Global Guerrillas in Peru (Return of The Sendero)

Joshua Partlow with an excellent though frightening piece in the Washington Post on the reforming of the Shinning Path, a terrorist organization in Peru well known from a brutal bloody civil war in the 80s and 90s.

I have a personal connection to this story having spent some time in Peru, forming deep relationships, and having attended a number of public hearings of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (modeled after the South African one).  I heard mothers tell of the Sendero and/or the right-wing militias that the government sent out to kill the terrorists (becoming themselves terrorizers of the populace) who would come and kill their husbands or children in front of their faces, burn down their village, and then leave them to die of starvation.

Partlow writes:

After years in relative obscurity, the Shining Path, one of Latin America’s most notorious guerrilla groups, is fighting the Peruvian military with renewed vigor, feeding on the profits of the cocaine trade and trying to win support from the Andean villagers it once terrorized, according to residents and Peruvian officials.

And further:

But those who live among them, as well as those who study the secretive group, also describe other reasons for their resurgence. The Shining Path, which has its bases in two coca-producing regions of central Peru, is now heavily involved in drug trafficking and is paying for new recruits..Experts said the guerrillas have renounced the brutal tactics espoused by their original leader, Abimael Guzmán, who was captured in 1992. Unlike Guzmán, who said 10 percent of the Peruvian population had to be assassinated for the Shining Path to take power, the new leaders tell their followers they must protect the villagers and instead target the military and anti-drug authorities.  (my italics, see further Primary Loyalties)

In other words, the Shinning Path is taking up the way of Global Guerrillas.  That is they are moving to decentralized nodes (400-700 full time fighters according to Partlow with other numbers of affiliated levels of connection exactly per Robb’s theory).  They exist via entrance into the drug trade and are essentially a narco-terrorist organization (a la FARC in Colombia) who are increasingly trying to win the hearts and minds of the locals to form an anti-government front.

“Today the Shining Path is working as if it were a company,” said Luis Giampetri Rojas, a former admiral and Peru’s vice president. “I would say that the Shining Path of today has something of an ideology, because they have not lost it, but also they have been contaminated with the capitalism of drug trafficking. Today, if drug trafficking didn’t exist, the Shining Path would not have a way to subsist.”


Over the years, the Shining Path has fortified Vizcatan with a network of land mines and booby traps and built tunnels to hide and escape. Some participants in the group’s first uprising received guerrilla training in China decades ago, but the modern-day fighters have trained themselves, putting in years of practice in the mountains and jungles.

“Their tactical level is better than our Special Forces’,” said one Shining Path analyst who spoke on the condition of anonymity to avoid offending the Peruvian military. “They are faster, quicker, better at ambushes and capable of hiding underground.”

On GGs use of tunnel creation, see the Taliban in NWFP Pakistan from the NyTimes.

Update I: For readers of Spanish, here is a blog post that details the resurgence of the Neo-Sendero.  The basic gist of which is a description of a document produced by the US State Dept. on this subject.  It confirms the reporting from Wapo.  They are building a base in coca growing regions outside the jurisdiction of the state (creating a virtual or mini-state-within-the-state).

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