Overview: The Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso or SL) constitutes a localized and declining threat to Peru's internal security, and maintained a low profile in 2015. SL's membership numbers continued to dwindle, and by the end of 2015 it consisted of one single active faction, whose area of activity and influence was confined to the special military emergency zone known as the Apurimac, Ene, and Mantaro River Valley (VRAEM) – a remote and rugged region slightly larger than Switzerland which accounts for more than one-half of the cocaine produced in Peru. Within the VRAEM, SL has retreated to its stronghold in the Vizcatan area, approximately 500 square kilometers along the Mantaro River. To sustain itself, SL is involved in all logistical aspects of drug trafficking in its area of influence: it collects "revolutionary taxes" from those involved in the drug trade, and for a price, provides security and transports narcotics for drug trafficking organizations. SL continues to use Maoist ideology to justify its illegal activities.

SL has yet to recover from an August 2013 operation conducted by the Peruvian security forces that resulted in the deaths of two of the terrorist organization's top four commanders, Orlando Borda, aka "Comrade Alipio" and Martin Quispe Palomino, aka "Comrade Gabriel." Operations have severely weakened SL in the Upper Huallaga Valley, a former stronghold. As a result, after nearly 30 years, the government lifted the emergency zone in the Upper Huallaga Valley on June 27. President Humala also announced on December 8 that the government would soon lift the state of emergency in parts of the VRAEM. A decree published on December 11 stated that the Peruvian National Police (PNP) would regain authority over internal security from the military in the remaining VRAEM emergency zone while the military will continue to combat SL.

Estimates of SL's strength vary, but most experts and the Peruvian military assess SL to number 250-300 combatants of which 60-100 are hardcore fighters.

Security forces took limited actions to counter the SL during 2015, reflecting President Humala's strategy, announced in July 2013, of gaining control of territory in the VRAEM at the lowest cost in human lives. In two separate operations, security forces rescued 54 people, including 37 children. Some of those rescued are children of SL members and others the SL had captured more than 30 years ago. Security forces also captured two mid-level SL leaders who were active in the northern edge of the VRAEM in the La Convención province of Cuzco region.

The government did not initiate coca-eradication operations in the VRAEM, which many analysts argue is necessary in the long run to regain control over this area. Officials in the Government of Peru believed that eradicating in the VRAEM would create a serious social conflict that could provide a boost to SL.

SL founder and leader Abimael Guzman and key accomplices remained in prison serving life sentences for numerous crimes committed in the 1980s and 1990s. Two top SL leaders – Osman Morote and Margot Liendo – completed their 25-year sentences in June 2013, but were still in jail at the end of 2015. These individuals remain in prison pending trials for other crimes committed in the early 1980s, but according to the Minister of Interior could be released soon. Most SL leaders were convicted of crimes long before new legislation allowing for life sentences was approved and should start leaving prison in 2017. Peter Cárdenas, a former top commander of the now defunct Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), was released from prison on September 22 after serving his full 25-year sentence. American Lori Berenson, who was convicted on terrorism charges in Peru for collaborating with the MRTA, finished serving her 20-year sentence on December 1; she was expelled from Peru and returned to the United States on December 3.

In October 2014, Peruvian police arrested Muhammad Ghaleb Hamdar, a 28-year old Lebanese citizen suspected of links to Hizballah. According to reports, there were residue and traces of explosives in Hamdar's apartment. A Peruvian judge rejected Hamdar's bail request on November 17; he remained in pretrial detention at year's end. The police also arrested Hamdar's wife, dual U.S.-Peruvian national Carmen Carrion McKay, on November 26. She was charged with violating the "collaborating with terrorism" statute and placed in preventative custody, which may be imposed for up to 18 months in Peru for terrorism, espionage, and other cases, where the charged offense meets a minimum threshold and the individual poses a demonstrable flight risk. The charge carries a minimum sentence of 20 years, if she is found guilty.

2015 Terrorist Incidents: According to Peruvian government statistics, the SL committed 13 terrorist acts in 2015, in comparison to 20 terrorist acts recorded in 2014 and 49 acts in 2013. Over the course of the year, SL attacks were limited to small, mostly harassing attacks that resulted in few casualties. In 2015, SL attacks and operations resulted in the deaths of two soldiers and three civilians. Seven members of the security forces were wounded in action. In 2014, two soldiers were killed compared to three in 2013 and 19 in 2012. Incidents included the following:

  • On March 21, an alleged SL column shot and killed two people, a former community president and a justice of the peace in Huancamayo, a remote community in Junín region's Santo Domingo de Acobamba district.

  • In early August, SL attacked a counterterrorism base in Junín region, killing one soldier.

  • On September 2, SL fighters wounded five soldiers in a clash in Ayacucho region, Huanta province. Security forces claimed two SL fighters were killed although no bodies were found.

