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Reborn Shining Path Menaces Peru

Led by three brothers, a faction of the violent movement threatens to reignite Peru's drug war.

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One of the three brothers, Martin Quispe
Palomino Photo via

By May Wilkerson

05/30/12

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An offshoot of Peru's notorious Maoist "Shining Path" movement—denounced as a terrorist organization for mass killings of civilians—is reportedly rebuilding itself with cocaine profits, threatening to reignite a drug war that's been relatively latent for two decades. The war between Shining Path and Peru's government claimed 70,000 lives in the '80s and '90s. The last leader of the movement, "Comrade Feliciano" was captured in 1999, but remnants have held on in remote areas since. One band of around 500 rebel fighters has been growing in strength, led by the three Quispe-Palomino brothers: Jorge, the eldest and apparently the "brains" of the operation; Victor, the nominal leader, who has a $5 million bounty on his head; and the youngest brother, Martin, or "Comrade Gabriel," who is believed to have led a recent raid freeing prisoners and shooting down a police helicopter. Heavily armed, they've taken root in a dense jungle valley area where more than half of Peru's cocaine is produced. Extorting local coca producers for profit, the group has bought support from poor locals and gained control over the lucrative region. One witness says the band taxes traffickers up to $3 per kilo of cocaine, and prosecutors claim it also produces its own coca.

According to Peru's drug czar Carmen Masias, the Quispe Palomino band represents a major threat to faltering government efforts to cut the country's coca crop by 30% over the next four years. Many Peruvians fear a return to former levels of violence—since 2008, when the government deployed armed forces to the area, the guerrillas have stepped up attacks on police and soldiers, killing more than 70 with ambushes, sniper attacks and landmines. “The Quispe Palomino band remains a very potent, violent, mobile and resilient force,” says analyst Diego Moya-Ocampos.

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