Junin Calls on Gov’t to Provide Security for Teachers, Students In VRAEM

Authorities in Peru’s central Junin region are calling on the government in Lima to provide security for professors and teachers living in the northern stretch of the coca-growing Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valleys, known as the VRAEM.

The VRAEM is where the larger part of Peru’s illegal coca crops are cultivated. It is also home to a heavily-armed splinter group of the Shining Path rebels, which is fully involved in the drug trade. The leftist rebels regularly launch violent attacks on Peru’s security forces, killing police officers and soldiers.

The government’s anti-terrorism and counter-narcotics strategies in the VRAEM have been heavily criticized for being poorly organized and lacking basic equipment for the law enforcement troops. Most recently, the government has come under fire for the death of an 8-year-old girl in the rural village of Ranrapata, in Junin region.

The girl was allegedly killed by a stray bullet during a military operation against rebels. The girl’s younger siblings were brought to Lima by the joint military-police authority, which said the children were rescued from the Shining Path. First Lady Nadine Heredia and the Minister of Women, Ana Jara, were inadvertently used in a promotional effort, photographed receiving the children at the military airport in Lima.

However, it was later revealed that the children were taken from their parents, who were not Shining Path members. Shortly afterwards, information was leaked on the death of the 8-year-old girl, along with reports that her body had been tossed into a ravine.

President Ollanta Humala has denied the government tried to cover up the girl’s death, while prominent individuals, including the ultra-conservative archbishop of Lima, Juan Luis Cipriani, suggested that people should move on.

Luis Aguilar Bernardillo, the regional director of Education in Junin, said that people in the VRAEM are scared of both the armed rebels and Peru’s security forces.

“They are equally frightened of both the armed groups and the [armed] forces,” he told newspaper El Comercio.

Bernardillo said that many teachers are leaving the VRAEM due to the lack of security. He said that many students are scared to walk to school because they could come across military patrols, terrorist groups or other criminal organizations.

In July, military reported rescuing 10 children from a rebel camp, and at the time sociologists in Lima stressed the need to keep the children within their own geographical and cultural environment and not to bring them to Lima.

A month earlier, the mayor of Kepashiato, a village in the southernmost stretch of the VRAEM, in north Cusco, requested that the police move to his municipal government building instead of using the local school as their base because of the danger to school children. That same month, a soldier and a schoolgirl were injured by a Shining Path sniper.

The VRAEM also includes districts in the regions of Ayacucho, Huancavelica and Cusco.

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