During Operativo Perseo 2014, a joint effort of the National Police of Peru and the Peruvian Armed Forces, 28 members of Shining Path’s political wing, the Movimiento por Amnistía y Derechos Fundamentales (MOVADEF – The Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights), were arrested in Lima and Puno (a southern region bordering Bolivia) on April 10. The accused were charged with terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering following a two-year investigation. The arrests represent an escalation of the government’s actions against the political group. One of the arrested MOVADEF leaders, Alfredo Crespo, also served as Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) founder Abimael Guzmán’s lawyer and acted as Guzmán’s intermediary with Shining Path field commander Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala (a.k.a. Camarada Artemio) from MOVADEF’s establishment in 2008 until Artemio’s 2012 capture. Crespo had earlier served 12 years in prison for terrorism offenses. Peruvian authorities are concerned that even as they successfully combat Shining Path in the countryside, MOVADEF’s influence is growing, particularly on university campuses.
Guzmán, who founded Shining Path in 1970, was captured in September 1992 and convicted after a three-day trial. He is currently serving a life sentence in solitary confinement in the Callao naval base maximum security prison on the island of San Lorenzo, off the coast of Lima.
After Guzmán’s arrest, Peruvian security forces halted the Shining Path’s momentum and eventually succeeded in suppressing the armed insurgency. Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission was established in 2001 after the fall of President Alberto Fujimori to examine abuses committed during the 1980s and 1990s by both guerrilla groups and the Peruvian military. The Commission concluded that roughly 70,000 people, primarily peasants, were killed or “disappeared” between 1980-2000. Forensic teams continue to exhume mass graves in mountain villages in the Andes (El Tiempo Latino [Washington], August 21, 2013).
MOVADEF was founded in 2008 with the express purpose of securing an amnesty for Guzmán and other imprisoned Shining Path leaders. At its height, the Shining Path had an estimated 7,000 militants; it is now believed to have around 300 active fighters that operate in the Huallaga Valley and the valleys of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers (the latter three being known collectively as the VRAEM region), which are jungle regions bordering the Amazon (Peru this Week, April 21).
In 2011 MOVADEF received $179,000 from Shining Path’s Huallaga Valley cell to establish itself as a political movement by establishing 60 support committees across the country and, after organizing as a political party, obtaining registration to allow its participation in elections (El Comercio [Lima], April 11).
The last several years have seen Shining Path suffer setbacks on the battlefield. On February 11, 2012, Camarada Artemio was arrested by Peruvian security forces in the upper Huallaga Valley. He was the last field leader who remained loyal to Guzmán. On December 8, 2012, three months before his arrest, Camarada Artemio admitted to Lima-based journalists that Shining Path had been defeated and said that its remaining guerrillas were ready to negotiate with the government (Diario El Mercurio [Cajamarca], December 8, 2012). Despite Artemio’s assertions, a number of guerrillas continued to fight.
On August 12, 2013, Shining Path’s second-in-command and chief military commander, Alejandro Borda Casafranca (a.k.a. Camarada Alipio), died together with Marco Antonio Quispe Palomino (a.k.a. Camarada Gabriel) in a battle in Llochegua, a jungle area in the VRAEM (La República [Lima], August 12, 2013). Three months later, the December 9, 2013 arrest of Alexander Dimas Huaman (a.k.a. Héctor), Artemio’s successor, led the head of Peru’s national drug police to declare that Shining Path had disappeared from the upper Huallaga Valley and that the region had been pacified (El Comercio [Lima], December 9, 2013).
The arrests paralleled MOVADEF’s increased efforts to gain political legitimacy, as MOVADEF filed papers with Peru’s Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE – National Jury of Elections) seeking registration as a legitimate political party and describing its ideology as “Marxism-Leninism-Gonzalo thought.” The latter element refers to the personal ideology of Abimael Guzmán.
On January 20, 2012, the JNE rejected the application for a second time because it did not comply with requirements. Among the points that JNE cited for rejecting the application was MOVADEF’s lack of commitment to democracy and their failure to break with their previous subversive activities. Further proof of MOVADEF’s lack of objectivity and their ongoing commitment to Shining Path ideology was in the appeal that MOVADEF presented to the JNE for an amnesty for Guzmán, corrected in Guzmán’s own handwriting, along with other documents captured from Shining Path members (El Comercio [Lima], April 27). Furthermore, the JNE concluded from the documentation that MOVADEF’s actual leader was Abimael Guzmán (El Comercio [Lima], April 27). MOVADEF claimed to have mustered more than 350,000 signatures to support its political registration effort (Diario La Primera [Lima], January 23, 2012).
Peruvian Interior Minister Walter Albán said the Operation Perseo 2014 arrests were the result of a two-year investigation involving phone taps and undercover agents that established a link between MOVADEF and Shining Path guerrillas in the coca-producing Huallaga Valley-VRAEM region. The detainees were accused of terrorist links, financing terrorist activities with drug money and money laundering, with Albán asserting that it was evident MOVADEF “is a front” for the Shining Path (Perú21, April 11).
Also arrested was President Ollanta Humala’s estranged cousin, Walter Humala, who had unsuccessfully run for the presidency of the (Grupo RPP [Peru], April 9).President Humala fought the Shining Path as an army major in the 1990s. Indicating that his cousin would get no special treatment, Humala said, “In Peru no one wears a crown”
Peruvian authorities stated that prior to Operation Perseo 2014, they were only aware of five percent of MOVADEF’s activities, but that the documents confiscated during the operation will help to figure out the rest (El Comercio [Lima], April 26).
General Leonardo Longa López, the new head of the VRAEM Special Command, explained the resurgence in Shining Path attacks and kidnappings after a period of inactivity, suggesting that these actions are Shining Path’s last desperate reaction to military efforts to halt drug trafficking in the region: “The production supplies aren’t getting through and the terrorist remnants have withdrawn… There are fewer and fewer [Shining Path members] because they’re abandoning the ranks” (El Comercio [Lima], March 2).
While MOVADEF’s effort to expand its influence is not yet massive, it has a presence in Peru similar to that of Shining Path in 1980, when that movement still attracted little attention prior to beginning military operations. The Peruvian government believes that Shining Path could be receiving around $15 million annually from drug trafficking to purchase arms and maintain their clandestine networks. As Peru is the world’s second largest producer of coca, the problem is likely to continue.
A recent Ipsos Peru survey revealed that 22 percent of Peru’s population thinks that MOVADEF is an independent movement that is not part of Shining Path, with many of these respondents living in the interior of the country (El Comercio [Lima], April 30).
While Lima has achieved military victories against Shining Path in the past several years, drug trafficking continues to grow. Cocaine remains the major source of income of both the narco-insurgent movement as well as several other criminal entities in the country. On the ideological front, especially among the young for whom the Shining Path armed struggle is mostly history, MOVADEF’s growing presence on college campuses is rapidly becoming as big a concern as the drug trade.
Dr. John C. K. Daly is a Eurasian foreign affairs and defense policy expert for The Jamestown Foundation and a non-resident fellow at the Central Asia-Caucasus Institute in Washington DC.