In an uncharacteristic demonstration of political work, Shining Path guerrillas reportedly entered a rural community in one of Peru's biggest coca-producing regions and forced residents to gather and listen to a propaganda speech.
According to a report by Lima-based television station Canal N (see below), on August 14 up to 45 armed Shining Path rebels marched into a village based in one of Peru's biggest coca-growing areas, the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE), and gave a roughly hour-long address to local residents.
The guerrillas allegedly carried traditional Shining Path flags -- a yellow hammer and sickle on a red background -- and hung several around the village, Aucapiñan, based in Huancavelica province.
A Peruvian military unit arrived hours later and took down the guerrilla flags, but took no further reported actions.
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The incident reflects the changing reality of the VRAE faction of the Shining Path, which is considered the last remaining branch of the group. Another faction of the guerrillas, based in the Upper Huallaga Valley in central Peru, has been more or less extinguished after the arrest of its leader in February.
Traditionally, the VRAE Shining Path have had a reputation as being less politically motivated than their cousins in Huallaga, and more involved in the drug trade. In a 2009 interview with La Republica, Shining Path founder Guzman called the VRAE-based faction of the guerrillas mere “mercenaries,” citing their involvement in cocaine trafficking.
There are signs that this is changing, however, and the Aucapiñan incident is just one illustration of this. The guerrillas have given similar speeches elsewhere in the VRAE, and seem to be putting more effort into building popular support. They have also carried aggressive military actions this year, kidnapping a group of gas workers last April, and ambushing the security force units deployed to the zone. As a result, the government recently extended a state of emergency in the VRAE.