Peru Rejects Violence
By Dialogo November 13, 2009*DIÁLOGO: After the capture of its founder Abimael Guzmán, Shining Path fell apart, but recently this group has intensified its violence. Is this a resurgence, or is it a different type of Shining Path?* *Col. Alva:* Today’s Shining Path is not the same Shining Path as when it started in the ’80s and ’90s. During that initial stage, it had a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist political ideology, and a political objective to destroy the state and establish a communist government in Peru. The difference is that after Abimael Guzmán and all the other Shining Path and MRTA (Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) leaders were captured, they were left without political leadership. From then on, it became a strictly military movement, without political objectives. In its current phase, drug trafficking is the source of income that allows [its leaders] to cover living expenses, buy weapons and work in the production and exporting of drugs. They continue murdering and ambushing and are more active because they have more resources to buy weapons and communication equipment; even using these resources from drug trafficking to win over the population by providing support. It is resurfacing dangerously as a narco-terrorist movement, with no political leadership. There is no longer any ideological support. *DIÁLOGO: What is the Peruvian armed forces’ plan to fight and eliminate the threat of Shining Path?* *Col. Alva:* In the ’80s and ’90s, the armed forces fought on a wider front because the national territory was affected more extensively by Shining Path and MRTA, even in urban areas. The battle was intense and was won with the support of the urban population and the rural communities, specifically those that were organized and that worked with the armed forces. Now it is different, because the narcoterrorist movement Shining Path only controls a very small, but extremely difficult to access, area of the national territory. They are hidden there in trenches and caves; it is a very small area. Shining Path no longer exerts influence over large populations such as those in urban areas, the capital or other large cities. The role of the state is to reduce drug trafficking as a source of funding and to capture narcoterrorist leaders to secure peace and development. *DIÁLOGO: Can the Shining Path take advantage of the crisis between the government and the indigenous population?* *Col. Alva:* Shining Path and other radical internal and external movements create and take advantage of these situations and of the population to achieve their objectives. Two aspects are present here: the narcoterrorist influence of Shining Path and other radicals; and the influence from external destabilizing movements. Peru is helping stabilize the region with a successful model for development, but there is another trend that proposes a different model that challenges the Peruvian one. Peru achieved social and economic development through organized support and an appropriate legal framework with the help of engineering battalions and very firm political leadership. Terrorist leaders were isolated and captured. Currently, the FARC, if pressured by the Colombian armed forces, could enter Peru and set up there. But that hasn’t happened because Peru’s armed forces, in conjunction with the Colombian armed forces, are working in the eastern region to contain the FARC. So far Peru has assumed three tasks: One is to fight narcoterrorism, another is to contain that regional movement and another is to contain the FARC. *Diálogo: Is there a demobilization program in Peru for former Shining Path and MRTA terrorists?* *Col. Alva:* Shining Path and MRTA were defeated. Legislation was passed so that terrorists who repent are protected and reincorporated into society. But for that, they have to provide information on the location of their superiors in Shining Path. This program has been in place since the ’90s; it has allowed the capture of many leaders. The VRAE [Apurimac and Ene River Valley] Program is the most important one. It is governed by a civilian authority and includes education, health, housing, transportation, energy and defense sectors. It is a comprehensive plan to pacify the entire region. The population of this area is under the control of the narcoterrorists. There are approximately 3,000 native inhabitants working in the coca fields and in production. The plan is for the state to come in with health, road and education systems, and for the armed forces to rescue the population, and locate and capture narco-terrorist groups. *DIÁLOGO: What programs do you have for displaced populations?* *Col. Alva: *Displaced populations receive state support such as social assistance in education and health, along with investment in agriculture and roads, so they can return to their homes and repopulate the area. *DIÁLOGO: Do you think there will come a day when Shining Path no longer exists?* *Col. Alva:* As long as there is a drug trafficking problem, there will be a Shining Path or some other movement. When Peru becomes a model for development, external violence will be reduced, and it will contribute to the stability of the South American region. *DIÁLOGO: Considering your position within Southern Command, how can one help confront a threat such as Shining Path?* *Col. Alva:* As liaison officer, I help improve relations between Southern Command and Peru’s Joint Command to face common threats. It’s easy to communicate with the officers from the military group in Peru or with the officers from Southern Command. Queries can be handled, and advice and input is provided toward improving the programs. There are budget and funding limitations, but to prioritize locating the narcoterrorists would be very useful. *DIÁLOGO: What is the Peruvians’ perspective regarding terrorism and narcoterrorism?* *Col. Alva:* The perception of the Peruvian people is of rejection, total rejection, because we experienced it in the ’80s and ’90s and, based on that, the consensus is to construct a democratic state that will eradicate narcoterrorism.