Monday, May 11, 2009

The new Shining Path

Andrew Whelan at the AP has a very interesting article about the cocaine boom in Peru and its relationship to the revitalized Shining Path. One question is whether the current version of SP bears any resemblance to the 1980s, and the answer seems to be no. Under Abimael Guzmán, it had a fanatical, utterly insane, but ultimately clearly articulated ideology that mostly involved trying to kill everyone. Nowaways the SP eschews killing civilians, and focuses primarily on drug trafficking while sprinkling in some lectures to peasants about how the government does nothing for the rural poor (which they have long known).

But even Peruvian government officials openly say that the SP is thriving because Lima doesn't care about what happens in rural areas. Most peasants don't care about ideology, but SP helps them set up a coca farm, which generates far more income than anything else.


The military alone can't defeat the insurgents, say officials in the region. They say the bureaucracy that has hindered development must be surmounted.

That nicely sums up one of the problems with the "drug war" across Latin America.

6 comments:

Justin Delacour 1:38 AM  

The military alone can't defeat the insurgents, say officials in the region. They say the bureaucracy that has hindered development must be surmounted....

Just watched an interesting interview with Ollanta Humala. He suggests that it's deceptive to describe these bandits as Shining Path, much less as "insurgents." Sounds to me like they're just plain old bandits who thrive on the misery of the countryside. Part of the solution, as you suggest, is for the state to attend to people's needs and thereby lessen the appeal of drug production.

The danger of all this hysteria about a supposedly revived "Shining Path" is that it's being used to push for a military response, which would likely portend a lot of unnecessary violence. Humala suggests that the problem should be dealt with by police, not the military.

GS,  9:57 AM  

That’s the route Bolivia took. Fight the drug traffickers with police rather than the military. They quickly found that the police were ill-equipped and ill-motivated to fight effectively. The end result was the creation of very heavily-armed military-like police units that enjoyed substantial logistics and mobility support from the military (Bolivian and US). The fight was still very heavy-handed and "unnecessary" violence common (though I suppose whether violence is necessary or not depends on the point of view).

The rise of the national police also engendered significant rivalry with the military and brought on a host of civ-mil/security sector problems (culminating in the police vs military shoot-out in February 2003during the police-led attempted coup).

More to the point, I don’t disagree with Humala, but just deploying the police to do the job is not going to cut it. The police should be a key but not the only component of a comprehensive plan to fight the drug traffickers. Other key components should include the military, intelligence services, treasury, and development organizations.

Justin Delacour 2:23 PM  

More to the point, I don’t disagree with Humala, but just deploying the police to do the job is not going to cut it. The police should be a key but not the only component of a comprehensive plan to fight the drug traffickers. Other key components should include the military, intelligence services, treasury, and development organizations....

My preference would be for the Peruvians to settle on a solution for themselves and for U.S. agencies to leave them alone.

GS,  4:41 PM  

Well, naturally.

jd,  4:55 PM  

The venerable Peruvian columnist Mirko Lauer had what I think is a pretty good overview of the evolution the other day:

http://www.larepublica.pe/observador/12/05/2009/sendero-luminoso-ayer-y-hoy

The only part I'd disagree with is the penultimate paragraph, where he suggests that SL could find allies in other countries. I find that doubtful. SL was pretty thoroughly discredited, as is the FARC model that is the closest approximation to SL version 2.0. "We're like the FARC, but with an even more toxic brand name" doesn't seem like a promising marketing pitch to me. There are always a few randoms looking for a cause, but I don't really see the basis for Lauer's concern. Perhaps he gives the ideological element a bit too much weight.

sharon 3:57 AM  

thanks for the information....

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