Remnants of Shining Path insurgents are calling on people in south-central Peru to stop authorities from eradicating coca crops in their area, according to a recording that was reportedly made by the rebels and broadcast on local radio.
“The only thing true and hard is that you should defend your land, your crops and your water by organizing militarily with arms,” a female voice said in the recording, which was cited by daily El Comercio.
The rebels operate in a long corridor of montane forest formed by the valleys of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers, which straddle parts of the Ayacucho, Cusco, Huancavelica and Junin regions. Known strategically as the VRAEM, the area is Peru’s top producer of coca, the raw material used to make cocaine.
More than two decades since the Shining Path’s founding leader was captured, the splinter group in the Vraem continues to operate thanks to profits from Peru’s illicit drug trade. However, the current rebels bear no resemblance to the original Shining Path ideology, which called for the state to be overthrown in a violent revolution and for the implementation of a communist regime. The rebels today, well-armed and often uniformed, protect producers and traffickers in the drug trade.
The cocaine-funded rebels in the Vraem have killed many soldiers and police officers in the area in surprise attacks.
President Ollanta Humala has pledged to root them out. His government has been increasing the state’s presence in the region by building military bases and has said that this year will be the first time ever that it will send workers into the zone to forcefully eradicate coca bushes.