LIMA – The Shining Path guerrilla group “is increasingly improving its firepower” in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, known as the VRAE region and considered Peru’s principal cocaine-producing area, the former chief of the counter-terrorism police said.
Gen. Marcos Miyashiro, one of the key men involved in the 1992 capture of Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman, made the comment in an interview published Sunday by the daily La Republica.
The expansion of the guerrilla group’s firepower explains “why they dare to directly attack the military bases located in the VRAE,” where more than 40 soldiers have died in ambushes and attacks staged by the Shining Path in recent months, the retired general said.
The current incarnation of the Shining Path in the VRAE is not the same as the group that launched its armed struggle against the Peruvian state nearly 30 years ago, with the main difference being that the organization’s current leader, “Comrade Jose,” limits attacks to the security forces, establishing links to local people instead of murdering them, Miyashiro said.
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.
“For the people of the VRAE, who mainly work in drug trafficking and related activities, Shining Path is their protector. That is why they do not cooperate with us, because we are trying to put an end to that protector,” the retired general said.
Comrade Jose’s capture is a long way off, with many lives being lost between now and the time he is brought to justice, Miyashiro said.
The Shining Path operates in the northeastern Upper Huallaga Valley, a center of coca cultivation and cocaine production, under the command of “Comrade Artemio” and in the VRAE region under Comrade Jose.
The guerrilla group’s “remnants” operate in both valleys, working with drug traffickers and staging attacks on the security forces.
One of the main problems with the current military strategy against the rebels in the VRAE is the shortcomings of the intelligence service, an essential element in fighting groups like Shining Path, Miyashiro said.
“We have not seen any arrests in the VRAE. That’s something that requires an explanation,” Miyashiro said.
Defense Minister Rafael Rey, for his part, said in an interview published Sunday by La Republica that the armed forces’ top objective was to “capture the main terrorist chiefs.”
Rey refused to confirm or deny press reports that came out Saturday about the government hiring an Israeli firm to train special patrols and help craft a new counterinsurgency strategy. EFE