Peruvian Soldiers, Police Rescue Children and Families from the Shining Path

Peruvian Soldiers, Police Rescue Children and Families from the Shining Path

By Dialogo
September 08, 2015

Peru’s Armed Forces and National Police agents have rescued 54 people, including 34 children, from “production camps” controlled by the Shining Path terrorist group in the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM) region.

During two separate rescue operations carried out in the Junín region of the ​​San Martín de Pangoa province in late July, Troops and police officers raided camps where the Shining Path held women and children they had kidnapped from the towns of Puerto Ocopa, Shima, and Santaro. Some of the women had been raped since they were as young as 12, with those impregnated having babies who grew up in the terrorist camp, Defense Vice Minister Iván Vega Loncharich said.

“Some young men as young as 12 and 13 years old have been kidnapped by Comrade José to join the ranks of the Shining Path,” said Peru’s Counter-Terrorism Directorate head General José Baella, referring to the alias used by a Shining Path operative. “This criminal will be indicted by the authorities for human trafficking.”

Though the oldest of the 34 rescued children is 14, victims of all ages were forced to work on Shining Path farms and prepare food for the terrorists. Some were indoctrinated into the group's ideology, and others were forced to become operatives; some victims had been held for decades.

“One woman told us she has been captive for 30 years,” Gen. Baella said.

With the rescue of the 54 people, security forces have freed 70 people from Shining Path camps since January 1.

Shining Part targets indigenous group

Most of the victims rescued by the Armed Forces and the National Police in late July are members of the Asháninka indigenous group.

The Shining Path forcibly recruits those from native communities to support the terrorist group’s criminal enterprises -- such as cultivating and processing illegal coca crops and transporting cocaine -- explained Jaime Raúl Castro Contreras, a researcher and security analyst at the University of San Martín de Porres in Lima.

“The Shining Path is forcing people in the area to perform work not specific to these communities. These people living in the forest are engaged in agriculture. [The Shining Path] forces them [indigenous captives] to develop planting activities and transfer illegal products, which violate human rights and freedom of choice...[Its] main objective is drug trafficking; its ideology is only symbolism without any meaning or significance. We are simply facing illegal and illicit drug supplies and foreign trade activities.”

The organization kidnaps many of its victims in the VRAEM because that’s where it operates much of its drug enterprise; in fact, the area contains the largest illegal coca crops and laboratories for the production of coca base and cocaine hydrochloride in the world, according to the United Nations (UN). There, the Shining Path and other drug-trafficking organizations produce more than 200 tons of cocaine annually.

Security forces battle the Shining Path

As a consequence of successful operations by the Army and other security forces, the Shining Path has been greatly weakened.

During the South American Defense Conference held in Asunción, Paraguay from August 18-21, Admiral Jorge Moscoso Flores, Chief of the Joint Staff of the Peruvian Armed Forces, told Diálogo
that "Shining Path is not a threat to the Peruvian state, because its remains are significantly reduced. They are a criminal gang that utilizes their ideology to relate to the community. They oppress them and exploit them for their own benefit ... we [the Military] have to be smart in moving forward to suffocate them, to further diminish them so the population continues to reject them."

The organization launched an armed insurgency in Peru in 1980, attacking government forces and civilians with the goal of replacing the country’s democracy. In 1992, the government scored an important victory against it when National Police captured the Shining Path’s leader, Abimael Guzmán
Reynoso. Since that capture, the Armed Forces and the National Police have continued to subdue the terrorist group, arresting or killing leaders and dismantling Shining Path groups in different parts of the country.

Though the Shining Path has a fraction of the strength it once had, security forces are remaining vigilant.

“The Army will continue to fight Shining Path with all its means,” Castro Contreras stated. “The Army will also seek to change its strategy according to its own circumstances. They understand that they can’t act with rigid strategies. It is not the same to move in the urban area than in the middle of the jungle, rivers, and mountains where the environment is hostile.”