Peru To Send Inexperienced Soldiers To Dangerous Coca-Growing Region

Peru’s Defense Ministry plans to send a number of young soldiers into a dangerous coca-growing region as part of efforts to track down narco-terrorists that kidnapped 36 natural gas workers earlier this month, according to the  National Ombudsman’s office.

The office, known as the Defensoria del Pueblo, said the troops have only completed between 28 days and seven months of service. Four of the soldiers are younger than 21-years-old, daily El Comercio reported.

The soldiers were sent to a counter-terrorism base in the city of Satipo, located in Junin region, from April 11 to 13. Family members say, however, that the group is now being sent to the zone of Vilcabamba, in Cusco, which is where remnants of the Shining Path rebels kidnapped the natural gas workers.

The Defensoria del Pueblo has asked the ministry to provide an explanation for sending the inexperienced soldiers into the remote jungle region.

“Our past experience tells us that we shouldn’t be sending beginners to the area,” said Congressman Daniel Mora, who was Minister of Defense during the Toledo administration. Mora said that at least 30 young men had been sent for refresher training to the Sinchi base near Satipo and then flown quickly south to the Cusco hostages operation.   

The natural workers were released last week, but not before four soldiers and police were killed in operations to rescue the workers. Two other soldiers are still missing.

On Wednesday, local media broadcast a video of Martin Quispe Palomino, one of the leaders of the Shining Path insurgents in the VRAE and believed to be responsible for kidnapping.

A group of journalists, including those from El Comercio and La Republica, ran into Shining Path rebels while looking for a police helicopter that was shot down by the guerrillas during the government’s rescue operation.

Quispe Palomino, alias “Comrade Gabriel,” said the insurgents were not seeking a ransom with the kidnapping, but trying to lure soldiers into the valley in order to ambush them.  However, the insurgents did negotiate with the companies to release the workers, and several news sources report that US$5 million was paid.  The hostages were released without any involvement by military and police, who were only on hand the following day to escort the hostages out of the jungle. 


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