Peru anti-drug police detained at least 20 people on July 14, including a former lawmaker and noted activist for coca growers, accusing them of collaborating with guerrilla group the Shining Path.
Nancy Obregon, who served in Congress from 2006 to 2011 and is part of the same political party as President Ollanta Humala, was arrested alongside eight members of her family in Tocache province. Police reported seizing drugs and weapons during the operation, although these were not found in Obregon’s home. Other suspects were detained in capital city Lima.
The Attorney General’s Office said that the arrests came about after a ten-month investigation that involved tapping Obregon’s phone calls and relying on testimony from at least eight protected witnesses, including former Shining Path members and drug traffickers.
As La Republica reported, these witnesses told the government that Obregon enlisted Shining Path leader Victor Quispe Palomino, alias “Comrade Jose,” to stop coca eradication efforts in the Upper Huallaga Valley, the epicenter of Peru’s coca production. Obregon coordinated the arrival of a Shining Path column to the Huallaga via a coca activist and his wife, according to a police report seen by La Republica.
The report also states Obregon and her family provided economic support to the Shining Path, after top leader alias “Comrade Artemio” was arrested last year.
Obregon was a witness during Artemio’s trial, which ended with the guerrilla leader being sentenced to life in prison on terrorism and drug trafficking charges. Anti-drug police said Obregon was meeting with the Shining Path as early as 2004 to 2006, before she was elected to Congress.
Obregon has denied the charges, publishing a note on her Facebook page that said her family were victims of “political prosecution.” The head of ruling party the Peruvian Nationalist Party (PNC) — which Obregon forms part of — said that the party “believes in her innocence,” but would not interfere with the investigation.
InSight Crime Analysis
If the allegations against Obregon prove true, it would be testimony to the Shining Path’s ability to maintain a relationship with an important political ally. This is significant, considering that the Shining Path faction led by Comrade Jose is considered to be less interested in politics than the offshoot once controlled by Artemio.
Comrade Jose’s faction is not based in the Upper Huallaga (where Artemio’s guerrillas once operated), but southwards, in a region known as the VRAEM. As they have more military power than Artemio’s faction, it would have made sense for Obregon to enlist their aid in the Upper Huallaga, according to the accusations.