Cablegate: Narco-Terrorism Causing National Debate in Peru


DE RUEHPE #3764/01 3391146
O 051146Z DEC 07

C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 003764




E.O. 12958: DECL: 11/30/2012

B. REF B: LIMA 3707

Classified By: NAS Director Susan Keogh. Reasons 1.4(d)

1.(SBU) SUMMARY: The growing threat of narco-terrorism,
reflected in the brutal attacks in Ocobamba and Tajyacaja
(Ref A), has sparked a public debate featuring demands that
the Government take decisive action to tackle "liberated"
zones. A factor complicating security operations has been
confusion about whether the police or military have the lead,
at a time when terrorism and narco-trafficking have
increasingly merged into a single "narco-terrorist" threat.
One noted analyst has made the case that the new narco-threat
is much greater than Sendero Luminoso (SL) alone ever was.
However the police-military riddle gets resolved, the debate
shows Peruvians increasingly recognize that no-go zones
represent a threat to national security. In para 5 below is
a brief description of the diverse groups involved in Peru's
narco-terrorist network, many of them young, fueled by
poverty and lured into illegal activities by the promise of
escape. Government security forces have received additional
budget support to address this challenge, but probably not
enough; likewise, their existing plans, lacking execution,
may be unequal to the task. END SUMMARY.

2. (SBU) In recent days, media comments and statements by
government officials, triggered by the recent brutal attacks
on police in Ocobamba and Tayacaja, have raised questions
about the nature of the security threat in the emergency
zones. Some believe the attacks suggest that Sendero
Luminoso may be resurging. Others say the problem is
muddier, and consists of ex-army combatants, ronderos (civil
defense units), narco-cocaleros, and assorted others all
participating in drug mafia violence.

3. (C) The rub is that the identity of the perpetrators
determines which security force has authority to respond,
with the military taking the lead on terrorism and the
Peruvian National Police (PNP) on counter-narcotics. This
arbitrary-seeming division is deeply entrenched, and has
resulted in both sides pointing fingers at the other. It may
also have shaped public perceptions concerning the
government's lack of will to address the problem. A recent
national poll by IPSOS/APOYO shows 78 percent of Peruvians
think the GOP is doing "little or nothing" to fight
narco-terrorists. Notwithstanding recent security successes
against SL leader "Comrade JL" in the Huallaga Valley (Ref
B), public skepticism remains high over the perceived lack of
broader progress, particularly in tackling Sendero in the
Apurimac and Ene Valleys (VRAE).

4. (SBU) Former Minister of Interior and noted security
analyst Fernando Rospigliosi has made the case that
narco-trafficking is a national emergency "more dangerous
than Sendero ever was." In his view, terrorism had political
ideas that could be fought and defeated, whereas
drug-trafficking has generated money and violence with
unstoppable corruptive power. Rospigliosi does not believe
Sendero is growing, but believes that it has morphed into
hired killers for narco-traffickers. Defense Minister Wagner
has responded that the PNP should take the lead role against
narco-trafficking, but supports joint patrolling with the
Army in intelligence-based operations. Lack of personnel and
70,000 sq km of mountainous terrain in the VRAE complicate
the Army's task of capturing the SL leadership. He
reiterated a promise made in the past - that the state would
be reinforcing its presence in the VRAE with more Army bases
and Police stations.

5. (SBU) Illustratively, at a recent meeting, Prime
Minister Jorge del Castillo offered a catchall definition of
who was involved in the Tayacaja attack: "Subversion, linked
with common crime and narco-trafficking, with the possibility
of a violent resurgence of Sendero Luminoso." Below is more
detail on the different groups who are -- either peripherally
or directly -- involved in the narco-terrorism network in the
VRAE. The information below is based on credible reports
from Narcotics Affairs Section (NAS) field personnel, police
intelligence and NGO sources, who work in the VRAE and have
paid close attention to the growth of narco-related violence.
A. Sendero Remnants
PNP sources estimate 350-400 Sendero remnants continue to
operate in the VRAE, with a military structure based in the
remote highlands of Vizcatan, (Northern Ayacucho). The PNP
believes 5 SL columns operate under the command of Comrade
Alipio (Quispe). Drug mafias pay SL to protect mule-trains
bringing drugs out of the Apurimac River Valley. Services
are paid in dollars, which SL uses to obtain weapons, buy
supplies, and pay members. SL elements also seize weapons
during ambushes such as the December 2005 attack on a PNP
convoy out of Palma Pampa. Senderistas still disseminate
ideological propaganda, assemble campesinos for
indoctrination, and give out flags, as well as act as hired
assassins for the drug industry. Increasingly, however, SL
acts as a narco-mafia, with its own cocaine production
enterprise, (in the view of many observers, including the
Minister of Defense in one newspaper interview) following the
path of the FARC and potentially headed for a takeover of the
lucrative narcotics business in the VRAE. (Septel we will
seek to answer more broadly the question: "What does Sendero
Luminoso (SL) mean today?")

