Potential Hot Spots: The Perils of Peruvian Politics

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: Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War

August 18, 2007: The Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) began as a Maoist guerrilla group committed to Marxist revolution. It is now little more than a "drug army" working for cocaine cartels. In early August Peru's security services began a sweep northeastern Peru, seeking Shining Path hideouts. At least 200 special operations troops were involved in the sweep. Government security forces also conducted raids in the capital, Lima. As a result, 21 members of the "new" Shining Path were arrested in the various operations. Increased success against drug gangs in neighboring Colombia have forced drug operations to move into Peru. The Shining Path, like the leftist rebels in Colombia, has become corrupted by the drug money. But the leftist rebels on both sides of the border still give lip service, and sometimes more, to their political principles. Some of the drug lords have toyed with the idea of financing their leftist rebel allies into taking over the country. The drug gangs already buy and bribe all the politicians they can. The problem with Shining Path is that they are, technically, a very radical leftist group. If the Shining Path gained control of the country, they might come after the drug gangs as a corrupting influence. You've got to be careful what you wish for, as you might get it.

A huge earthquake (with a magnitude estimated at 8.0), struck Peru on the night August 15-16. Officials estimate around 400 were killed and at least a thousand injured. The quake hit along Peru's southeastern coast. Responding to disasters like almost always requires international support and military equipment is designed to operate in "overwhelmed" circumstances. The US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM) has begun putting together a disaster response operation. It will ultimately include humanitarian aid, medical teams, and transport aircraft. The US Navy hospital ship USNS Comfort is already in the area it is very likely it will be sent to southern Peru. The Comfort had been making a port visit to Trujillo, Peru (northern Peru) as part of a US-led medical mission. It was originally built as a tanker in 1976. The US Navy rebuilt the ship and put it into service in 1987. Lower casualty rates in Iraq and Afghanistan have made the ships available for humanitarian missions, which also make people helped in this way, more pro-American.

 

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