Monday, April 21, 2014

Peru This Week: Peru’s security forces versus The Shining Path: Successes and challenges

"Peru's Security Forces vs The Shining Path: Successes and Challenges"
W. Alejandro Sanchez
Peru This Week
April 21, 2014
Originally published:

After the recent capture of 24 leaders linked to Shining Path ‘political arm,’ MOVADEF, Peru this Week looks back at successes and challenges Peru’s security forces have had in their fight against the Shining Path.

The Peruvian government and armed forces have stepped up their operations against the Shining Path, a narco-insurgent movement that has terrorized the Andean nation since the early 1980s. In recent months, the Peruvian media has reported the capture of numerous Shining Path fighters as well as sympathizers.
Nevertheless, a word of caution is necessary: even though this terrorist movement has been severely weakened, it remains active in the Peruvian highlands and Amazon, profiting from drug trafficking, namely cocaine.
Peru made international headlines after an operation carried out by the police and military on Wednesday April 9, in which 24 individuals were arrested in Lima and Puno (a southern region that borders Bolivia). Said individuals are members of MOVADEF, an organization regarded as the “political wing” of the Shining Path. One of the arrested was Alfredo Crespo, the leader of MOVADEF and also the lawyer of Abimael Guzman, founder and leader of the Shining Path. (Guzman is currently serving a life sentence at a naval base in Callao). Peruvian President Ollanta Humala applauded the operation and called for the Ministry of Justice to move along with the process in order for the detained individuals to be given a timely trial.
This operation comes at the heels of a similarly important development: the Peruvian police detained a Shining Path leader and three fighters this past March. The Shining Path leader that was arrested is Jairo Diaz Vega (AKA “comrade Percy” or “comrade Freddy”) who took command of the group’s branch in the Huallaga valley after the 2012 capture of Florindo Flores (AKA “comrade Artemio”) and the 2013 elimination of Alejandro Borda (AKA “comrade Alipio”). In other writings, I have discussed how Artemio’s capture was an immensely important development as, since his capture, the narco-terrorist group has been severely fractionalized.
Nowadays, the Shining Path is estimated to have around 300 active fighters that operate in two areas, the Huallaga Valley and the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM), which are located in the Peruvian highlands, bordering the Amazon. The group is weak and cannot threaten the stability of the country as it did during the 1980s, when it operated throughout most of the countryside and major urban areas. During that decade, the Shining Path carried out atrocious human rights violations, including the massacre of peasants and a plethora of car bomb attacks in Lima and elsewhere in the country.
Nevertheless, even during its current weak state, the Shining Path remains active and bold enough to occasionally attack the Peruvian military. During the evening of Saturday, April 12, Shining Path insurgents attacked an army base in Corazonpata, in the Ayacucho region (Southern Peru). An unknown number of fighters exchanged fire with soldiers for around 20 minutes. While no Peruvian military personnel were killed, the fact that narco-insurgents attacked a military base demonstrates that they still have sufficient fighters and the willingness to carry out offensive tactics.
Sadly, while Lima has achieved victories against the Shining Path in recent months, drug trafficking continues. This is a big problem as drug trafficking, namely cocaine, is the major source of income of both this narco-insurgent movement as well as several other criminal entities in the country.
The Shining Path and other criminal networks traffic cocaine from Peru via an “air bridge” to Bolivia and Brazil, from which it is trafficked to Europe. The Peruvian armed forces regularly destroy illegal landing strips used by the Shining Path and others to fly drugs to the aforementioned nations, but new ones are quickly built to replace them. An insightful June 2013 article in the Peruvian daily La República explained that peasants in the Peruvian Andes and Amazon are paid in $60 USD per day by drug traffickers to build new landing strips.
In 2014, the Shining Path is not the monster that terrorized the Peruvian population during the 1980s and early 1990s. The Peruvian government has scored major victories in recent months, and the capture of its senior leaders and supporters will continue to weaken the Shining Path. Nevertheless, the group remains active, as evidenced by its ongoing operations, from drug trafficking to attacking Peruvian military facilities. Moreover, even if the Shining Path can one day (hopefully in the near future) be regarded as a defunct narco-terrorist movement, drug trafficking will continue to be a major security challenge for the Peruvian government and society.

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