A faction of the Shining Path is considering shifting their drug trafficking routes closer to Brazil and into a region where one of Peru’s most important energy projects is based, according to Peruvian newspaper El Comercio.
The Shining Path faction has traditionally operated in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE), but is reportedly considering moving northwards into Bajo Urubamba, an undeveloped region which would allow them to more easily move drug shipments into the province of Ucayali and over the border into Brazil, reports El Comercio.
El Comercio notes that even though there are two military bases and a naval base in this region, another potential attraction for the Shining Path in this area is the Malvinas plant, which processes gas for one of the country’s most important energy projects, the Camisea gas fields.
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Despite government claims that Shining Path is basically defunct, the VRAE-based faction still has a demonstrated ability to carry out major attacks, prompting the security forces to invest many of their resources in the VRAE. It’s possible that the Shining Path is considering shifting part of their operations northwards in order to divide the attention of Peru’s security forces, and divert attention away from this traditional area of activity.
Still, the Shining Path have shown a clear interest in targeting the Camisea Gas Project and project operator Gas Transportation Company of Peru (TGP), which, as El Comercio points out, could also justify their move outside of the VRAE. The rebels abducted 36 gas workers in April, and more recently destroyed three gas company helicopters. Going after energy companies not only provides a source of income for the guerrillas, who reportedly attacked TGP’s helicopters because the company refused to pay extortion fees, but also fits in with the group’s stated political project of “protecting” the population from exploitation.