The Deceitful Face of Narcoterrorism in Peru
By Dialogo November 28, 2012
Interview with Peruvian Army Major General Leonardo José Longa López, Military and Defense Attaché at the Peruvian Embassy in the United States
Drug trafficking, terrorism, narcoterrorism … are all concepts that are intertwined and dangerously confused in Peru. According to Peruvian Army Major General Leonardo José Longa López, Military and Defense attaché at the Peruvian Embassy in Washington, D.C., it is primordial to define them clearly in order to confront the chameleon-like Shining Path and prevent its influence from spreading beyond the South American nation.
Diálogo: Why do you think it is so important to establish a definition of narcoterrorism?
Major General Leonardo J. Longa López: To build an adequate national strategy, it is essential to define exactly who or what the threats are that we are confronting. Societies are fully aware of what drug trafficking is, as well as terrorism. The term “narcoterrorism” has not been conceptualized nor standardized. It has been perceived that countries affected by this threat do not agree on this phenomenon’s definition, in the academic, political and economic fields. It is not the same as confronting the joint efforts between drug traffickers and terrorists to carry out illicit drug trafficking, than it is confronting terrorists who have turned into armed drug traffickers seeking to adapt to different geographies and social, economic and political factors in their realm; who adapt their means and methods according to drug trafficking needs and the situation of rural communities, and that, for the time being, leave aside their political-ideological goals to prioritize the economic factor. Therefore, without a precise definition, we cannot establish the minimal conditions for success in confronting these threats.
Diálogo: Has that error been committed in Peru?
Major Gen. Longa: From 1980 to 2000, Shining Path committed a series of strategic mistakes that caused their military demise. The Peruvian State also had strategic deficiencies during that period, which were partly overcome in the beginning of the 90’s. However, between 2000 and 2011, some Shining Path remnants learned how to overcome these strategic flaws and re-orchestrated their actions in all fields, in highly focused geographic areas. Unfortunately, during that period, the State delayed the adoption of policies and strategies to combat the terrorist remnants’ new actions. If we continue the fight against narcoterrorists by using the strategic, operational and tactical procedures by which Shining Path was confronted in the past, and we organize, instruct, equip, and employ our Armed Forces and National Police as we did back then, we would definitely be making a mistake. Threats, such as drug trafficking, terrorism, and poverty are changing and becoming contaminated hybrids; they are seeking to become immune to Peruvian State action. Likewise, there are proven links between drug trafficking and other threats, such as illegal deforestation, smuggling, corruption, weapons trafficking, illegal mining, human trafficking, money laundering, etc. This organized crime understands that the way to protect itself from the State’s response and become unpredictable is by establishing strategic alliances. In order to counteract these actions, it is important for the State to be able to quickly change the ways of confronting them, and adapt the State apparatus to the strategic, operational and tactical requirements in the political, legal, economic, social, military and international arenas. It is essential to establish a comprehensive response to this phenomenon that revolves around a common factor and is none other than the “illegal and parallel economy.”
Diálogo: What are the characteristics of narcoterrorists in Peru?
Major Gen. Longa: Narcoterrorism in Peru is primarily spread in the VRAEM area (Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers Valley). In recent years it has evolved and is becoming a new drug trafficking prototype that intends to control all the processes of this illicit activity through the Quispe Palomino gang, and their leader, comrade “José,” the “Lord” of drug trafficking in the country. He is an “armed drug trafficker,” using terrorist means and methods for the benefit of drug trafficking; and to nurture his future troops – his so called “pioneer children” – in areas of conflict. He uses women as procreation instruments for future military means, by which he can ensure discipline, indoctrination, and continuity over time. Likewise, they have a support network with a population that collaborates with these new armed drug trafficking organizations either willingly or forced by the circumstances and the lack of economic and social opportunities. From a legal perspective, they must be considered “passive narcoterrorists.” All the procedures learned during a quarter of a century of their terrorist actions are now being adapted to serve current and future drug trafficking at national and international levels. Their main method of action is to become a way of life for the poorest population in those areas. They have integrated drug production into society, so now the population is ready to produce cocaine hydrochloride and trade it in the production area. They are succeeding in transferring the risks that this illicit activity entails to the population, hence minimizing the risks facing the gang and drug trafficking leaders. With these actions, which might somehow be considered a form of social support, they are trying to segregate the population from the State and its Armed Forces.
Diálogo: What about the VRAEM? Terrorism, drug trafficking, narcoterrorism?
Major Gen. Longa: Since the 80’s, drug trafficking has existed in the VRAEM thanks to the area’s complex geography and isolation, and the populations’ extreme poverty, which, because of the lack of opportunity, devote themselves to illicit drug trafficking. When the armed struggle started with Shining Path, terrorism arrived to the area. There is no indication that confirms that Shining Path was devoted to drug trafficking, although there are signs that they considered this activity as a way to obtain weapons and money. Since 2000, upon the defeat of Shining Path, comrade “Jose’s” Víctor Quispe Palomino front started a process of change that mutated into a narcoterrorist group.
Diálogo: What is the origin of narcoterrorism in Peru?
Major Gen. Longa: Narcoterrorism in Peru originated with Shining Path terrorist remnants that escaped from their demise in 2000. It is important to point out that since the national peace process could not be completed, a strategic opportunity was generated for these terrorist remnants to mutate, adopt a geostrategic area for coca production, establish an alliance with drug traffickers, incorporate poverty as a tool, and have enough time to acquire new capacities. The Peruvian State left the VRAEM area at the will of drug traffickers and terrorists between 2000 and 2008, an eight-year period in which drug trafficking, terrorism and poverty coexisted.
Diálogo: What do you feel is the most effective way to confront narcoterrorism in Peru?