B. Ex-Army
After the Ocobamba attack, unconfirmed local media reports
claimed that the perpetrators were ex-Army. Paramilitary
clothing is usually worn during ambushes on the police or
army: attackers steal uniforms along with arms. In August, a
Pichari Army NCO was captured by the PNP with 9,000 rounds of
7.62 mm ammunition stolen from the base. When soldiers have
completed voluntary service, having learned tactics and
weapons use, but having earned little money, they are often
drawn into the narco-trafficking network. A VRAE Army
commander reported to NAS seeing ex-soldiers who admitted
they were protecting drug routes, acting as drug couriers
("mochileros"), and working in rustic laboratories. The Army
has tended to adopt a non-interference strategy with cocalero
farmers, said the same commander, to erode support the SL
might have among the local population (i.e. eliminating coca
will push growers onto the side of Sendero).

C. Narco-cocaleros
Cocaleros selling leaf to drug middlemen - acopiadors, -
who come to the door and also collect coca paste for shipment
by drug organizations, are relatively a thing of the past.
Recent interdiction operations by DIRANDRO drug police at
Palma Pampa have uncovered a surge in small rustic
laboratories inside houses. Other cocalero groups rent
larger equipped laboratories to drug producers. Mochileros
are paid an average of 30 USD per kilo to transport cocaine
base for journeys averaging 3 days to a specific location
where they are replaced by pack animals or vehicles with
armed guards. Mochileros are often robbed and killed.
DIRANDRO commanders have noted an increase in the presence of
Mexican and Colombian drug cartels in the region since the
first part of 2007, working alongside Peruvian drug groups.

D. Civil Defense Units/Ronderos
Ronderos (Comite de Auto Defensa or CAD) were established
under President Fujimori to combat Sendero Luminoso. They
are organized, armed and controlled by the Army. Although
the GOP prohibits the issue of automatic weapons, NAS
personnel have seen, on at least one occasion, CAD formations
carrying FAL 7.62mm automatic rifles during a visit to
Pichari Army base. Ronderos also purchase automatic weapons
with money from drug traffickers. Entire communities of
cocaleros are encouraged to cooperate with/join the Ronda.
Local sources estimate 40 CAD committees, with 40-60 men,
operate in the Apurimac/Ene Valley. Ronderos are
occasionally involved in drug trafficking, and have used
their arms against police forces during interdiction
operations. CAD equipment, including weapons, radios and
clothing, were captured by DIRANDRO during a cocaine lab
interdiction in Llochegua in October.

6. (SBU) The population of the VRAE is largely young,
poor and unemployed. The disaffected gravitate towards
narco-trafficking as a source of income and activity. A
local Army commander told NAS that narco-terrorist groups
recruit from remote communities in the VRAE, preferring
teenagers lured by the promise of pay. The recent police
operation against Sendero in Aucayacu, (Huanaco) revealed
that "Comrade JL" was accompanied by a group of adolescents,
rather than a group of hardened terrorists. November 29,
Huanuco Regional President Jorge Espinoza publicly called for
government initiatives to counter SL ideological inroads with
local youth on the margins of society.

7. (SBU) The Government of Peru has stepped forward with
justifications for budgetary initiatives. On November 21,
the Interior and Defense Ministers presented a joint request
to Congress for 400 million soles (133 million USD)
of increased funding to fight narco-terrorism in the Apurimac
and Ene Valleys. (Note: The Armed Forces mainly want money
to buy arms and refurbish bases. The Police particularly
need ammunition, as well as arms and other equipment. End
Note). Minister of Economy Carranza authorized a supplement
of only 50 million soles (16 million USD). The head of the
Peruvian Joint Command, Adm. Montoya, announced that the
Ministry of Defense would construct 5 new anti-subversive
bases in the VRAE to add to the 18 already in the area. The
Minister of Interior also announced construction of new
police bases in the VRAE and Huallaga.

8. (C) Comment: If one goal of narco-terrorists is to
undermine public confidence in the security of the country,
they have made some progress judging by the IPSOS/APOYO poll.
While the recent attacks on police have caused the usual
polemics against corruption and incompetence on the part of
the government, there is a deeper undercurrent of concern
that narco-terrorism presents a serious menace to
governability in Peru. Most people concur that the VRAE is a
no-go zone, too dangerous to attempt eradication and
development projects. Although Minister Wagner continues to
support the concept of joint operations, to date, Plan VRAE
and other plans to improve social and economic conditions in
the area appear to be stymied by the lack of an executable
security plan. While interdiction operations continue out of
the PNP base at Palma Pampa and joint PNP-EP operations have
been occurring around the eradication operations in the Upper
Huallaga, to date, no joint Police-Army CNT operations are
being conducted in the VRAE. Additionally, Police
representatives have told us that the Armed Forces and PNP do
not share intelligence they have collected on SL in the
Emergency Zones, indicating a lack of mutual trust.

© Scoop Media

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