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Viewing cable 08LIMA196, SHINING PATH": WHAT DOES IT MEAN TODAY?

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
08LIMA196 2008-02-01 17:05 2010-12-12 21:09 SECRET Embassy Lima
VZCZCXYZ0025
PP RUEHWEB

DE RUEHPE #0196/01 0321742
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
P 011742Z FEB 08
FM AMEMBASSY LIMA
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 7813
INFO RUEHAC/AMEMBASSY ASUNCION PRIORITY 1913
RUEHBO/AMEMBASSY BOGOTA PRIORITY 5479
RUEHBR/AMEMBASSY BRASILIA PRIORITY 7752
RUEHBU/AMEMBASSY BUENOS AIRES PRIORITY 3268
RUEHCV/AMEMBASSY CARACAS PRIORITY 1032
RUEHLP/AMEMBASSY LA PAZ FEB 4728
RUEHMN/AMEMBASSY MONTEVIDEO PRIORITY 9431
RUEHQT/AMEMBASSY QUITO PRIORITY 1726
RUEHSG/AMEMBASSY SANTIAGO PRIORITY 1725
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHDC PRIORITY
RUMIAAA/USSOUTHCOM MIAMI FL PRIORITY
S E C R E T LIMA 000196 

SIPDIS 

SIPDIS 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/31/2018 
TAGS: PGOV PINR PTER SNAR PE
SUBJECT: "SHINING PATH": WHAT DOES IT MEAN TODAY? 

REF: A. LIMA 2560 
B. LIMA 3707 
C. LIMA 3764 

Classified By: CDA James D. Nealon. Reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

1. (C) Summary: The terrorist organization "Shining Path" 
(Sendero Luminoso or SL) is currently comprised of two 
distinct groups, according to analysts. One consists largely 
of long-time SL members and "true believers" in the Maoist 
ideology who are reportedly working within civic 
organizations and universities to revitalize the movement. 
While this group finds fertile ground in Peru's still 
pervasive poverty, there are intrinsic obstacles to its 
joining forces with other actors in Peru's anti-systemic 
opposition. The second group, itself comprised of two 
smaller factions, has increasingly involved itself in the 
drug trade to the exclusion of any political agenda, an 
evolution akin to that of the FARC in Colombia. While each 
group separately poses a threat, observers believe that the 
threat would expand significantly if the two groups reunited. 
The Government of Peru has a multi-faceted security and 
civic action plan to end the SL terrorist threat 
definitively. While there have been some security successes, 
the plan so far has delivered few tangible civic benefits. 
End Summary. 

2. (C) The status of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path -- SL), 
the Maoist-inspired terrorist group that threatened the 
viability of the Peruvian state in the late 80s, continues to 
concern many Peruvians, particularly those with 
responsibilities for internal defense and security. The 
capture of SL founder and leader Abimael Guzman in 1992 ended 
the urgency of the threat but did not definitively eliminate 
SL from Peru's political landscape. Not long after Guzman's 
capture, the organization split into two factions. One 
favored Guzman's attempts to reach a negotiated political 
settlement with the government ("Acuerdistas"). The other 
vowed to continue SL's political and military struggle 
("Proseguir"). The core of those seeking a negotiated 
settlement happened to be imprisoned with Guzman and remain 
focused on securing his release, while those still on the 
outside, free from the autocratic leader's immediate 
influence, began circling in more autonomous political orbits. 

Acuerdistas 
----------- 

3. (S) The current ranks of "Acuerdistas" have been fed 
largely by prison releases. Hundreds of Sendero's former 
core members, after completing their sentences, were freed 
between 2001 and 2007. According to sensitive sources, 
Guzman, from his prison cell, retains a significant measure 
of control and influence over this "Acuerdista" coterie, 
whose principal objective is to negotiate and secure Guzman's 
eventual release. (Guzman has been sentenced to life in 
prison without any possibility of parole or release. He 
received an additional life sentence January 2 for his role 
in the massacre of 69 persons in Ayacucho region in 1980, in 
addition to 26 assassinations and 14 car bombings in 1980 and 
1981.) While observers acknowledge that most former 
Senderistas released from prison have sought to integrate 
themselves as ordinary citizens into Peruvian society, they 
also estimate that several hundred retain their ideological 
commitments and that 50 or more have the political and 
organizational experience to fill leadership roles in the 
movement. 

