The arrest of the terrorist criminal and drug trafficker Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, better known as “camarada Artemio,” has restored Peruvians’ hopes for a better future, for which reason it is indispensable to be prepared for final victory. In this regard, several considerations have yet to be addressed:
What awaits us after this arrest? In order to answer this question, it is necessary to understand the conditions that facilitated the arrest and explain why it took so long.
In July 2009, the terrorist remnants of Shining Path, specifically those commanded by the terrorist criminal and drug trafficker Víctor Quispe Palomino, alias “camarada José,” set themselves two political objectives in the Huallaga Valley. One was to raise awareness among the masses; the other to annihilate “camarada Artemio” in order to expand their power and control into the Huallaga region.
The mission of destroying “camarada Artemio” was assigned in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) to “camarada Roger.” At the same time, “camarada William” was designated to set up support bases in the populated areas of Uchubamba, Monobamba, and Cerro de Pasco [districts located in central Peru] (that are strategically valuable areas for expanding the group’s area of influence), coordinating these actions with the drug traffickers who worked with him, who also began to win over informants, leading to increased corruption and social conflicts in those populated centers.
In this way, “José” made preparations to expand his influence and unite the VRAE and Huallaga, with the strategic objective of showing the national and international drug-trafficking community that the alliance between terrorism and drug trafficking in Peru was growing under his faction and that it had become a threat in geographical areas where the state, the Armed Forces, and the National Police (PN) had no domain whatsoever.
Let us remember the treacherous attacks at Tintaypunco and Sanbamba, where they surprised Military patrols. These events puffed “José” up to such an extent that he wanted to become the lord of coca in Peru.
From that moment, the fate of “Artemio” was sealed. “Camarada Roger” did not succeed in carrying out the assassination of “camarada Artemio,” because the resources and aid that he requested were not provided, and because the strategy designed by the Armed Forces Joint Command, in coordination with the PN (August 2009), had succeeded in surrounding “Artemio,” on the understanding that it was logical to first trap the weaker opponent and then move to neutralize the terrorist criminal “José.”
The capture of “Artemio” should have taken place since September 2009 and not two years later. What happened? This is a question which must be answered as soon as possible; otherwise, the opportunity for this to happen again remains a possibility. This time, nevertheless, it is important to remember that the corruption created by drug trafficking is wide, and it is not precisely known what levels of the state it may have reached.
With the arrest of “Artemio,” a power vacuum has been created in the Huallaga region. Who will take his place? In this regard, we can establish three hypotheses:
That the power vacuum will be occupied by a terrorist criminal from the faction led by “Artemio” is possible, although unlikely. “Artemio” did not prepare a successor, and at the same time, the terrorist criminals who might fill that role have been arrested or killed by security forces.
That the power vacuum will be occupied by the terrorist criminal “José.” This is the worst thing that could happen to the country [Peru]. Nevertheless, as far as I can tell, this hypothesis may be the most accurate one.
That the power vacuum will be occupied by the state. It is key to have Government be the entity that assumes authority and economic, social, political, and military control of the Huallaga region, imposes the will of Peru’s 30 million people, and consolidates true and lasting peace and development. Along those lines, we must keep in mind the aid that we can obtain from neighboring and partner countries such as the United States, Colombia, and Brazil, knowing that this is a national and international fight.
Can the terrorist criminal “José” occupy the power vacuum in Huallaga? With support from drug traffickers, this could happen. If drug trafficking grows outside the area of the VRAE, terrorism grows, if and when they maintain their alliance.
“José” knows the procedures that security forces used to arrest “Artemio,” for which reason the intelligence procedures to be used should be more ingenious, creative, and bold. In the same way, strategic intelligence should pay special attention to the sharpening of social conflicts (aggravation of contradictions) in the Huallaga and VRAE areas, because it will be a revelation that “José” is probably controlling the area.
How should the Peruvian state occupy this power vacuum?
From the economic point of view, the state apparatus should prepare to assume control of Huallaga with a sustainable legal economy that can show the inhabitants that they can make economic progress without the need for coca.
Socially, education should be emphasized, especially for the poorest inhabitants, so that they can participate actively in the legal economy that the state is proposing. Likewise, it is key to improve their quality of life and introduce greater equity and social inclusion. Processes of migration from the coast and the mountains to Huallaga should also be promoted, especially involving retired Military personnel, who should previously be made aware of the issues of security, defense, and development. Rebuilding the middle class is another point of overwhelming importance.
Politically, over the short term, social leaders who can lead these great changes need to be trained and designated. It is necessary to investigate our democratically elected authorities to establish if they supported narcotrafficking and terrorism.
Militarily, the support bases of “camarada Artemio” and drug traffickers in the area are disoriented. There are terrorist criminals who want to turn in their weapons and switch sides; their surrender and the handover of their weapons needs to be facilitated. It should be understood that the Armed Forces need to confront drug trafficking and that the terrorist criminals in the Huallaga and VRAE areas have lost all their ideology and have become an armed instrument in the service of drug traffickers.
At the national level, authorities must take into account that there are three kinds of drug traffickers: those who have a strategic alliance with terrorism (VRAE, Huallaga), those who have a strategic alliance with the FARC (Iquitos, Putumayo), and those who are allied directly with international enterprises and cartels. It is highly possible that “José” intends to unify them at the national level.
Internationally, the arrest of “Artemio” has restored and increased the confidence of neighboring and partner countries in our stability. Let us not make decisions in situations of uncertainty; let us propose scenarios of risk and, why not, of certainty .
Peruvian society should understand that security is inherent to development and that the professionalization and modernization of the Armed Forces is not an expense but an investment; one that is going to give the country the ability to negotiate in a globalized world in which pacts, accords, and agreements are our daily bread and these should not under any circumstances be negotiated asymmetrically. We need to activate the immediate training of professional negotiators.
The need to strengthen the national intelligence system is urgent so that it not only reports on the activities of drug traffickers and terrorists, but also recommends possible political, social, economic, security, environmental, and international solutions; in this way, it will contribute to decision-making at the highest level.
Likewise, we need to establish a national strategic planning system for development, in such a way that it is the state that invests and directs development in places where private investment does not exist.
It must be understood that in front of terrorism lies drug trafficking, which is going to finance an economic (increasing corruption), political (inappropriate legal framework), social (sharpening of contradictions), and military (use of terrorism) strategy .