In fight with Shining Path, Peru's President Humala takes a page from Colombia
Peru's new president has vowed to take a hard line against the country’s Shining Path guerrillas, and appears to have modeled his strategy on Colombia's counterinsurgency successes.
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With this restructuring, the Peruvian military hopes to make real progress in its campaign against the Shining Path, which has faltered in recent years. As InSight Crime has noted, despite the claim by the outgoing government to have reduced the rebels’ “area of influence” from 34,000 to 5,000 square kilometers, coca cultivation statistics indicate that drug production is on the rise in the rebel heartland. According to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), the amount of land under coca cultivation in the VRAE has gone up more than 30 percent since 2005, to at least 19,700.Skip to next paragraph
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The military has not captured or killed a senior Shining Path leader in the past five years, although the authorities recently arrested the girlfriend of Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, alias "Comrade Artemio," who commands the Shining Path faction in the Upper Huallaga Valley, the rebels' other main operations base after the VRAE.
Still, it should be noted that the Peruvian and Colombian security situations are very different in terms of scale. While the total number of rebels in Colombia is estimated at around 10,000, the US State Department says that the number of Shining Path in the country is only around 300.
Additionally, the Shining Path poses a different type of security challenge than the FARC. The threat comes far more from their involvement in the drug trade than their revolutionary ambitions. The Colombian rebels have the cash and manpower to pose a serious military threat to the authorities, though this has declined sharply in the last decade. This allows them to dominate some parts of the country, and attract recruits, in a way the Shining Path cannot.
Because of this, it is not clear that a security strategy based on Colombia's experience can be applied in the Peruvian case. Humala may have better luck by focusing on social factors, which account for the Shining Path's continued existence, namely: spending more on alternative crop measures and economic opportunities for those living in the rebels' areas of influence.
--- Geoffrey Ramsey is a writer for Insight – Organized Crime in the Americas, which provides research, analysis, and investigation of the criminal world throughout the region. Find all of his research here.