Movadef, a political party linked to the Peruvian Shining Path guerrilla group, has expressed its support for a teachers' strike and for anti-mining protests in Cajamarca, which could signal a move by the rebels to gain support through tapping into the country's social conflicts.
On July 20, members of Peru’s education workers’ union, Conare-Sutep, began an indefinite strike in various regions in the interior of the country to demand pay rises and better working conditions, RPP reported. There have been violent confrontations with police, and Conare’s branch in Andahuaylas, Apurimac region, has blocked the highways to Cusco and Lima.
In Cajamarca, in the northern highlands, the government declared a state of emergency this month and five protesters against a massive gold mining project died in clashes with police.
The Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef) distributed pamphlets in the streets of Huamanga on Sunday night declaring their support for the "just struggle" of the teachers, and the "glorious regional strike in support of our brothers in Cajamarca."
Peru 21 described it as the first time that the “undeniable links” between the groups had been publicly admitted. However, the leader of Conare had previously admitted that he is a member of Movadef, and that some other Conare members also belong to the political party. He denied that this guided the protests, saying that their only motivation was to defend the rights of teachers, and that the government was fighting a "black campaign" against the protesters.
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Movadef is a political movement founded in 2009 by a group of lawyers who had worked to defend captured Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) leaders. The party denies that it is the political arm of the Shining Path, but it has caused outrage in Peru by calling for a general amnesty for imprisoned guerrillas. Its application to become a political party was blocked in January.
The movement's support for the strikes over mining and teachers' pay could signal a move to gain political relevance through making use of the social conflicts that are tearing through Peru. These conflicts, many of them involving local resistance to large-scale projects to exploit natural resources, pose the biggest challenge to the administration of President Ollanta Humala. His recent cabinet reshuffle was triggered by opposition to the government's handling of the conflicts, particuarly in Cajamarca.
Supporting the protests could be an effective way for elements allied with the Shining Path to gain political capital by tapping into popular dissatisfaction with the president's handling of these conflicts.
The situation is complicated, however, by the government's attempts to write off protests as mere agitation by the rebels. Earlier this month, Peru’s top anti-terrorism Prosecutor Julio Galindo said that Conare-Sutep was the “second legal arm of the Shining Path,” reported RPP. He said that the rebels were making another attempt to enter the world of politics, after their attempt to register Movadef as a political party was blocked, by trying to infiltrate the teachers' unions.