Despite Peru’s great work on placing the country as one of the strongest economies in Latin America with a GDP of 154 billion dollars and a GDP per capita of $10,210 (2011) and lowering the poverty from 59% to 23%; the need for social inclusion, development and equality asphyxiated the economic spur of the last decade, bringing out the same structural causes that gave birth to Sendero Luminoso (Shinning Path) back in the 1980’s, the organization knows it and has been taking advantage of it.
The capture of Abimael Guzman and Elena Yparraguire -leader and second in command, respectively- of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso in 1992 was not enough to end the story of bloodshed and terror in Peru; it merely dismembered the organization into several fronts making more difficult for the State to annihilate the enemy. Since then, Sendero Luminoso has remained silently active spreading like cancer, invading bodies still ill with the same root causes that fostered its creation, despite the endless effort of the government.
From within the walls of his prison cell, Abimael Guzman has designed a personal machinery to transcend as a leader and continue young people indoctrination with his ideology, in this new strategy of “peaceful fight” Sendero Luminoso -as any other terrorist organization- abuses the concept democracy values the most: freedom.
With no legal constraint, Sendero Luminoso takes advantage of leftist movements advance in Latin America; in this “shift to the left”, well-known Senderistas have infiltrated universities luring students, civil and human rights activists into their network, using never-ending conflicts of indigenous owned land as propaganda against development projects, marketing terrorist members as political prisoners, and expanding their network in neighboring countries, everything under the umbrella of freedom of speech and association.
From 2001 to 2008 civil groups pro Sendero Luminoso managed to liberate 3,495 inmates; Senderistas once charged with terrorism and sedition are now working in universities as teachers, union members, lawyers and social workers. It is no coincidence that Alfredo Crespo –who was among the released Senderistas- turned out Abimael Guzman defense lawyer and the creator of the political arm of Sendero Luminoso: the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef)
In the decade after the liberation of “political prisoners” -as Senderistas like to call themselves- the numbers of supporters of the “pensamiento Gonzalo” have grown exponentially. When Sendero Luminoso was at its peak in 1990 they had 3,000 members, and now thanks to the creation of the Movadef in 2009, and the financial support of Sendero Luminoso armed factions that still have control of the VRAEM and Huallaga Valley drug trafficking; they have a little over 360,000 followers, 73 offices in the country (13 in Lima solely), and a prolific network outside Peru… apparently Guzman strategy of a “peaceful fight” paid off.
But there’s more than meets the eye in Guzman’s strategy, it is not a mere indoctrination process to turn Peru into a socialist country and ease social injustices; no, what he wanted was for the Movadef to become a political party with the sole purpose of manipulating the next electoral process in 2014 and grant him (Guzman) and his long-life partner Yparraguire, the amnesty. It is unconceivable how they can even think of a general amnesty and conveniently forget the 30,000 Peruvians that died at their hands… the killings, extortion, intimidation and forced recruitment of children between 9 and 14 years old for combat and drug trafficking activities.
On that subject , the Movadef and its followers have no recollection, no memory of the suffering inflicted during Guzman’s Sendero Luminoso reign of terror.
Peru didn’t surrender to the pressure of political and civil rights groups and rejected the registration to the Movadef as a political party, approved the Gag Law (Ley de Negacionismo) as a way to stop the ideological influence of Guzman, sanctioning those who glorify the atrocities and terrorist acts of Sendero Luminoso; and a month ago police elements captured Movadef leaders Manuel Fajardo and Antonio Crespo, along with 24 other members charging them with sedition, terrorist ties and financing their organization with drug money from the Sendero Luminoso VRAEM faction.
Since then, Peru has been in a rampage of declarations between Senderistas, journalists and government officials on the veracity of the charges, the alleged links to drug money, and the intelligence system used on setting up “Operation Perseus”. The government states that it is a blow against Guzman and his plan for amnesty; the Senderistas say it is all a lie and a witch hunt against civil right activists.
President Ollanta Humala has to be extremely careful not to over react against the Movadef, to consistently document all evidence brought in to capture the leaders and assure the existence of a fair trial.
Failing to do so, will generate an increase of sympathy for the Senderistas among the population, vindicating Movadef’s posture of political harassment and witch hunting that would attract new members by the thousands, setting in motion a new attempt of registering the association as a political party and allowing them to take part in the 2016 Presidential elections and finally insert Senderistas and the “pensamiento Gonzalo” in the government, just as Abimael Guzman planned it since the inception of Sendero Luminoso.
A long-term plan indeed, but so far the history has proven that Sendero Luminoso has evolved into a dogmatic and patient enemy, with the ability and skills to adapt to new patterns of conflict and circumstances.
The idea of having Senderistas in the government is not far-fetched; Peru faces an adversary who has the support of the young segment of the population, non-armed militants, access to financial resources, and that is capable to influence the masses within a prison cell, and Guzman knows it.
The threat is real.