Peru: Drugs and Terrorism

Peru
Peru | Source
Abimael Guzman, founder of Shining Path
Abimael Guzman, founder of Shining Path | Source

An introduction and background of Peru

Peru is the third largest country in South America with almost a half million square miles within its borders. It is located on the western coast and includes coastal plains, the Andean mountains and lowlands with tropical forests. Peru has a population of over 29 million with 45% being indigenous, 37% of mixed background and 15% of European descent with the remaining 3% of Japanese, Chinese and African ancestry. The Peruvians are predominantly Roman Catholic (81%) and Spanish is the principle language. Their literacy rate is 96% in urban areas and 80% in rural locations. The major occupations are in the service industry which accounts for 54% of the economy. Manufacturing produces a little over 14% of the economic activity with an emphasis on textiles, precious metals and petroleum. Agriculture provides 7.8% of the gross domestic product with the production of coffee, cotton, spices, vegetables, poultry and milk. The remaining employment sectors are in mining, construction and fisheries. The average per capita income is $4,365. Housing in Peru varies from the traditional adobe and thatch homes and cement block homes with tin roofs in the rural areas to fine colonial-era architecture in the cities. The cities are where a third of Peruvians live in apartments, single family homes and shanties. A housing shortage estimated at 300,000 dwellings in 2009, has created a building boom that continues today. Construction was expected to grow by 14% in 2010. Peru is a constitutional republic with three branches of government. These include 1) the executive branch with a president, two vice presidents and a Council of Ministers, 2) the legislative branch which consists of a single Congress, and 3) the judicial branch which consists of the Supreme Court and the lower courts. There are 10 political parties and voting rights are extended to all citizens over the age of 18 with voting being mandatory for citizens 18-70. Peru had a highly developed Incan civilization when the Spanish arrived in 1531. Their independence from Spain was realized in 1821, followed by many years of territorial dispute with Chile and Ecuador. Peru has often been under military rule with the contemporary return to civilian government taking place in 1975 when a new constitution was put in place.

Terrorism practiced in Peru

There are two main groups in Peru, Shining Path and Tupac Amaru, which engage in terrorism, although the U. S. State Department only recognizes Shining Path as an official terrorist organization. Both of these groups were more prevalent and active in the 1980’s; however Shining Path has resurged in the new millennium.

Shining Path dates back to the late 1960’s when philosophy professor, Abimael Guzmán, wanted to overthrow the Peruvian government and establish a Maoist society. Therefore, the group could originally be classified as revolutionary and domestic terrorists. Brutal and destructive violence has been a trademark of the group. They often engage in planned ambush attacks that leave both soldiers and civilians dead, preferring to do their dirty work with machetes so as to save ammunition. The group went into a decline in the 1990’s after the capture of Guzmán. However, these days the group has stepped firmly into the field of narco-terrorism. What started out as protection payments charged to drug traffickers operating in Shining Path controlled areas has escalated into full blown coca growing and cocaine processing. Shining Path retains some of its original philosophy by providing locals with health care and hygiene services, distribution of food, and teaching women manual skills to help their husbands as well as having “ambassadors” throughout Europe and North America whose job it is to project a positive image of the group. However, according to the UN Office on Drugs and Crime, the areas controlled by Shining Path are the biggest producers of coca in all of the Andes, allowing the group to finance themselves easily with their drug profits.

The Tupac Amaru group could also be classified as revolutionary domestic terrorists, and took its inspiration from the Cuban revolution. Based on Marxism, the group wanted to rid Peru of all imperialist elements by reforming the government and creating a society in which ownership of property was shared and everyone enjoyed similar levels of prosperity. Unlike Shining Path, Tupac Amaru is not particularly violent, even warning of impending attacks to insure the fewest number of injuries. The group has been scaled back considerably since their most prominent attack in December 1996. Tupac Amaru invaded the Japanese Embassy in Lima and held hostages for four months. Governmental armed forces eventually raided the Embassy and killed all of the terrorist group members inside. Currently, the group, which makes its home in the remote jungles, will occasionally stop a bus and ask for voluntary donations.

The rough percentage of terrorism that is funded by drug sales

Almost all of Shining Path’s funding, roughly 95%, comes from drug related activities. The remaining funding comes from robberies, a “war tax” on local businesses and individuals which is a form of extortion, and support from radical middle-class intellectuals. Shining Path is an efficient organization with an estimated 500 laborers in the drug trade. The heart of their power lies in the alliance with Peru’s drug trade which provides them with “a mountain of cash”, according to General Barry McCaffrey, the former drug policy director under President Clinton. This funding has allowed the group’s numbers to quadruple in the last few years according to military officers and village leaders. Shining Path receives payments from 300,000 coca growers in exchange for protection from government crop eradication. They also control air strips and charge fees for the transport of coca leaves and paste. They protect drug smugglers for a fee, extort taxes from farmers and operate their own drug laboratories. Shining Path is paid for security, intelligence and logistics of the operation, along with ensuring the production of the drugs. Shining Path drug labs allow for the processing of coca leaves into cocaine. In fact, it is now hard to determine whether Shining Path is an armed revolutionary group or simply a group of criminal opportunists. In Ayacucho province, where Shining Path members are known to be, police check points search cars and buses every night for drugs on the main highway to the capital, Lima. In the town of Santa Ana, a protectorate of Shining Path, the only paved street is dotted with pharmacies which can legally provide the chemicals for processing the coca leaves. The farmers and locals have profited from the thriving business, also, and have been able to send their children to universities and purchase new consumer goods.

