In the 1960s, leftist philosophy professor Abimael Guzman
started a Maoist guerilla group at the University of San
Cristobal de Huamanga in Ayacucho, Peru. Guzman named this
organization in honor of the most celebrated phrase ever turned by
an early Peruvian Communist and journalist, Jose Carlos Mariategui,
who wrote that "Marxism-Leninism will open the shining path to the
Little did Peruvians realize then that the path would turn into
a river of blood. Dried up for a time by Alberto Fujimori, the
river has unfortunately begun to rise again.
Shining Path, the Sequel: Starring
Hugo Chávez, FARC, and Narco-Terrorism
On April 9, just days after Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years
in prison for being the intellectual author of two kidnappings and
the assassinations of 25 persons by the paramilitary group Colina,
14 soldiers were ambushed and killed by terrorists in Peru's
southern Ayacucho region. The attack was led by "Comrade Olga," who
is close to one of the current leaders of the Shining Path, Victor
Quispe Palomino ("Comrade Jose"). The attack occurred in an
area of deep jungle known as the VRAE (Valley of the Apurimac and
Ene Rivers). Most of the dead Peruvian soldiers were 18 and 19
years old. One young man was just 17.
Shining Path is active again in the area, providing the locals
with such practical help as dental and barber services,
distribution of food, and teaching women manual skills to help
their husbands. The group no longer tries to impose its beliefs at
gunpoint. They have learned from the methods employed by the
sinister former head of Peruvian intelligence services Vladimiro
Montesinos and the Peruvian army.
The problem now, in addition to Shining Path's long-term goal of
overthrowing market-based democracy in Peru, is the narco-terrorism
that funds the group. In the 1990s Shining Path demanded protection
payments from narcotics traffickers operating in areas it
controlled. Now the tables are turned, and Shining Path is
dependent financially on the narcos, even doing contract killings
for them. Shining Path has gone into the "business" itself,
producing its own coca crops and operating maceration "pits" where
the coca leaves are mashed, as well as clandestine labs where the
mashed leaves are processed into cocaine.
The transformation of Shining Path into a subsidiary of
narco-terrorist groups is similar to the evolution of the
Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), a violent
narco-terrorist guerrilla group and long-time enemy of Colombian
democracy. Indeed, the two groups are now operating together. The
FARC has strong bonds with Peru, a source of new recruits, weapons,
Ollanta Humala, the leader of Peru's nationalist party and a
favorite of Hugo Chávez, has said the Peruvian army should
leave the VRAE and turn over security to the local police. About
400 Shinning Path operatives in the VRAE provide security to the
"backpackers" who take the drugs to the coast. More than 50 percent
of the cocaine in Peru--152 tons--comes from this area.
Of course, the narco-terrorists want the army out of the VRAE as
well. The same arguments are made by leftists and narco groups in
northern Mexico, where the local police are either bought off or
terrified. So far, fortunately, Mexican President Calderon has
ignored those requests and sent in the Mexican army with help from
the U.S. through the Merida Initiative.
Courting International Support
Like the FARC, Shinning Path has NGOs throughout the world
devoted to protecting their "human rights" and projecting a
positive image of the group. Both groups also have "ambassadors" in
Europe and North America who are constantly seeking to raise money
so that the groups can continue the "class struggle."
Some of the pro-Shining Path groups include:
- The "Red Sun Embassy" maintained by Shining Path operatives in
Hamburg, Germany, and other cities in Europe;
- The "New Peru Friendship Association" in the U.S.;
- Guardare Avanti in Italy; and
- The Socialist Party in Iran.
There are many other groups in Denmark, France, Germany, Sweden,
Indeed, Monica Feria, a prominent former terrorist and active
Shining Path "ambassador" in Britain, was given an award by
Georgetown University in 2007, demonstrating the university's
leftist/elitist credentials while serving as an example of
academia's support for groups like Shining Path.
The U.S. Must Launch a Peruvian
Peruvian President Alan Garcia's government must take immediate
steps to defeat the terrorists and narcos in the VRAE. First and
foremost, the Peruvian government must stop the flow of an
estimated 2 million gallons of kerosene per year into the VRAE.
Kerosene is the main chemical used to produce cocaine. This would
increase the groups' production costs and thus increase the street
price of cocaine in the U.S. and Europe.
Just as Colombia (which benefits from the U.S.-funded Plan
Colombia) and Mexico (which has the U.S.-funded Merida Initiative),
Peru is a good friend of the United States and needs U.S. help to
defeat this new challenge. Consequently, President Obama should
direct the establishment of a U.S.-Peru partnership. Congress
should provide emergency funding for this partnership and also help
Peru by approving pending U.S. free trade agreements with Colombia
and Panama, which, along with the recently approved agreement with
Peru, will strengthen U.S. ties to--and the economy of--the Andean
The U.S. and Peruvian governments should not underestimate the
problems posed by the re-emergence of Shining Path. The two
governments must take the fight against terrorism to the VRAE.
M. Roberts is Research Fellow for Economic Freedom and
Growth in the Center for International Trade and Economics at The
Heritage Foundation. Edwar Enrique Escalante is the Executive
Director of ANDES LIBRES in Cuzco, Peru.