The government of Peru announced a crackdown on “narcoterrorism” on Monday following the massacre of seven police officers by Shining Path, a domestic Marxist terrorist organization that had largely ceased to exist since the 1990s.
The ongoing wave of violent leftist riots that have disrupted Peru for more than two months have paved the way for the return of the Shining Path, previously eradicated during the rule of conservative former President Alberto Fujimori.
Remnants of the Marxist terrorist organization have directly incited, organized, and participated in the wave of leftist riots that have so far left a reported 60 people dead and over a thousand injured. The riots erupted in December following the arrest of Pedro Castillo, the nation’s communist former president. Castillo unsuccessfully attempted to dissolve the Peruvian Congress, staging what Peruvians refer to as a “self-coup” before Congress could vote to impeach him.
The rioters have attempted to take control of the nation’s airports, blocked roads across the nation, burned a police officer alive, and caused losses of around $500 million to the Peruvian economy by the end of January. During their storming of Lima, the nation’s capital city, the rioters burned down a historical building, leaving its inhabitants homeless.
Last weekend, Shining Path collaborated with drug traffickers to ambush and assassinate seven police officers in Peru’s Valley of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro rivers (VRAEM) area, where three quarters of the country’s cocaine is produced, according to Peruvian authorities.
The assassination of the seven police officers prompted Peruvian President Dina Boluarte to announce a crackdown on “narcoterrorism” on Monday.
“My government has ordered a frontal fight against this alliance of terrorism and drug-trafficking in the VRAEM and throughout the nation’s territory,” Boluarte said. “We will not allow more deaths, more violence.”
During the 1980s and 1990s, Shining Path unleashed a deadly “People’s War” on Peru seeking to violently impose communism on Peru that left 69,000 dead or missing. The Marxist terrorist organization was largely dismantled during the Fujimori presidency, which launched a nationwide campaign that culminated with the arrest of its leader and founder, Abimael Guzmán in 1992.
The group was able to survive through drug trafficking in the VRAEM region, resurfacing in 2015 during the presidency of Ollanta Humala. Peru is considered to be the world’s second largest cocaine producer in the world.
The National Police of Peru’s Counter-Terrorist Directorate (DIRCOTE) asserted in December that members of Shining Path who had been released from prison were participating in the violent leftist riots.
In January, Peruvian police authorities arrested seven members of Shining Path for their alleged involvement in the riots. Rocio Leandro Melgar, also known as “Comrade Cusi,” was among the arrested. “Comrade Cusi” was in charge of giving the “coup de grace” to victims of Shining Path who they had identified as targets, whether they were Peruvian authorities or civilians.
“Let the populace know, that they have every right to protest peacefully, that there is no doubt that there are members of Shining Path on the sidelines,” Óscar Arriola, the head DIRCOTE said at the time.
The violent left-wing attackers continue to demand the liberation of Castillo, the resignation of Dina Boluarte, the closure of Congress, new general elections before their constitutional 2026 date, and that an entirely new constitution for Peru be drafted.
Boluarte is Peru’s sixth president in six years as a result of a series of back-to-back political crises.
Although Boluarte has refused to resign, she has caved to some of the rioters’ demands, presenting two law proposals to reschedule elections for 2023 and to pave the way so that the next elected Congress carries out the proceedings for constitutional reform.
The proposals must be approved by Peru’s Congress. The proposal to reschedule the elections has failed to pass several times over the past weeks.
Pedro Castillo is currently serving one and a half years of preventive imprisonment on charges of “rebellion” and conspiracy to abuse authority. His trial is currently scheduled to take place in June 2024.
Christian K. Caruzo is a Venezuelan writer and documents life under socialism. You can follow him on Twitter here.
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