The Peruvian military has stepped up its efforts to destroy remote airstrips used for drug trafficking in a key rebel area, but the offensive has had little effect on the Shining Path’s ability to profit from the drug trade.
Military forces in Peru have intensified efforts to curb cocaine trafficking in one of Peru’s largest coca production regions, in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro River Valleys (VRAEM), by destroying more than 120 airstrips since March, reported El Comercio. As options for transporting shipments of cocaine via air become more restricted, traffickers have resorted to more traditional methods of trafficking, moving drugs on foot across rough terrain in groups of up to 20 men called ‘cargachos’ or ‘mochileros.’ The Shining Path is reportedly being contracted to provide security for these human caravans.
The Shining Path, which has long operated in the VRAEM, has in recent years deepened its involvement with the drug trafficking industry in the region. It is now believed that the group derives a majority of its income from regulating and “taxing” the cocaine leaving the region and by providing security and caravan protection services for drug shipments. Even with traffickers looking for alternative routes, the Shining Path is still able to profit as they provide security for shipments no matter how they leave the region.
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The flexible nature of the services that the Shining Path provides drug traffickers is proving to be a challenge for the Peruvian military, making for a difficult game of cat and mouse. It appears that the taxation and service provision structure the Shining Path has established in relation to drug trafficking in the VRAEM allows them to profit no matter the military’s tactical posture.
This latest revelation about how the Shining Path is connected to drug networks in Peru comes on the heels of an announcement from the US Treasury blacklisting the group as a ‘significant foreign narcotics trafficker’ in addition to the rebels’ longstanding designation as a terrorist organization under US law. A recent report alleged connections between the Shining Path and a group of Colombian drug traffickers, which combined with the US narcotics designation indicates the Shining Path is now a major drug trafficking organization.