Peru's topmost counterterrorism concern remained preventing the reemergence of Sendero Luminoso (SL or Shining Path), a designated Foreign Terrorist Organization that devastated the country in the 1980s and 1990s. In 2007, SL remnants engaged in narcotrafficking and killed 11 police officers, 20 civilians, and one member of the military. SL in the Upper Huallaga River Valley (UHV) suffered significant setbacks with the arrests of several of their key members. Meanwhile, the SL organization in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE) retained its control over the area.
Although the Peruvian government nearly eliminated SL in the 1990s, the organization, now entwined with narcotics trafficking, reemerged and remained a threat. Estimated to include up to several hundred armed combatants, SL conducted 80 terrorist acts in remote coca-growing areas this year. The reemergent SL is shorter on revolutionary zeal than it was in the past, but reports suggested it was attempting to rebuild support in the university system, where it exercised considerable influence in the 1980s. Meanwhile, involvement in drug production and trafficking provided SL with substantial funding to conduct operations, improve relations with local communities in remote areas, and to recruit new members. While the government made significant progress against SL in the UHV, insufficient government presence and ineffective security capabilities in the more remote VRAE allowed the SL to operate practically unhindered.
For example, on June 14, a SL ambush near Tocache in the UHV resulted in the deaths of a local anti-drug prosecutor and the three police officers protecting him. Two other police officers were seriously injured in the attack. On December 24, an estimated 20 heavily armed persons attacked a PNP patrol, killing two officers and wounding one near the town of Huanta in the Ayacucho region. Over 70 anti-personnel mines caused one death and 22 injuries, mostly to eradication workers in illegal coca plantations in the San Martin region. Authorities suspected SL remnants in the UHV were responsible.
The "Huallaga Police Front" counterterrorism campaign in the UHV, initiated by then-President Toledo in 2006, was largely inactive. Implementation of the Garcia government's "Plan VRAE," which called for 2,000 troops and 19 counterterrorism bases operated under a central command, was slow because of the lack of an operational security plan. Plans for new health, education, and infrastructure investment in isolated communities where the state lacks presence were implemented spottily, if at all. The government's efforts to strengthen prosecutorial capacity and to improve interagency cooperation, especially in intelligence, were marginally successful. Police units specializing in counterterrorism and counternarcotics conducted some joint operations with the Peruvian Army in the Upper Huallaga Valley. There was no movement on President Garcia's 2006 proposal calling for the death penalty for those convicted of acts of terrorism.
President Garcia repeatedly reauthorized a 60-day state of emergency in parts of Peru's five departments where SL operated, which suspended some civil liberties and gave the armed forces additional authority to maintain public order.
In August, two Huallaga Front (PNP/Peruvian Army) operations captured 28 SL suspects, including two believed to be bodyguards of UHV SL Committee head "Artemio". Also apprehended were a number of suspected participants in the June ambush near Tocache that killed a prosecutor and three police.
During a November 27 PNP operation, Epifanio Espiritu Acosta, known as "Comrade JL," third in the UHV organization and leader of its forces on the western side of the Huallaga River, was killed. Eight suspects were captured including the organization's ideological chief, "Comrade Julian," as well as the head of personal security for the group's leader. UHV-SL leader "Comrade Artemio," is a top priority target of continuing PNP security operations.
Media and other sources continued to report that former SL members released from prison were rejoining leftist civic groups and political movements, and perhaps recruiting new members into the organization. SL founder and leader Abimael Guzman and key accomplices remained in prison facing charges stemming from crimes committed during the 1980s and 1990s.
The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) continued to use remote areas along the Colombian/Peruvian border for rest and to make arms purchases. There were reports that the FARC was funding coca cultivation and cocaine production among the Peruvian population in border areas.