4. (C) According to some analysts, these leaders are now 
using their positions in civic organizations and union groups 
to foment social unrest. One contact told poloffs of a 
recent community event in Ayacucho during which he sat across 
the table from known former Senderistas who now work for the 
teachers' union SUTEP and are involved in regional politics. 
Other "Acuerdista" SL members reportedly have resumed their 
posts as high school and university instructors, where 
analysts believe they are working below the radar to 
proselytize new members of student groups supporting 
Marxist-Leninist-Maoist philosophies (ref A). As an example, 
some sources refer to the University of San Marcos in Lima -- 
the oldest and among the largest public universities in Peru 
-- as a "factory of radicalism" that produces large numbers 
of semi-educated graduates, typically in "social science," 
with few prospects for gainful employment. This pattern is 
reportedly replicated to varying degrees in other public 
universities around the country. Recent media reports have 
highlighted more broadly the return of Sendero elements to 
places of vulnerability such as rural schools in poor 
regions, but many of these reports lack specificity, and 
government officials, including the Minister of Education, 
have taken issue with them. 

5. (C) Even in the absence of hard evidence, the 
revitalization of SL is seen by many observers as at least 
theoretically plausible because the underlying social 
conditions that facilitated its initial rise remain mostly 
unchanged. Notwithstanding Peru's much-touted macroeconomic 
advances of recent years, poverty, marginalization, 
unemployment and lack of opportunity in general, particularly 
but not only in Peru's Sierra region such as Ayacucho (the 
birthplace of SL), remain stubbornly persistent. According 
to some analysts, as long as this remains so the country will 
continue to provide fertile terrain for radical groups. At 
the same time, however, SL rarely collaborated with mere 
fellow travelers in radicalism, and often fought bitter and 
even deadly battles with ideological and political rivals on 
the left. Many anti-systemic opposition groups, including, 
for example, Ollanta Humala's Nationalist Party, are sworn 
enemies of Sendero for this reason. In a 2007 meeting, 
Humala told us he opposed violence as a political instrument 
because had seen the devastation wrought upon Peru by Sendero 
Luminoso. SL's use of savage and indiscriminate violence, 
sometimes against whole communities, elicited widespread 
popular revulsion, a sentiment that remains prevalent today. 
For this reason, any association with SL can be a kiss of 
death for groups seeking to forge a political future in 
Peru's sizable and diverse anti-systemic camp, which often 
causes them to steer clear. 

Proseguir 
--------- 

6. (C) Following Guzman's 1992 capture, the Sendero 
organization crumbled and authorities swept the countryside 
in search of its remnats. Those Sendero members who became 
members of the "Proseguir" group sought refuge separately in 
two remote areas of the country. One faction -- led by 
"Comrade Artemio" -- hid in the Upper Huallaga River Valley, 
primarily in the Huanuco region, the other -- led by "Comrade 
Alipio" -- in the VRAE (Apurimac and Ene River Valley) in the 
northern Ayacucho region. Security officials soon gave up 
the difficult search, thinking (or hoping) the remnant groups 
would fade away. During the last 15 years, both groups have 
clung to survival on the jungle margins, adapting themselves 
to a political condition characterized by the absence of 
outside leadership or guidance. Concretely, this means that 
each group retained a Maoist veneer and the explicit 
commitment to continuing the armed struggle while, in 
practical terms, gradually deepening and expanding their 
involvement in the drug trade. 