The drug that is the basis of the funding

Coca, a mildly stimulating leaf when chewed raw, is largely legal in Peru, but cocaine is not. Unfortunately, 90% of the harvested coca leaves are used to manufacture cocaine. Cocaine production is the basis of Shining Path’s funding. Starting in 1983, Shining Path moved into Peru’s Upper Hualloga Valley, the area with the world’s greatest production of the coca leaf. Another one of Peru’s principal cocaine producing areas, the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers (VRAE), is also a stronghold of Shining Path. By professing to liberate and protect the peasant farmers, Shining Path seized control of towns, and began the exporting of cocaine paste which is used to manufacture refined cocaine. Following the capture of their leader Guzmán in 1992 and a fungus that destroyed much of the coca leaf crop in the mid 1990’s, Shining Path’s role was greatly diminished. However, there was a resurgence in Shining Path’s drug trafficking in 2002. By 2007, coca production in Peru increased 4%, and in 2009, coca production increased another 6.8%. The U.S. government estimates 225 tons of cocaine were produced in Peru in 2009. More cultivation has shifted to Peru from Colombia where eradication efforts have had some success. This continuing surge in the cocaine business has members of Shining Path competing for control of the market since demands for cocaine continue to be high in the United States, Brazil and parts of Europe, and the struggle against its production is very difficult. The increases have also been attributed to Shining Path spreading out their forces to more areas and deepening their ties to drug trafficking. Shining Path has been able to diversify the smuggling routes for cocaine which run from Peruvian highlands to the Pacific Coast. Once the cocaine reaches the coastline, it is purchased by Mexican drug cartels and smuggled northwards through the Pacific. Members of Shining Path who escort the shipments across Peru charge the cartels $30 a kilo. Cocaine trafficking has lead to an increase in weapons and the means to purchase them. Additionally, Shining Path’s sophistication and strength is growing because of their involvement with cocaine.

The impact of more effective drug enforcement on terrorism

The resurgence of Shining Path as a narco-terrorist group should not be taken lightly by either the Peruvian or U.S. governments. Their path could easily follow that of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia and become a state within a state with overflowing coffers thanks to the drug trade. Since the illegal drug trade is often a source of funding for terrorist groups, drug enforcement is considered a vitally necessary way to reduce the growth of these insurgencies. Furthermore, the greatly diminished capacity of Shining Path during the coca fungus should highlight the importance that drug enforcement would have in negatively impacting the group. One of the objectives of the International Drug Control Policy is to disrupt and stifle the amount of drugs that are manufactured and sold which is directly linked to terrorism. One of the primary means of accomplishing this goal is through source control. Source control involves activities that limit cultivation and production of drugs. One method of source control is crop eradication, which is the destruction of drug crops. The eradication can take place both manually and through the use of herbicides. Since crop eradication can eliminate farmers of a source of income, governments sometimes choose to compensate farmers who voluntarily destroy their crops. This occurred in Peru in 2002 with financial backing from the United States. In addition, alternative crops were introduced, but since no other crop provides as much money as coca, the farmers have found it difficult to refrain from growing it. Another problem with crop eradication is that the areas of planting are moved elsewhere. When eradication was carried out in Colombia, fields of coca increased in Peru and Bolivia, for example. Another method to reduce the production of drugs is by controlling substances used in the manufacturing process. It has been suggested that the first step in combating the drug trade would be to interrupt the flow of the nearly 2 million gallons of kerosene per year that is brought into the VRAE. Kerosene is the main chemical used in the production of cocaine. Halting the flow would increase production costs and in turn street prices. Another source control method is interdiction, which is the attempt to keep drugs from being transported across borders. Drugs that are attempting to be smuggled across air, maritime and land routes are seized and destroyed by federal drug agents. Through these interdiction efforts, over 365,000 pounds of cocaine were seized in 2004 by U.S. agents, though enough does go undetected and smuggled into the country that it is considered the primary drug threat to the U.S. Drug courier profiles have also been established as a means to detect possible smuggling operations and are applicable to investigations involving terrorism. Another drug enforcement method used to impact terrorism and drug trafficking is economic sanctions and assistance. Countries that fail to meet counter-narcotics obligations face the removal of foreign assistance and implementation of trade sanctions. Countries that do meet their obligations are financially assisted with the goal of providing new economic development as an alternative to money gained through drug crop cultivation. An additional drug enforcement strategy is the strengthening of the judicial and legal systems in drug producing countries. These efforts seek to limit corruption and reduce crime by developing more effective institutions.

These drug enforcement measures, however, have not kept the cocaine trade from persisting and sometimes flourishing. In order to reduce the connection between the drug trade and terrorism in Peru, the United States Department of State has offered five million dollars for information leading to the arrests of Shining Path’s new leaders, Florindo Flores and Victor Palomino. Other suggestions for drug enforcement measures that may have a greater impact on terrorism include continued crop eradication and expanded sources of alternative income for farmers. Economic aid from countries targeted for drug deliveries is necessary, as well. The financial aid would be directed towards enhancing the military so it would be better equipped and trained to carry out eradication and interdiction measures, as well as funding economic development in drug producing countries. Another suggestion is to expand the area of concentrated drug enforcement efforts to entire regions. This may control new fields of coca being planted after others have been destroyed.


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