“If We Don’t Do Something, We Will Have Our Own FARC,” Says Chief Of Peruvian Army
By Dialogo April 20, 2009The general commander of the Peruvian Army, Otto Guibovich, said in an interview with the newspaper El Comercio that if they fail to adequately confront the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), that organization could develop into a group like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). Guibovich refers to the ongoing changes that the remaining members of the Shining Path are experimenting with in the coca zone of the valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers (VRAE) where, using money they receive from their relationship with drug traffickers, they are becoming increasingly better equipped and more closely connected with the local population. “The Path has changed its relationship with the population (...), they do not deprive them of their properties (...), now they go to a town and provide its inhabitants with drinkable water, in another they build a sport field or paint the school," said the head of the Peruvian Army. On the subject of weapons, Guibovich told El Comercio that, according to reports from 2008, the remaining members of the Shining Path may possess “17 grenade launchers, two anti-aircraft and four terrestrial machine guns, and over 400 armed members." "If we don’t do something, they will get more powerful, and by the time we understand the situation, we will have our own group like the FARC," added the general commander. According to Guibovich, the group gets the money necessary for this development from its dealings with drug traffickers. "They maintain an ideological part, not as much as they did in the 90s, but living on extortion and drug trafficking," said the Peruvian soldier, who added that, because of this, the Path “has a lot of money." Given this growth, Guibovich pledges to work with the army to support the population, in order to keep the peasants in the area from supporting the armed group. "It is like nothing we’ve done before, but the work is slow. There is no infrastructure, no drinking water, no health; we are working on it," said the general commander. This situation also covers military officers in the VRAE, since their budget, in Guibovich’s words, "is never sufficient.” "We will build six antiterrorist bases, but not for more. We aren’t complaining, but it would be good to improve the budget," he said. According to Guibovich, this improvement would also include buying new equipment and weapons for troops, a task that is slowed down by state bureaucracy. Last week 14 soldiers, including a minor, were killed during an ambush in VRAE, an event that was later claimed by the terrorist group Shining Path.