Peruvian officials are on alert for retribution from Shining Path remnants after state security forces killed two of its top military strategists, daily La Republica reported.
Interior Minister Wildredo Pedraza said “it is natural to expect a reaction” from the Shining Path following the killing of Alejandro Borda Casafranca, alias Alipio, and Marco Antonio Quispe Palomino, alias Gabriel, in south central Peru.
Their deaths are seen as a blow to the Shining Path in the VRAEM region —which covers the valleys of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers— as the rebels were the top two in charge of the its military strategy. Gabriel, for example, was responsible for the kidnapping of some 40 natural gas workers last year and the subsequent killing of about 10 soldiers and police sent to rescue the workers.
“What is left is, we’ll say, half of the high command of the Shining Path in the VRAEM,” said Pedraza. “Fortunately, what is left is the political part because what was hit on Sunday was the military part.”
Analysts point out, however, that there will be an initial confusion in the Shining Path but that there are some 400 rebels in the VRAEM and they will soon find leaders among themselves.
Pedraza added that the military’s offensive against the Shining Path in the VRAEM will continue. “It is natural to expect a reaction. The Armed Forces and Police in the VRAEM are on the alert. So we aren’t going to be over-confident.”
Officials and analysts say the government’s success against the rebels is due to intelligence work. Intelligence, as opposed to military-police bases and troops on the ground, played a key role last year in capturing the head of another Shining Path faction located further north in the Upper Huallaga Valley.
The Shining Path aimed to overthrow the Peruvian state in the 1980s. The conflict, which intensified until the capture of Shining Path’s founding leader, Abimael Guzman, in 1992, resulted in 70,000 deaths, most of them of rural indigenous people caught in the middle of the Shining Path and the military.
The remnants in the VRAEM, however, no longer follow any particular ideology, and instead have played a big role in cocaine trafficking.