Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Re-Emergence of the Shining Path: The Criminal-Terrorist Nexus
For those of us who were covering the conflicts in Latin America in the 1980s and 1990s, there was no group more terrifying than Peru's Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) an Maoist organization intent on causing rivers of blood to flow in order to achieve the proletariat utopia.

After many years and countless dead, Sendero was largely dismantled and its chief ideologue , Abimael Guzman, who ran a horrific cult of personality, was jailed. The group was widely thought to have been put out of business permanently.

Now, as Washington Post reports, Sendero, a designated terrorist entity, is coming back. Why?

The Shining Path, which has its bases in two coca-producing regions of central Peru, is now heavily involved in drug trafficking and is paying for new recruits.

Again, the terrorist/criminal nexus shows up, as it will more and more frequently.

The terrorists, using criminal proceeds, wear bullet proof vests, carry assault rifles and can pay salaries in isolated regions of the country where the state has little presence. Where they were once one of the most hated and reviled insurgencies on the continent, they are trying to come back in a softer, gentler form.

What makes the reemergence of Sendero even more dangerous is the regional situation. Peru's president, Alan Garcia, was also president at the height of Sendero's power, and badly botched the war against them. He returned to power as a newly-minted fiscal conservative who has sought stronger ties to the United States.

That stand has put Garcia at odds with Venezuela's Hugo Chavez, who is already demonstrated his willingness to back terrorist organizations that traffic in cocaine and heroin, particularly if it furthers his agenda of confrontation with the United States.

Chavez's support for the FARC in Colombia has been as much an effort to destabilize the government of Alvaro Uribe in Colombia, the closet US ally in the hemisphere, as it has been to show revolutionary solidarity.

And the FARC, according to internal FARC documents, has been working for some time to reach out to the old, violent Latin American left to create a new transnational, quasi-Marxist bloc. For details of this effort, see this paper I did for the NEFA Foundation.

How do they finance themselves? Through the proceeds of cocaine sales, which are more and more frequently routed through Venezuela, where the military allied with Chavez gets a substantial cut.

This melding of criminal financing with an old ideological battle (which Chavez and Nicaraguan president Daniel Ortega remain locked in) is one of our most serious threats. So far it has been largely ignored as a policy issue. Mexico, too, teeters on the brink of collapse as a nation state, something that would wreak havoc on the United States as well as the rest of Latin America.

I know everyone has a list of priorities for the incoming administration. There will be no choice, unfortunately, but to include Latin America on that list.

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