The Peruvian Army repelled an attack by Shining Path terrorists on the Counterterrorist Base of Llochegua, in Huanta province, on December 17.The successful defense of the base occurred as the Military conducts an intensified offensive against the terrorist group and other illegal organizations in order to pacify the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers Valley (VRAEM) region. The Armed Forces Joint Command directed the VRAEM Special Command to crack down on the Shining Path, which finances its terrorist activities by trafficking drugs.
The Shining Path attacked the military base in retaliation for increased Army and National Police patrols and security operations, such as the identification and dismantling of clandestine landing strips used by narco-planes.
“This criminal action is a reaction to the intensification of the integrated operations the Armed Forces and the National Police are carrying out against terrorism and drug trafficking, in particular, the continuous destruction of illegal runways and the neutralization of narco-planes,” the Joint Command of the Armed Forces said in a statement.
Although no Army Soldiers were killed during the gun battle, Army Technician José Zambrano Barrutia sustained a non-life threatening injury. He was transported to the Central Military Hospital of Lima for treatement.
Progress in pacifying the VRAEM region
With patrols and other successful security operations against narco-traffickers and terrorists, the Army and National Police have reduced the Shining Path’s zone of influence from more than 74,000 square miles to a little more than 3,000 square miles. Examples of successful operations:
- On December 9, security forces in the province of La Mar, located in the Department of Ayacucho, captured eight people in two trucks carrying 356 kilos of cocaine and some weapons.
- Five days earlier, on December 4, Troops intercepted a small plane that was carrying 250 kilos of cocaine. The small aircraft was registered in Bolivia, but was seized in the district of Pangoa, in the Junio region. In 2014, the Army seized 14 small planes used by narco-traffickers to transport drugs. Each of the planes was registered in Bolivia.
- And at about the same time, Soldiers and police in the same region interdicted two boats that were carrying 250 kilos of cocaine, according to law enforcement authorities.
In addition to capturing suspects and seizing drugs, security forces have damaged infrastructure used by drug traffickers. For instance, Antinarcotics Police have destroyed or disabled 263 clandestine landing strips used by narco-traffickers in the VRAEM. Most of the runways were 500 meters long and 10 meters wide.
Police have also dismantled 46 drug trafficking gangs and captured 32 alleged narc-gang leaders, according to the Antinarcotics Administration (DIRANDRO).
Obtaining solid intelligence on the activities of drug traffickers was a key component of DIRANDRO’s success in 2014.
“We have had good intelligence work that we will reinforce (in 2015), as well as our relationship with the Financial Investigation Unit of the Superintendent of Banks and Insurance, to deepen our investigation into laundering practices,” according to Vicente Romero Fernández, the head of DIRANDRO.
Intelligence also helped the Military and police identify illegal coca crops. Throughout the country, security forces eradicated 31,000 hectares used for the illegal production of coca, the primary ingredient in the production of cocaine.
Peru is home to 13-coca growing regions, with 60,400 hectares used for coca leaf cultivation. Ninety-three percent of the country’s coca is used illegally for the drug trade, with the remaining plants used for traditional consumption and industrial use, according to Peru’s National Commission for a Drug-Free Life (DEVIDA).
Improving public safety in the VRAEM region
Pacifying the VRAEM is a challenging and important mission. “The pacification of the VRAEM is as relevant as a security policy,” said Cesar Ortiz, president of the Peruvian Association for Citizen Safety (APROSEC). “However, to carry out the pacification is a very hard mission for the Armed Forces. Time has shown that the region lives a conflict that is not easy to manage. It is a challenge to any authority, and the state is putting all its efforts into it.”