Minister: Shining Path Remains A Threat In Peru’s Jungles

By Dialogo
August 06, 2009

Peru's interior minister said the Shining Path guerrilla group's remnants remain a threat to public safety in the jungles of the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, known as the VRAE region. A statement qualified declarations made earlier in the day by Interior Minister Octavio Salazar, who had said the guerrilla group no longer posed a threat to the country. Salazar referred in the statement to an attack last weekend by the Shining Path on a police special operations base in San Jose de Seque, a district in the southern Andean province of Ayacucho, that left three officers and two civilians dead. The interior minister said there was a "perverse alliance" in the VRAE between the rebels and drug traffickers. "Regarding this subject, the security forces and the government have to work and carry out activities with the aim of eliminating this blight from that place. And that perverse alliance, I repeat, that they have with drug trafficking," the minister said. The interior minister acknowledges that there "exists a latent danger" in the VRAE and that his office was "fully committed to the fight against narcoterrorism in all areas of the country," the statement said. "What it means (is) that Shining Path continues to represent a threat as long as it is not gone from that place," Salazar said. Officers Javier Fernandez Guevera, Prudencio Laurico Mamani and Carloto Soto Giuseppi died in the attack early Sunday. Soto's wife and mother-in-law were also killed. The attack was apparently carried out by guerrillas allied with drug traffickers in the area, which is deep in the VRAE region, where drug cartels and the Shining Path operate. The Shining Path's remnants regularly stage ambushes and other attacks on the security forces. In May, the La Republica newspaper reported that Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman, who is serving a life sentence for terrorism, called the remaining members of the guerrilla group operating in the VRAE region mercenaries. "It's a group of mercenaries who look out for their personal interests and not those of the people. They are simplistic, they do not know ideology. They have practically tossed Marxism-Leninism-Maoism into the trash can," Guzman told National Police intelligence officers. Guzman was referring to brothers Victor and Jorge Quispe Palomino, known as "Comrade Jose" and "Comrade Raul," respectively, as well as to Leonardo Huaman Zuñiga, known as "Comrade Alipio." The men are all Shining Path leaders in the VRAE, a jungle area in southern and southeastern Peru that has a strong presence of the group's remaining members and drug traffickers. The remnants of the Shining Path did not comply with Guzman's order more than a decade ago to end the armed struggle. Guzman does not recognize the remaining fighters as Shining Path members. The government launched a military offensive a year ago in the VRAE region in an effort to gain control of Vizcatan, considered the Shining Path's last bastion. The Maoist-inspired group launched its uprising on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province. A truth commission appointed by former President Alejandro Toledo blamed the Shining Path for most of the nearly 70,000 deaths the panel ascribed to politically motivated violence during the two decades following the group's 1980 uprising. The guerrilla group also caused an estimated $25 billion in economic losses, according to commission estimates. Guzman, known to his fanatic followers as "President Gonzalo," was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that marked the "defeat" of the insurgency. Guzman, who was a professor of philosophy at San Cristobal University before initiating his armed struggle in the Andean city of Ayacucho, once predicted that 1 million Peruvians would probably have to die in the ushering-in of the new state envisioned by Shining Path. The group became notorious for some of its innovations, such as blowing apart with dynamite the bodies of community service workers its members killed, or hanging stray canines from lampposts as warnings to "capitalist dogs."