Phone taps have reportedly revealed an alliance between the Shining Path guerrillas and a Colombian drug trafficking organization in Peru’s principal coca-growing region, providing further details on the rebel group’s role in the drug trade.
On May 17, Peruvian television program Cuarto Poder broadcasted intercepted phone conversations between a man known as Bellota, who authorities identified as the second-in-command of Colombian drug trafficking group the Cafeteros, and deceased Shining Path military commander Martin Quispe Palomino, alias “Gabriel,” among other guerrilla leaders.
The phone taps record Bellota and members of the Shining Path discussing the killing of an informant, according to Cuarto Poder. The Cafeteros allegedly process cocaine in laboratories located in Peru’s Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM), and have been able to move around 500 kilos of cocaine thanks to their alliance with the Peruvian guerrilla group, which provides the drug traffickers with protection in exchange for money and equipment.
“For the first time in an objective and concrete manner, the state can corroborate the link between drug trafficking and terrorism in the VRAEM,” anti-drug prosecutor Mery Zuzunaga told Cuarto Poder.
The phone taps were part of a five-year investigation conducted by Peru’s anti-drug police (Dirandro), investigators, and the anti-narcotics prosecutor’s office in the southern city of Ayacucho.
InSight Crime Analysis
Although the Shining Path has been linked to the drug trade for years, the guerrilla group is not believed to be directly involved in cocaine production or trafficking. Rather, the Shining Path charges a protection tax on drug shipments that move though its stronghold, the VRAEM region. In 2013, detained drug traffickers told authorities that the Shining Path collected $5,000 for every ton of cocaine that moved through the VRAEM. The Shining Path likely levied a comparable protection fee on the Cafeteros, in addition to allegedly collaborating in the killing of informants.
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The Shining Path’s role in the drug trade is similar to that of Colombia’s largest guerrilla group, the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC). The FARC use what is known as the “gramaje,” system, which amounts to taxes levied on several different links in the drug chain, including coca growers and cocaine producers. However, unlike the Shining Path, some FARC fronts are directly involved in the production and trafficking of cocaine.
The high volume of cocaine produced in the VRAEM — approximately 200 tons per year — means the Shining Path likely makes a significant profit off the illicit drug trade. Extortion and the taxing of illegal logging operations are other sources of revenue for the guerrilla group, but Peruvian authorities believe the Shining Path’s role in drug trafficking operations is its primary source of income.