Peru To Use Sports To Counter Guerrillas, Drug Traffickers

By Dialogo
September 30, 2009

The Peruvian government plans to spend $866,000 to build sports facilities in the strife-torn Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, known as the VRAE region, where drug traffickers and the so-called "remnants" of the Shining Path guerrilla group operate, officials said. The goal is to expand the state's presence in the region, where additional army troops have been deployed to bolster security. A total of 15 sports complexes will be built in Ayacucho, Cuzco and Junin provinces, offering facilities for indoor soccer, volleyball, basketball, a running track and stands with the capacity to hold 300 spectators. Arrangements are being made with officials in several areas to construct the sports complexes with the army's assistance and at a cost of 2.6 million nuevos soles ($866,000), Peruvian Sports Institute, or IPD, president Arturo Woodman told RPP radio Tuesday. Half of the funds will come from the IPD, with the remainder of the money being provided by the municipalities selected to receive a sports facility. Woodman traveled on Tuesday to Ayacucho to visit the districts where the sports complexes will be constructed. He will travel from there to Cuzco and Junin. The Shining Path has been blamed for an increase in violence in Peru's interior in recent months. The guerrilla group has a presence in both the Upper Huallaga Valley and the VRAE region. The Upper Huallaga Valley is a center of coca cultivation and cocaine production. The guerrilla group's remnants operate in both valleys, working with drug traffickers and staging attacks on the security forces. The Maoist-inspired Shining Path 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. Founder Abimael 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." The Shining Path's remnants did not comply with Guzman's order more than a decade ago to end the armed struggle, and he does not recognize them as members of the group.