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Peru Takes Aim at Shining Path

The rebel group has largely abandoned any political agenda, and now focuses on Peru's thriving cocaine trade.


Peruvian soldiers in the VRAE—a region
controlled by drug traffickers. Photo via

By May Wilkerson


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Peru's President Ollanta Humala is targeting the remaining members of insurgent rebel group Shining Path, in an effort to crack down on the country's fast-growing cocaine trade. The Shining Path is a Maoist-inspired insurgency that was stifled by the government in the '90s after a brutal, decades-long war that claimed 70,000 lives. Although rebel numbers have since dwindled from 2,700 to an estimated 400, the group has survived—largely due to collaboration with drug traffickers and involvement in the cocaine trade. The Shining Path now oversees the country's largest coca-producing region, the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers [VRAE] where they "pretty much have a free rein over the area and want to keep it that way to support their main interest, drugs," says Jaime Garcia, a former deputy interior minister. Under their supervision, Peru's cocaine production has risen 25% in the past six years—now rivaling Colombia as the world's largest, according to the UN. Meanwhile, the rebels have become increasingly violent; they've reportedly killed 84 members of the security forces since 2008. “The remnants of the Shining path have become stronger in the last few years as they’ve narcoticized,” says Garcia. “They’ve no real political agenda or ambition for power. They exist at the moment because of the drug trade.” The president has vowed to ramp up military and police security forces in the VRAE. In September, his government budgeted a 68% increase in spending on the area, to install military bases and night vision equipment with the aim of reclaiming control of the region.

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