The Shining Path has launched an attack on a newly established military base in the village in central Peru where they kidnapped 36 gas workers last month, illustrating the difficulties of bringing state presence to rebel controlled zones.
On Tuesday afternoon, rebels located in nearby hills opened fire on an army counterinsurgency base in the village of Kepashiato, in the southern Cusco region, according to official reports. A soldier and a 15-year-old girl were injured, reported La Republica.
The temporary military base was established in the backyard of the local school after the rebels abducted 36 gas workers from the village last month.
The mayor of Kepashiato, Rosalio Sanchez, has asked for the base to be relocated so that students are not endangered by such attacks, reported El Comercio.
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The attack illustrates the difficulties facing the Peruvian authorities in bringing state presence to remote parts of the country dominated by the rebels.
When the Shining Path made their incursion on April 9, some 40 troops were able to enter Kepashiato openly and spend several hours there, buying groceries and rounding up residents to listen to political speeches, before they departed with their prisoners. After the attack, the mayor of the district, Echarate, pointed out that it only has 30 police officers for its 17,000 sp kms, while it takes six hours to get to Kepashiato from the district capital. This lack of state presence allows the rebels to act with impunity.
President Ollanta Humala, facing public outrage over April’s kidnapping, and the deaths of several officers in the rescue mission, has promised to take control of the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE), on which Kepashiato sits just outside. This is the homeland of the fiercely militant remaining branch of the Shining Path rebels, as profiled in a recent piece by the Washington Post.
“We are not going to allow a politics of the status quo, we have to have a presence in the VRAE, and that is what we are going to do,” declared Humala last week.
The fact that efforts to bring military presence to Kepashiato have caused a rebel attack on the area, wounding a young girl, points to the challenges ahead ot attempts to bring the state to this area.