7. (C) In both cases, SL's involvement in the trade began by 
charging traffickers "protection money" to ensure the safety 
of their enterprises and cargo. Over time, it expanded 
across the narcotics chain, and has come to include growing 
coca, processing coca leaf into cocaine paste and recently -- 
particularly in the VRAE -- producing refined cocaine 
hydrochloride. Analysts believe that Alipio's organization, 
for example, has hundreds of "micro-labs" scattered 
throughout the VRAE area. Some observers have remarked on 
the similarity of this pattern to Colombia's experience with 
the FARC (ref C). 

8. (S) The VRAE's inaccessibility and virtual absence of any 
state presence, including security forces, makes it a 
quasi-ungoverned area dominated by narcotics traffickers. 
According to many analysts, this is one reason why the VRAE 
faction of Proseguir appears to be flourishing. (Note: It is 
also the reason there are no eradication or alternative 
development programs in the VRAE. End Note.) While core SL 
membership there is probably fewer than 100, according to 
sensitive reports, part-time or contract membership relating 
to carrying out specific tasks and responsibilities in the 
narcotics trade may be twice that number. By contrast, 
observers see Artemio's group in the Upper Huallaga as being 
on the defensive for the past two years. At the height of 
its strength, the Upper Huallaga SL group reportedly numbered 
approximately 150 militants. Operational successes by 
government security forces caused the group significant 
losses in 2007, and authorities claim that Artemio's arrest 
may be imminent (ref B). If that happens, many analysts 
predict the remaining SL structure in the Upper Huallaga 
could collapse. 

Efforts to Reunite 
------------------ 

9. (C) While each of the above groups separately represent 
varying degrees of immediate and potential threat now (even 
if nothing like the critical threat to the viability and 
survival of the Peruvian state that SL did in the late 
1980s), observers focused on a worst-case outlook are 
concerned about their possibly reuniting. This concern is 
fueled in part by reports that such a move is afoot. For 
example, some analysts claim evidence that Guzman's long-time 
companion and now-wife, Elena Iparraguirre (AKA "Comrade 
Miriam", also imprisoned), is leading efforts to mend the 
rift in the Sendero organization. There were reports in 
October 2007 that the head of Sendero's Lima Metropolitan 
Committee, Emilio Robero Mera, had recently traveled to the 
VRAE to consult with that area's leadership. Perhaps more 
impactful than anecdotal reports, however, is a larger 
speculative concern that the combination of Proseguir's 
narco-dollars and paramilitary capabilities with the 
Acuerdistas' ideological fervor and political machine could 
produce a terrorism challenge reminiscent of the 1980s. 
(Comment: A reuniting of the two groups or significant 
reblossoming of the pre-Fujimori SL seems to us unlikely for 
a number of reasons, among them passage of time, 
irreconcilable differences and a transformed national and 
international context. End Comment.) 

Comment: GOP Priority to End Terrorism Definitively 
--------------------------------------------- ------ 

10. (C) President Garcia has two priority goals for his 
second term in office, both relating to resurrecting his 
reputation from his disastrous first term (85-90). The first 
goal is to ensure economic stability and growth. The second 
is to end definitively Peru's terrorist threat -- a threat 
widely perceived as having exploded out of control on his 
first watch. The GOP has laid out a comprehensive plan -- 
with economic development, social and civil, intelligence, 
and security components -- to do this. It has a subordinate 
plan to take on the challenges particular to the VRAE, with 
similar component elements. But that plan has only been 
partially implemented, both in geographic and functional 
terms. Expanding the presence of the state to emergency 
zones such as the VRAE and pushing out the benefits of 
economic growth to impoverished regions such as Ayacucho -- 
difficult challenges in the best of cases -- have not yet 
meaningfully happened. In that sense, apart from punctuated 
operational successes in the Upper Huallaga region, the GOP's 
plan to eliminate SL from Peru's landscape once and for all 
has yielded few results so far. 
NEALON