Police investigations into 23 people allegedly linked to drug trafficking and terrorism, through the Shining Path, led to the arrest at dawn on Sunday of former congresswoman Nancy Obregon, a member of President Ollanta Humala’s Nationalist Party.
Obregon, 43, was arrested in her home in Lima’s Pueblo Libre district in a 3 am police raid, according to daily El Comercio. She is accused of leading a drug cartel that smuggles cocaine to neighboring countries. Twenty-two other people were arrested in different operations at the same time. Obregon is to be held in the Dirandro facilities for 15 days for questioning and investigation before the state attorneys decide on whether to imprison her or release her on bail.
Obregon, a well-known lawmaker who represented the San Martin region in 2006 to 2011, has long defended the rights of coca growers but has consistently denied any involvement in drug production or trafficking. However, police report that Obregon led a drug trafficking gang that shipped cocaine from the Upper Huallaga Valley, one of Peru’s top coca growing regions, to Bolivia. Cocaine that is sent to Bolivia, another major drug producer, is often later sent to Brazil and other markets for consumption. Obregon is also accused of owning two coca maceration pits in San Martin and other drug-related businesses.
Four Shining Path members and four drug traffickers arrested at different times in the Conquistar 2013 operation, have offered testimony in exchange for lighter sentences and have informed that Obregon held secret meetings with Shining Path leaders of the VRAEM (the Valleys of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers) to ask for armed support against the government’s forced coca eradication programs in the Upper Huallaga valley, encouraging the Shining Path to spread their group to establish a stronger presence further north.
Peru is the world’s top grower of coca leaves. While there is a supervised quota of coca that is grown legally for traditional purposes (for chewing, tea, etc), the vast majority of the crop is turned into cocaine.
The Shining Path was a violent leftist insurgency that waged a war against the Peruvian state in the 1980s and 1990s. The group was largely defeated in the 1990s, but remnant groups still operate in isolated regions where they profit from the drug trade by providing security to traffickers. The VRAE is the top cocaine producing region in Peru.
In 2004, Shining Path splinter groups were operating in the VRAE and the Upper Huallaga Valley. It is reported that Obregon had a falling out with the Shining Path leader in the Upper Huallaga Valley. She held talks with the VRAE faction in an attempt to get them to boot out the Upper Huallaga Valley rebels.
In 2012, the leader of the Upper Huallaga Valley group, Comrade Artemio, was captured. The police team leading the investigations at the time is the same team involved in the current operations.
Meanwhile, the Shining Path in the VRAE continue to launch deadly attacks on police and military. They have also increased attacks on private firms, including attacking infrastructure and kidnapping workers.