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: Latin America in a Downward Spiral
The CNN report on the re-emergence of the Shining Path rebels (Sendero Luminoso) almost buries the most important element of the story. The terror unleashed by Sendero (massacres of civilians, the desire to carry out Pol Pot's dream of decapitating the urban and creating a utopian rural society, targeted assassinations, infrastructure destruction etc.) is financed by their access to drug money.

It is easy to forget that Sendero was among the most brutal and merciless the Western Hemisphere has ever seen. The arrest of the movement's mastermind, Abimael Guzman, sent it in a downward spiral. It almost disappeared. And now it is back.

The cocaine corruption and accompanying terror of Latin America knows no ideological stripe. It fuels the FARC in Colombia and the paramilitaries (see this latest indictment of the Colombian paramilitary leader to see the role cocaine plays in that movement).

There are several things of concern here, beyond the immediate danger Sendero poses in Peru. One is that is shows how badly beaten groups (such as the FARC) can survive and revive, given the right economic conditions (access to coke money) and political conditions (deep disillusionment with the government, government corruption etc). They don't simply disappear.

A second is the number of groups that still exist in Latin America espousing armed revolution. The FARC documents found in the Reyes computer show a host of radical groups (MIR in Chile etc.) that seemed to have disappeared, but survive and were seeking aid from the FARC, because of the FARC's economic power.

A third factor is the demise of the large-scale Colombian trafficking organizations, who until very recently controlled the production and export of HCL, the refined cocaine. With that control greatly weakened, Bolivian and Peruvian organizations, long relegated to growing the coca leaf and producing base (not refined cocaine, worth much less than HCL) are now back in the HCL business. This means their profit margins are growing exponentially.

A fourth is the fact that the macro conditions created by the Venezuela (Hugo Chavez)-Nicaragua (Daniel Ortega)-Bolivia (Evo Morales)-Ecuador (Rafael Correa) axis are creating unprecedented conditions for armed revolution to flourish. That is not to say that Chavez et al have anything to do with Sendero, or want Sendero to flourish. But if the conditions are right for armed groups you like, they will be right for everyone.

All of those leaders have direct ties to the FARC and its revolutionary goals. The tolerance for armed movements (Bolivia's vice president Garcia Linera was a member of an armed radical movement Ejercito Revolucionario Tupac Katari, Morales' head of official media is wanted in Peru as a member of the Tupac Amaru movement, Chavez's chief of intelligence is the direct link to the FARC etc.) creates an atmosphere and operating conditions for more armed groups to emerge, particularly if they have access to the drug trade.

This leads to a problem other Latin American leaders have not wanted to address, particularly those leaders of the new, responsible generation of the left such as Lula in Brazil and Bachelet in Chile, who have won through the ballot box and do not espouse armed revolution.

What if the revolutions spread to their countries, as it inevitably will? And why not confront Chavez on this now, rather than wait until the violence grows to the point where it will be virtually unsolvable without a massive commitment of blood and treasure? Sendero Luminoso and the drug trade are evidence of what can and will happen if they don't.
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