Authorities in Peru have arrested 28 people linked to the political wing of the Shining Path guerrillas on charges of terrorism, drug trafficking, and money laundering, in an escalation of the government's actions against the ostensibly unarmed political group.
According to Reuters, this is the first major move against the membership of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef), a group whose mission is to secure the release of jailed Shining Path leaders, including founder Abimael Guzman.
Authorities said the arrests were based on testimonies and phone conversations showing close ties between Movadef and the Shining Path's Huallaga Valley faction, and that investigations established the group spent $180,000 in establishing itself, funds they believe came from the faction's former leader, reported El Comercio.
SEE ALSO: Shining Path Profile
Among those arrested were two of Guzman's lawyers and Movadef founders, Manuel Fajardo and Alfredo Crespo, the latter of whom had previously served time on sedition charges; Walter Humala, a cousin of current President Ollanta Humala; and three members of Movadef's executive committee, reported Radio Programas Peru.
Authorities said the detainees were accused of terrorist links, financing terrorist activities with drug money, and money laundering.
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While none of the Movadef members arrested have been linked to any terrorist attacks, according to Reuters, the group has raised concerns in the past with talk of taking up arms. This, coupled with Movadef's ties to the Shining Path guerrillas and their perceived potential to infiltrate the country's politics, likely explains the government's desire to clamp down on the movement.
The Peruvian authorities have already demonstrated their desire to silence the movement: in 2012, Humala's government blocked Movadef's attempts to register as a legitimate political party, citing its lack of commitment to democracy. Movadef members, in turn, claimed they were being politically persecuted.
The latest arrests, appear to be taking the government's attempts to shackle Movadef to the next level, indicating they still see them as a threat even though the Shining Path faction they are tied to -- the Huallaga valley faction -- are all but exterminated in the field.
Given Movadef is an extremist political movement with limited appeal, they are unlikely to be able to raise the funds needed for a political movement alone, making the accusations they turned to the Shining Path for financing highly plausible.
It is also plausible this money can be traced back to the drug trade. The Huallaga faction's last significant leader, the now imprisoned Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, alias "Comrade Artemio," has admitted his forces charged a "tax" on coca production, while other sources suggest their involvement went much deeper.