  • On October 24, approximately 30 SL members targeted and blew up a telecommunication tower in Tintay Puncu district in Huancavelica region's Tayacaja province.

Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Over the past three decades, Peru has promulgated a variety of laws specifically designed to counter terrorism. These measures receive broad public support. The government published legislative decree 1233 on September 26, 2015, adding the crime of "conspiracy to commit terror" to existing legislation. This legislation could apply to "anyone who conspires to promote, benefit, or facilitate terror" and carries a maximum 20-year prison sentence. Peru's congress also approved Law 30353 on October 29, 2015, which prohibits convicted felons who have not paid the fines levied against them as part of their sentences from running for public office. Imprisoned MRTA and SL terrorist leaders owe millions of dollars to the state for damages.

Peru has steadily improved its ability to detect, deter, and respond to terrorist incidents in the 22 years since the police captured the SL's founder and chief ideologue, Abimael Guzmán.

The most significant Peruvian government actions against SL this year included:

  • The police captured and arrested Neymar Maldonado on June 17. Maldonado was considered to be one of the successors to "Comrade Artemio," the former SL leader in the Huallaga valley. The police also captured a large cache of weapons and documents in the operation.

  • On July 7, the police captured alleged SL unit leader Ever Cabanillas Chuquilín, aka "Cajacho," who operated in the Huallaga valley.

  • On July 27, the military and police conducted a joint operation in Satipo province in Junín region that freed 39 people (26 children and 13 adults), who were held at an SL base. Security forces freed 15 more people in a second operation. Some of the adults had been under SL control for 30 years.

  • Peruvian security forces captured SL leader Alexander Alarcón Soto, aka "Comrade Renán," on August 8 and his lieutenant Dionicio Ramos Limaquipe, aka "Comrade Yuri," on August 9. Renán and Yuri commanded one of the SL's principal units operating in the Cuzco region of the VRAEM. Renán took command of this unit in August 2013 after Peruvian security forces killed Comrade Alipio and Comrade Gabriel. Renan is believed to have been involved in various high-profile kidnappings and attacks against the police/military, including one in 2012 that left eight soldiers and four police dead.

On border security, immigration authorities collected no biometrics information from visitors. Citizens of neighboring countries were allowed to travel to Peru by land using only national identification cards. There was no visa requirement for citizens of most countries from Western, Central, and Eastern Europe, as well as Mexico. Peruvian immigration used a database called "Movimiento Migratorio" at 18 points of entry to track entries and exits of travelers. The database also connects to the PNP's database to flag outstanding arrest warrants. The Government of Peru announced that it would issue biometric passports in 2016 for all Peruvian citizens.

Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Under Decree Law 25475, Peru criminalizes any form of collaboration with terrorists, including economic collaboration. Peru is a member of the regional Financial Action Task Force of Latin America. Peru's Financial Intelligence Unit is also a member of the Egmont Group.

In 2015, the Government of Peru continued to make progress in implementing its national plan to combat money laundering and terrorism financing. Most notably, Peru tightened controls on money changing entities and introduced measures to ensure timely reporting of bank information by financial institutions. In 2015, Peru did not prosecute any terrorism financing cases and/or identify frozen terrorist assets of sanctioned organizations.

SL's ability to sustain itself and finance its terrorist and other criminal actions depends on profits from drug trafficking activities. The PNP lacks specific intelligence on the amounts of terrorism financing derived from narcotics trafficking and the methods used to move those payments to SL. It is understood that SL narcotics proceeds enter the VRAEM as bulk, physical dollars from neighboring countries via the same aircraft used to transport cocaine out of the region (commonly known as the "air bridge"). Experts estimated that SL has returned at least $170 million back into the VRAEM to launder into local currency to fund its operations. To address this issue, the PNP is forming a 15-person specialized unit that will focus on investigating SL financing.

For further information on money laundering and financial crimes, see the 2016 International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, Volume II, Money Laundering and Financial Crimes: http://www.state.gov/j/inl/rls/nrcrpt/index.htm.

Countering Violent Extremism: The Government of Peru publicly stressed the importance of heavily investing in the VRAEM as a means of breaking the symbiotic relationship that has existed for years between the VRAEM's residents and SL. Since 2007, the Peruvian government has provided the equivalent of approximately $6 billion to districts and regions in the VRAEM to pave roads, provide basic health and education services, and establish a greater state presence. In November, the Minister of Agriculture announced the government would spend $18 million on alternative development in the VRAEM in 2016.

International and Regional Cooperation: Peru's Foreign Ministry energetically and publicly condemned terrorist attacks around the world in 2015. Peru actively participated in the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism in February and the Leader's Summit on Countering ISIL and Violent Extremism hosted by President Obama in New York in September. Peru participates in counterterrorism activities in international and regional organizations, including the UN, OAS, and UNASUR.


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