News of Peru’s Shining Path insurgency changing strategies and targeting specific people is being met with deep skepticism by sociologist and recognized Shining Path expert Jaime Antezana.
Antezana believes the news is more likely to be a smoke screen, to draw attention away from the Shining Path’s full dedication to drug trafficking and from the current news headlines of corruption and money laundering networks that implicate politicial figures, lawmakers and magistrates.
On Sunday night, the television news program Panorama reported that remnants of the Shining Path insurgency appear to have changed their strategy to protect their leadership and carry out targeted attacks.
Panorama reported that it had obtained a document showing that the rebels in Peru’s remote Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valleys, known strategically as the VRAEM, had focused on new strategies.
The document, called “Strategy and Tactics of the Heroic and Militarized Communist Party of Peru,” calls for “selective annihilation” of journalists and analysts that criticize the Shining Path remnants, as well as the lawyers of the rebel group’s imprisoned founder, Abimael Guzman, from whom the remnants have split.
Insight Crime, a website that reports on drug trafficking, organized crime and insurgency in Latin America, said that the Shining Path is possibly changing its strategy after last year’s deaths of two high-ranking operatives by the military and police with the help of a former ally turned informant. Alejandro Borda Casafranca, alias Alipio, and Marco Antonio Quispe Palomino, alias Gabriel, were both leaders of the Shining Path’s military structure. Another rebel who was Alipio’s right-hand man was also killed.
Quispe Palomino was one of several brothers and cousins within the Shining Path group, which is led in the VRAEM area by brothers Raul and Jose.
“The new security protocols stipulated in the manual seem designed to prevent future leaks of information to the security forces, and protect the group’s remaining leadership from government operations,” Insight Crime said.
Doubts about the authors
Antezana, however, does not believe the document was written by the Shining Path, that it comes from a darker source. He says the document has been written to raise some issues to the front headlines, distract the attention of the news media away from drug trafficking, and refresh dark memories that continue to make the public apprehensive.
“This document is trying to place the issue of terrorism on the public agenda of national politics and hide matters such as Lopez Meneses and Orellana [corruption and power cases that are currently dominating the headlines]. Because talking about [blowing up] high tension pylons and selective assassinations is about adding components for the front pages and people are going to believe that it’s all about terrorism and not about drug traffic,” Antezana said.
Antezana mentioned local politics in Ayacucho as an example, where talking of selective assassinations would create the perfect scenario for attacks against journalists reporting on corruption.
“If someone kills a journalist who has reported on the cases of alleged corruption by [Ayacucho regional president Wilfredo] Oscorima, everyone will say the journalist died at the hand of terrorists,” Antezana said. Oscorima, re-elected last month to a four-year term, is under investigation for money laundering.
According to analyst Pedro Yaranga, the Shining Path do have the material assets to carry out some of their strategy, although they only control a small area in the province of Satipo, in Junin region.
The Shining Path fighters in the VRAEM have long broken away from the group’s founders and its original Maoist ideology.
Analysts say the group is now fully engaged in protecting coca producers and drug traffickers. The group has better knowledge of the rugged, isolated terrain than state security forces and is heavily armed thanks to profits from cocaine production and recovering weapons from the military after ambushing and killing soldiers.
It regularly kills soldiers and police in the area, as well as attacks on private-sector infrastructure, forcing companies to pull out of the area.