only referred to possible anomalous sightings but even to alleged close encounters of the third kind). Some of them had psychological problems and their ET contact promises led nowhere. Nevertheless, during 2001 there was intense UFO activity over and about 'Chulucanas', a small town in northern Peru and (due to a grave illness in my immediate family) I wasn't able to go to the site to conduct research on behalf of OIFAA. Nonetheless (with great dedication and enthusiasm), Dr. Anthony Choy took the bus and went to that town, interviewed local witnesses, and also investigated some anomalous events that were taking place around the nearby Pilan Hill. Then, he returned with interesting videos of luminous objects, one of which recorded a larger, luminous, and rather amorphous 'mass' hovering over Chulucanas for a couple of hours. We must understand that, due to a very small budget, civilian collaborators like Dr. Choy and I were not paid and this meant that all of us had to find ways and means to conduct research ad honorem. Anyhow, 'Chulucanas' was the 'watershed' case for OIFAA and it was also publicly divulged in local radio and TV stations. Various analysis showed that the objects were anomalous. In 2003 Dr. Choy travelled to 'Piura La Vieja', a 'sleepy' town not far from Chulucanas and obtained more interviews and videos of other interesting UFO events. Then in 2004, the U.S. Hispanic network UNIVISION came to Peru, travelled with Dr. Choy and filmed some anomalous lights. Dr. Choy then returned many more times to this region in northern Peru. A U Tube link with the History Channel's interview of Dr. Choy's investigation is found at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6TTDN6DoeFQ

After having left the OIFAA for a few years, in 2005 I returned to its headquarters in Miraflores and found that my carefully crafted UFO research dossier had been lost. Moreover, the many UFO photographs and videos that I had left in custody at the vault had also been lost. Apparently in 2004 OIFAA computers with their digital archives were also stolen. Unnecessary losses like this often happen in Peru when administrations change and when informality and self interests reign. Another commander was leading the office and, after my concise interview with him, I realized that there was less interest to relate with the general citizenry as openly as before. Moreover, I was told that - according to new policies- in order to collaborate with OIFAA again, I had to take a strategic defense course at CAEN (the Center for Superior National Studies). Dr. Fuenzalida (now deceased) taught part of this course it and Dr. Choy had already taken it by the year 2005 but his continued collaboration with OIFAA had also dwindled as it may not have been as welcomed as before. Dr. Choy now conducts a popular weekend radio show on UFOs and the paranormal and continues to gather witness testimonies. As of today, the OIFAA office is inactive but, according to Commander Chamorro, it may once again become active when needed. An interview (in Spanish) with Commander Chamorro can be linked at: http://twextra.com/agprwt


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