Peru’s security forces have inflicted a blow against the country’s Shining Path guerrilla insurgency after killing the rebels’ second in command during a skirmish in a southern jungle region.
Orlando Alejandro Borda Casafranco, alias “Comrade Alipio,” was killed alongside two other guerrillas following a joint operation by Peruvian police and military units 200 miles east of the capital Lima.
According to El Comercio, the operation was launched to combat a recent spate of armed raids and extortion activities carried out by the rebels in the Ayacucho region of the VRAEM, a densely vegetated collection of river basins where much of the country’s illegal coca crop is grown.
The news comes three weeks after dozens of guerrillas, thought to be under the command of Borda, torched $5 million of construction vehicles and equipment after the company that owned them refused to pay a $35,000 extortion fee.
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The killing of Borda is a coup for Peruvian security forces and President Ollanta Humala in their efforts to combat the resurgence of the Shining Path in the VRAEM.
Last year, Humala announced the military defeat of the guerrilla faction based further north in the Huallaga region, following the capture of its commander, Jose Eleuterio Flores Hala, alias “Comrade Artemio”.
However the VRAEM faction has continued activities apace. Within the VRAEM — a key coca cultivation and drug trafficking region –, the Shining Path supports its activities by taxing and providing protection to drug traffickers, as well as through extortion and illegal logging.
The expansive and inhospitable terrain makes it difficult for Peruvian security forces to track down the rebels or uphold a constant presence, and the guerrillas have been able to maintain their strength by recruiting children and exerting authority over the population in the face of continued state absence.
The US State Department has offered a $5 million reward for information leading to the capture or conviction of the faction’s overall commander, Victor Quispe Palomino, alias “Comrade Jose,” who remains at large in the VRAEM.