Cablegate: Sendero Luminoso: Incremental Gains in Mixed Picture


DE RUEHPE #1659/01 3231850
R 191850Z NOV 09

C O N F I D E N T I A L LIMA 001659


E.O. 12958: DECL: 2019/11/19
SUBJECT: Sendero Luminoso: Incremental Gains in Mixed Picture

REF: LIMA 1209; LIMA 1299 AND PREVIOUS; LIMA 1647; LIMA 1653

CLASSIFIED BY: P. Michael McKinley, Ambassador; REASON: 1.4(B), (D)

1. (C) Summary. Most analysts believe Sendero Luminoso (SL)
insurgents are making incremental gains in the Apurimac-Ene River
Valley (VRAE). Local observers in Ayacucho say frustrations with
government at every level have strengthened the anti-system
opposition and in some cases generated sympathy for SL. In the
most recent incident, SL elements attacked a provisional military
base in the VRAE on November 5, killing one soldier and injuring
four others. According to senior-level GOP officials, quashing SL
in the VRAE remains a top government priority, and recent efforts
include signing a $9 million contract with an Israeli defense
specialist. Several SL members have expressed interest in
participating in elections, but most politicians still see an
association with the organization as a kiss of death. End summary.

SL Expanding Influence in Ayacucho


2. (C) While there have been fewer casualties in the VRAE this
year so far than last, according to Peruvian military sources, most
analysts believe SL in the VRAE and environs is a growing threat.
For one, the terrorist group has likely gained firepower over the
past several years, fueled mostly by weapons stolen from security
forces in recent attacks (refs). Observers have also told us SL's
VRAE faction is particularly dangerous now because of its deceptive
tactics. Whereas SL in the 80s was often gruesomely violent with
villagers and grassroots organizations, today's incarnation now
actively befriends and financially supports communities, in some
cases seeking to supplant a state that has abandoned them.
Several contacts in Ayacucho (where SL founder Abimael Guzman was a
university professor) recently told us that Jose's "proseguir"
faction in the VRAE has successfully branded itself as a kinder,
gentler group, and is at least tacitly accepted by rural
communities and by the very self-defense committees that played a
pivotal role in the original SL's defeat.

3. (C) During a recent visit to Ayacucho, local contacts told us
that general discontent and disillusionment with the government,
and a particular distaste for the ruling APRA party, had expanded
and deepened popular sympathy for "anti-system" alternatives. In
some cases, movements that have espoused or used violence such as
the "Etnocaceristas" (headed by Antauro Humala, who is currently
serving a 25 year prison sentence for instigating a 2005 armed
uprising in Andahuaylas) and SL itself have benefited from these
anti-government sentiments. Several contacts told us that when
Guzman's attorney Alfredo Crespo visited Ayacucho in September to
tout Guzman's recently published book, he was warmly received by
local radio stations, print media and university student groups.
Others told us that pervasive corruption amongst local politicians
made some people feel nostalgia for the days when SL would kill
corrupt politicians as a warning to others. Several observers said
that, with education, health, and employment opportunities sorely
lacking, disgruntled locals willingly joined local defense fronts -
whose leaders often have ideological ties with SL - in strikes and
protests. In addition, jobless youth from the highlands frequently
work stints as "burriers" for drug traffickers, who are deeply
intertwined with SL in the VRAE.

November 5 Attack

4. (C) The most recent VRAE attack occurred on November 5, when
one soldier was killed and four others wounded during a four-hour
assault by Shining Path (SL) terrorists on a provisional military
base located where the Vizcatan and Mantaro rivers meet. SL forces
were repelled after attempting to overrun the base, which was

manned by 45 soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade. According to
VRAE Military Region sources, the SL's motive was probably to
obtain more weapons, and reflected "desperation" because it had
been unable to dislodge any of the temporary military bases set up
in the VRAE since Operation Excellence 777 began in August 2008.
Other observers maintained that the Government's recently expanded
rewards campaign for capturing SL leaders "Jose" in the VRAE and
"Artemio" in the Upper Huallaga Valley (UHV) - the bounty on both
their heads was increased from 500K to 1 million soles (roughly USD
350K) -- may have also played a part in SL's belligerence. One
prominent analyst, however, suggested that SL attacks on relatively
fortified military bases rather than security patrols or
helicopters vulnerable to ambush indicate SL was increasingly well
equipped and regaining strength.

VRAE Remains Top Focus


5. (C) According to senior GOP officials, quashing SL in the VRAE
remains a top government priority. Defense Minister Rey has
emphasized his intention to refocus Peru's security efforts on the
internal threat. Media reports have alluded to the imminent
purchase of several combat-capable helicopters (the armed forces
only have about half a dozen operational helicopters, having lost
two in the last few months [refs]), suitable for operations in the
VRAE. According to government and congressional sources, the MOD
is close to obtaining around USD 130 million from the Ministry of
the Economy for VRAE operations. In a recent conversation with the
Ambassador, FM Garcia Belaunde said that, notwithstanding tensions
with Chile and an announced U.S. arms sales, the VRAE would remain
Peru's central security focus. The GOP's efforts have even
included signing a reported one year, $9 million contract with
former Israeli Brigadier General Israel Baruch Ziv, who promised to
help Peru defeat SL in the VRAE once and for all. According to
media sources, Ziv will focus on training for elite special
operations forces, strengthening intelligence networks, while
Peruvian joint forces will prioritize the killing or capture of SL
leaders rather than control of territory.

SL in Politics


6. (C) Current and former SL members have expressed interest in
participating in elections, but most politicians and parties still
see any alliance or association with SL as politically toxic. We
have heard that Guzman's attorney has publicly stated that SL would
seek to participate in the 2010 regional and 2011 national
elections. Guzman's partner and imprisoned SL leader, Elena
Iparraguirre, publicly reiterated SL's interest, and even named
Cajamarca priest, environmental activist and probable presidential
aspirant Marco Arana as a possible political ally. (Arana quickly
distanced himself publicly from Iparraguirre and SL.) Similarly, a
controversy broke out after Elsa Malpartida, Andean Community
parliamentarian representing Humala's Nationalist Party (PNP), was
reported to have belonged to SL in the 1980s. Malpartida publicly
argued that, like others in Peru's rural areas, she had been forced
to cooperate with SL and had formally severed her ties long ago.
Government officials, including Justice Minister Aurelio Pastor,
have publicly stated that SL would be prohibited from participating
in the political process because it remained a terrorist
organization that consciously used violence for political ends.

Comment: The Chile Distraction


7. (C) One problem with the continuing spy controversy that has
roiled relations between Peru and Chile (refs) is that political
calculations might compel the GOP to turn its attention (and

resources) away from the country's real and immediate internal
threat: the potentially reemerging SL terrorist threat and
unchecked drug trafficking interests, particularly in the VRAE. So
far, our Peruvian counterparts have assured us this will not

© Scoop Media

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