The Resurrection of an Old Peruvian Terrorist Group Responds to Pipeline Development

It began as an insurgency in the sierras and the government figured it would die down, however Sendero Luminoso grew, killing any villages that did not strive for the same violent goals that Sendero did. The Peruvian terrorist group made profit by becoming heavily involved in the manufacturing and trafficking of cocaine within Peru, according to BBC’s profile on the terrorist group.

A group that arose in the 1980’s was famously silenced by controversial president, Alberto Fujimori a decade later, has begun to rise again against recent governmental international contracts and development plans. The group is suspected of possible sabotages against the Camisea Gas Project, an extraction and transportation contract of natural gas that Peru signed that has displaced  many people and threatens the Amazon/Urubamba River region in Central Peru (El Comercio).

Sendero Luminoso in the 80’s. Photo: Ministero de Cultura del Peru
Partido Comunista del Perú, popularly known as Sendero Luminoso, current day status. Photo: History of Me

Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path)

After the second president of Revolutionary Armed Forces (Francisco Morales Bermúdez)  had lost power by a coup, underrepresented populations within Peru and in the Andes became restless from government neglect. In Ayacucho, a region in the Andes, Sendero Luminoso was founded by Abimael Guzman.

It originally “began by exploiting the grievances and centuries-old government neglect of impoverished peasant areas,” according to Daniel Fitz-Simons from the Strategic Studies Institute. The groups ideology was a “hybrid” between Maoism, Marxism-Leninism, emphasizing indigenous ideals while adamantly rejecting both Hispanic culture and basic democratic ways.

Because it was more of a “guerrilla type” warfare there was no uniforms or distinctions between the terrorists and the indigenous and impoverished. Therefore the Peruvian armed forces as well killed many innocents that they thought were apart of the insurgent group. The insurgents have been responsible for about 70,000 deaths within Peru (BBC).

Although the centralized Peruvian government within Lima [Peru’s capital] did not originally take the growing terrorism in the mountains seriously, they eventually did when the killing epidemic spread to Lima. Attacks on the capital consisted of car bombs, two major ones that killed 18 people and wounded 140 as reported by the New York Times in 1992.

Sendero Luminoso also targeted occidental companies. According to the U.S. Department of Intelligence report, Significant Incidents of Political Violence Against Americans in 1993, the group hijacked a Coca Cola truck and rammed it into a nearby shanty town where they then rigged it with explosive devices and destroyed it.

Sendero also car bombed two Coca Cola factories within Peru and took shots at an American Airlines plane while it was on the runway. Within the same month in 1993, the group detonated a massive car bomb at the IBM (International Business Machines based) a company based out of New York.

Slow Resurrection of a Dark Peruvian Past

The chaos eventually ended with the capturing of the groups leader, Guzman, in 1992. However, the group has become relevant again today. In the Vraem (Vrae) region, the Valley of the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers, Sendero Luminoso has maintained operations. Recent activity has increased as reported by Peruvian newspaper El Comercio. The Vraem region is also the largest cocaine-producing region in all of Peru. Interestingly enough, Sendero in the 80’s and 90’s funded their groups work through the backward deals of drug trade and production; the black market business still provides funding to their malice today.

The Vraem region, largest drug production area and home of leftover terrorist group, in Peru. Photo: Global Voices

The finishing date for a major energy project, Camisea Gas Project, which has been moving Peru forward in its natural gas sector with the construction of pipeline systems within the country has been pushed back about a year, reported by Reuters. The project is said to double Peru’s carrying capacity of natural gas from current 610 million cubic feet, to 1.5 billion cubic feet (Reuters). The slowing of the project is due to insurgents, the growth of the Sendero group, in the nearby Vraem region.

“‘In 2012, the Shining Path kidnapped a few dozen contract employees of TGP [Transportada de Gas del Peru] before releasing them unharmed days later.

“The security problem is still present,” Ferreiro [General Manager of TGP] said at an energy event. “But we have the support of the state, which has put security forces in the area that allow us to work.”‘ -Reuters

“El Nuevo Sendero,” is what the group is now being called, led by fervent leader Martin Quispe Palomino, who spoke against the enslavement of the state and its endorsed companies.

“They will have to face the Peruvian Justice,” said Victor Castro Ramirez, another Sendero leader referring to those who come into invest and develop in Peru, infringing on the land of the people.

In a recent video by Peruvian TV station, Panamericana TV, investigation into the group’s activity exposed the people of the region chanting for the “militarization of Peru’s Communist Party,” against those who come in to develop and displace. The video portrays children shouting “luchar con armas en la mano,” or fight with weapons in hand.

Protests for the deal however, have not stemmed from just the military group, but also from environmentalist groups in London and San Francisco that believe the further development of the pipeline will greatly harm the natural environment. On one hand the project will greatly help Peru, a country where about half of their energy comes from natural gas as reported by Reuters, but on the other, it will have civil and environmental costs.

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