Major Gen. Longa: Understanding that drug trafficking existed before narcoterrorism. Therefore, a political decision and a set of strategies that involve the entire State must be reached, an active judiciary participation, adequate intelligence at all levels, financial intervention, confronting drug trafficking and the threats that encourage it, preparing an adequate Military Police force by training and equipping it to restrict threats in their operational environment. Finally, it is essential to promote international cooperation and alliances to maintain security inside and outside our borders, because these threats are not only multidimensional, but also transnational.
Diálogo: How have Peruvian narcoterrorists managed to remain active?
Major Gen. Longa: With the strategy of deception. They have a double standard. They sell locals the idea that they are fighting for a better country, that they are striving for equality and that they are in a political war. But the reality is very different. The interest of their leaders is mainly economic, so they promote illicit drug trafficking. Terrorist attacks in the area take place due to illicit drug trafficking goals and to demonstrate nationally and internationally that the combination of drug trafficking, terrorism, and poverty can generate important revenue to drug trafficking mafias, and that it is an efficient way to control geographical areas outside State control. The natural expansion of the VRAEM towards the Huallaga-Pucallpa-Colombia and the Cuzco-Puno-Bolivia axis is just a matter of time, and it can become irreversible if adequate neutralization measures are not applied.
Diálogo: Would you say that the current political and judiciary decisions are enough to protect the rights of the Armed Forces and Police? Do you think terrorists or narcoterrorists have too much protection?
Major Gen. Longa: In 2000, Peru defeated terrorism from a Military point of view. However, the conditions favoring the development, evolution and mutation of drug trafficking, terrorism, poverty, and other threats are still part of our national reality. In spite of being defeated, terrorism has moved forward with their political war, legal war, the action of its bodies’ fronts and unconventional war. Drug trafficking is still carrying out their illicit drug trafficking activities at a national level, and in partnership with terrorist remnants of Shining Path in the VRAEM. These terrorist remnants have mutated and have become armed drug trafficking organizations with political, social, economic, and military capacities in their areas of action and axes of growth. The current Peruvian government has stated they are willing to categorically confront these threats. They have been declared enemies of the nation. Therefore, this willingness must be acted upon to grant the adequate conditions (judiciary and material), for the Armed Forces and the National Police to feel protected and, most importantly, for the people to feel protected by the State. These strategic facts will bolster the active participation of the Armed Forces and population in the operations and actions decisively confronting these threats.
Diálogo: Would you like to add any interesting remarks for Diálogo readers to better understand Peru’s current reality?
Major Gen. Longa: Peru is currently being affected by the scourge of drug trafficking, which has established a strategic partnership with terrorist remnants of Shining Path in the VRAEM area, and embodied a prototype of what may become the new face of drug trafficking in Peru and other drug producing nations. It is called “narcoterrorism,” and it has started to expand its influence nationwide, towards the northeast and southeast. These threats are aware that they can avoid State actions and guarantee their development by establishing alliances. The Shining Path’s terrorism in Peru has also been using other instruments and means, including organizational fronts and extremist movements that want to take advantage of the legal system to keep a political presence and collaborate with terrorists at the same time. This is the case of the so-called Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (MOVADEF). There is no question that the challenges are serious, but we must consider that Peru is a democratic country, which respects the rule of law and together with President Ollanta Humala, seeks to guarantee economic growth with social inclusion in all population sectors. We already defeated the bloodiest terrorism in the region once, with our own strategy, and we can do it again. We have great human capital and potential, as well as material resources that can be used to defeat these threats as soon as possible. Still, coordinated action from all State agencies is required, as well as a new strategy that goes beyond the military and police spheres. The incorporation of policies and resources focused on promoting social inclusion in rural and urban areas in the VRAEM for health, housing, education, roads, electricity, sanitation, communications, food and other basic social needs, will be the fundamental drive to defeat terrorism and drug trafficking once again. This joint effort of the entire State apparatus, with the support of civil society, also requires the active participation of countries in the region and hemisphere that fight against terrorism and the scourge of drug trafficking (especially consumer and transit countries). This is why it is important that countries such as the United States, Canada and members of the European Union become aware of the dangers of narcoterrorism, observe its evolution and help us fight it while it is still confined.
"Those people who forget their history, are doomed to live in the misfortunes of the past" Marcus Tullius Cicero. Roman Tribune.
It seems to me that the conceptualization of the terms terrorism, drug trafficking and narco-terrorism, is adequate and that these must be adopted by all the countries of the hemisphere. There is a common regional strategy to fight against this phenomenon and its related crimes, among them we will mention some: corruption at all levels, money laundering, organized crime, illicit enrichment, etc.
It is now that the different countries should take advantage of different regional and hemispheric forums, to discuss and implement lessons learned from Peruvian experiences regarding the fight against what is described above, in order to achieve sustained development of all territorial regions without exception.
In order to save populations from this evil of the century, it is necessary that consumer countries and those used as bridges, review and make the necessary changes to the legal aspects, establishing laws and tougher sanctions for all those who become involved in these illicit activities.
I congratulate the Gral Bgd. E.P. Leonardo Jose LONGA LOPEZ for the showing all the peoples of the hemisphere how to confront the evil of the century from the Strategic, Operational, Tactical and Legal point of view. (Terrorism, Drug Trafficking and Narco-Terrorism)
VERY INTERESTING, AND ABOVE ALL NECESSARY THAT IT IS SPREAD SO THAT WE ARE IMMERSED IN THE PROBLEM AND ATTENTIVE TO THE REALITY THAT WE CURRENTLY LIVE IN. This article, despite the date when it was written, remains current. The reality in Peru has not changed at all. Very good analysis of the reality taking place within the VRAE region.