Potential Hot Spots: You Be Like Us, Or Else



Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War 

March 6, 2012: Peruvian security forces have been on a counter-terror roll. In the last three weeks Peruvian police and military forces have captured two of the Shining Path’s most senior commanders. On February 12, 2012 Peruvian troops captured Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala (Comrade Artemio) after a skirmish in a remote mountain and jungle region in Peru’s Huanuco province. Artemio was wounded in the battle. Peruvian prosecutors have been preparing a case against him for quite some time. One prosecutor said that he was prepared to call over two hundred witnesses. Artemio will be charged with murder, theft, drug trafficking, and probably terrorism. Last week police captured Walter Diaz Vega, Comrade Artemio’s number two. Diaz had already moved up to assume command. He was also seized in Huanuco, near the Huallaga River (Alto Huallaga Valley). The region is a cocaine producing area. Various rebel groups, including the Shining Path, have long operated there. The police indicated they had evidence that Diaz was murdering people he believed to be police informants.

The Peruvian government claimed that Comrade Artemio’s arrest marked the end of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso, or Comité Central del Partido Comunista del Perú-Sendero Luminoso). The government has said that before, certainly in 1992 when the outfit’s professorial and sociopathic founder Abimael Guzman was captured. Admittedly, the current edition of the Shining Path is a far cry from the Mao-inspired rebels of three decades ago. Today’s Shining Path is a drug trafficking armed faction similar to leftist groups that plague Colombia and Ecuador. It no longer has communist cachet in the cities. The Path’s dead-enders operate in the Alto Huallaga valley and in the very high-altitude and rugged Ene-Apurimac valley. The Apurimac is regarded as the source of the Amazon. Peruvian security forces refer to the region as the VRAE, the Spanish initials for valley of the Ene and Apurimac rivers (Valle de los Ríos Apurímac y Ene). At least 80 percent of the people in the Zona del VRAE live in extreme poverty (yes, mostly Indians). The only cash crop is coca leaves – for cocaine.

Other small but still lethal drug factions aligned with the Shining Path still hide in the mountains. The Peruvian government has placed a one million dollar reward for Victor Quispe (Comrade Jose). His band operates in the Ayacucho-Cusco-Junin region though Peruvians are speculating that he may move into the Alto Huallaga. Military and police estimates put the number of 200 militants out there at 200-300.

Still, Comrade Artemio’s capture rates as a victory for the government. However, it has also led to something of an embarrassment for Peru’s president, President Ollanta Humala. The president’s brother, Antauro Humala, is serving hard time in prison for attempting a coup on News Years Day in 2005. At the time Antauro Humala was a disgruntled army major and intended to spark a mass uprising. His coup failed, six people were killed and he got 25 years in prison. However, after Comrade Artemio’s capture the government decided to move Antauro Humala because he was housed in the same complex as high-risk Shining Path members. President Ollanta Humala’s critics have accused him of giving his brother special treatment.

In its 1980s heyday, the Shining Path waged a brutal war against the Peruvian government. The Shining Path claimed it had 20,000 followers. That may have been propaganda but the movement was armed, dangerous, and had political influence. Left wing media touted them as revolutionaries. Officials estimate that 70,000 people died in the war, over half killed by the Shining Path the other by various government forces. The group intended to foment a massive Indian revolt. Guzman and his senior commanders even tapped the power of old Inca legends that asserted "sleeping" Inca kings will rise out of the Andes to kill the Spanish invaders. Naturally, the Maoist-Leninists wanted the Indians to conclude that the Shining Path was that Incan resurrection. However, the Indians thought the leftist intellectuals from Lima were just central-government Spaniards spouting a different verse of the old imperialist saw "you be like us, or else." (Austin Bay)


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