The Peruvian government announced that it has extended the long-running state of emergency in the drug-producing VRAE region by 60 days, in an effort to crack down on the Shining Path guerrilla group.
On August 1, the government of Ollanta Humala declared that it would extend the state of emergency in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) by 60 days due to the presence of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) rebels in the area, reported EFE. The measure will apply to areas in the regions of Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Cusco and Junin and aims to combat drug trafficking and coca growing -- the region is estimated to produce around 80 tons of cocaine annually.
The VRAE has been under a state of emergency since May 2003.
The Shining Path's VRAE-based faction, thought to number 500 fighters, is led by Victor Quispe Palomino, alias "Comrade Jose," and is considered the last remaining branch of the group. In February this year, the Huallaga-based faction in the north of Peru was struck a heavy blow with the arrest of its leader.
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The VRAE is a lawless, poverty-stricken region where the government has struggled to impose control, relying instead on the continual extension of a state of emergency. In June, the government announced a series of development initiatives that will attempt to pacify the VRAE over the coming four years. However, in an interview with InSight Crime last month, former Peruvian drug czar Ricardo Soberon expressed doubt over whether the government would really break from its militarized strategy in the VRAE, highlighting that those charged with designing the policies for the VRAE were all current or former military personnel.
Lack of infrastructure and endemic rates of poverty have made the VRAE a stronghold of the Shining Path. Comrade Jose's faction has been able to embarrass the government on a number of occasions this year. In April the rebels kidnapped 36 gas workers in the area. Though the workers were eventually freed, military operations to rescue them were widely criticized, with the rebel group ambushing security patrols and killing several members of the security forces. In a sign of the group's control in the area, one of the VRAE faction's leaders even gave an impromptu interview with journalists.