Potential Hot Spots: Leftist Cocaine Cowboys Threaten Peru


: Items About Areas That Could Break Out Into War 


October 15, 2008: For the second time in a week, Shining Path terrorists attacked an army patrol. This time the leftist rebels killed two soldiers and wounded five. The Shining Path, believed destroyed fifteen years ago, but diehards hung on in the jungle, and now are growing again, propelled by drug money.

October 11, 2008: Drug trafficking has once again re-energized Peru's guerrilla gangs. Shining Path gunmen associated with drug traffickers ambushed four Peruvian military trucks near Vizcatan, in the Aprumac-Ene river valley, killing 19 people. The firefight went on for hours after the ambush. The military refers to the jungle river area as the Vrae (Spanish acronym). The Vrae's chief crop is coca leaves. Security forces increased their presence in the Vrae region in August, and began what the government called "offensive operations" against Shining Path camps in the area.

The Peruvian drug trade links several wars. On September 8, police arrested 20 people they accused of working with Mexico's Sinaloa cartel. They also seized two and a half tons of cocaine in the same operation. The national origin of the people arrested tells a geo-strategic story: 13 Peruvians, three Colombians, four Mexicans. Shining Path to FARC to Sinaloa? Probably. The drugs go north, and so does the drug network.

How strong is the Shining Path? In 2006 the government estimated Shining Path fielded around 300 fighters, but no one was certain. The police did keep turning up new weapons, likely paid for by drug lords. Now the government estimates Shining Path has 600 fighters. These fighters aren't rebels. They are mercenaries serving in a mercenary combat force tasked with guarding coca fields.


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