A pamphlet allegedly distributed by Peruvian rebels Shining Path suggests that the group’s two rival factions may unify and consolidate their operations in the heartland of the coca trade.
Peruvian newspaper Diario Correo reports that the Shining Path faction from the lawless Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) in Peru’s south began handing out pamphlets which say they have established a cell in the northern Huallaga Valley.
The Huallaga Valley is home to another splinter group of Shining Path, led by “Comrade Artemio,” which is hostile to the VRAE group due to their involvement in drug trafficking. Before his arrest in February, Artemio had said that the VRAE faction are “anti-revolutionaries” and “mercenaries.” The Huallaga faction has also been accused of involvement in the drug trade, although Artemio has said this only involves taxing coca growers.
While the pamphlet distributed by the VRAE faction reportedly called for the two groups to unify, the document also labelled Comrade Artemio an agent of the Peruvian state, referring to his arrest as nothing more than a farcical attempt to boost military morale.
The VRAE Shining Path is led by Victor Quispe Palomino, alias “Comrade Jose,” (pictured above).
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Peruvian authorities have previously expressed concerns that Comrade Jose will try to move into move into Artemio’s old territory and unify the guerrillas under a single faction. The pamphlet implies that the VRAE faction is intent on doing just that.
If this were to happen, it would put the drug trade in both the Huallaga Valley and the VRAE, Peru’s top coca-producing zones, under one umbrella and strengthen the finances of Jose’s group. As InSight Crime has noted, the VRAE-based faction was already far stronger militarily then its northern brethren, thus posing more of a threat to Peru’s security forces. Estimates put the group’s number of fighters at around 500.
President Ollanta Humala declared a state of emergency in the VRAE region last year to try and combat the guerilla faction, although so far there have been no significant security gains against the group. If they succeed in establishing a foothold in the north, Comrade Jose’s group could present a greater problem to Peru’s government than Comrade Artemio.