- Title: PERU: SHINING PATH GUERRILLAS REGROUP AND TRY TO MUSTER PEASANT SUPPORT
- Date: 31st July 2003
- Summary: (U7)MATUCANA BAJA, PERU (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FARMER TITO SALAZAR WHOSE BROTHER WAS KILLED BY THE SHINING PATH SAYING "We are no longer terrorists" he said. We are now guerrillas. That's what they told us. We are not going to kill you. But the people, the self-defense, we no longer trust them." SCU CHILD HOLDING RIFLE; MV TOWNSPEOPLE HOLDING RIFLES (2 SHOTS) MV WAKE OF A LOCAL MAN, MEMBER OF SELF-DEFENSE UNIT, WHO DIED IN A CLASH WITH THE SHINING PATH (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) FARMER TITO SALAZAR WHOSE BROTHER WAS KILLED BY THE SHINING PATH SAYING "My brother's fall has hurt us quite a bit and we think the terrorists could retaliate against my family." (U7)PICHARI, PERU (RECENT) (REUTERS) SLV / MV SELF-DEFENSE 'RONDERO' FARMERS WITH WEAPONS (2 SHOTS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) HEAD OF AREA'S SELF-DEFENSE UNIT 'EL CAZADOR' ('THE HUNTER') SAYING "We cannot deny the presence of subversion. It exists in all towns, in all communities, and we are now seeing how subversion has taken force and, in every patrol, members of the armed forces are falling (at the hands of the subversives) and this is truly painful." MV MEMBERS OF SELF-DEFENSE COMMITTEE PUTTING THEIR WEAPONS AWAY; MV AREA RESIDENTS REGISTERING INTO SELF-DEFENSE UNITS (3 SHOTS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) HEAD OF AREA'S SELF-DEFENSE UNIT 'EL CAZADOR' ('THE HUNTER') SAYING "We are very worried. Right now, in Pichari, we are organizing the self-defense. You have seen our weapons; they are totally deteriorated. They're no good. With weapons like this, we can't fight, not even shoot. We would like the government to reflect so that they support us anew with weapons to be able to combat terrorism." SLV /MV FAMILY DRYING COCA LEAVES (3 SHOTS) (U7)LIMA, PERU (RECENT) (REUTERS) (SOUNDBITE) (Spanish) DEFENCE MINISTER AURELIO LORET DE MOLA SAYING "It's not that all farmers who grow coca have a tie to the Shining Path. I don't think the alliance is produced at the level of the farmers, or of the majority of farmers, I know the area well. Starting August, we will begin a program that will once again be with the the self-defense committees on one hand, and the military defense of the communities on the other." (U7)MATUCANA BAJA, PERU (RECENT) (REUTERS) SCU LOCAL CHILDREN WITH RIFLES SLV LOCAL CHILDREN BATHING IN THE RIVER RIACHUELO (2 SHOTS) Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved
- Embargoed: 15th August 2003 13:00
- Location: AYACUCHO, MATUCANA BAJA, PICHARI AND LIMA, PERU
- Country: Peru
- Topics: Domestic Politics
- Reuters ID: LVA69IPZB108UAIKV5DFV42AIUS3
- Story Text: As Shining Path regroups in Peruvian Andes and tries to muster peasant support, poorly armed locals try to organise means of defence.
When Shining Path guerrillas marched into this tiny hamlet deep in Peru's Andean jungle a fortnight ago, Tito Salazar's mind filled with images of neighbours hacked to death by rebels 20 years ago.
Able to muster just five useless, rust-caked rifles between them, the poor coffee farmer and his fellow villagers in these lush foothills looked on helplessly this time as the 70-strong, well-armed group of rebels vowed they meant no harm.
"'We are no longer terrorists, we are now guerrillas,"
they told us. "We are not going to kill you like before,'"
Salazar said. Two days later he was mourning his brother Uldarico, blown up by the notorious Maoist rebels a few miles away.
The Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso in Spanish, is slowly regrouping after lying dormant for much of the past decade since the capture of its leader. The government relaxed its guard after its success against the group and became preoccupied with other problems, giving rebels an opening.
As the rebels re-gather, Peru's poor farmers are trying to make a comeback with their own call to arms.
The trouble is, they don't have any.
Peasant pleas for weapons reverberate across the "red zone," a stretch of remote peaks and valleys 300 miles (500 km) southeast of Lima that has been the Shining Path's stronghold since it emerged in 1980 in quest of communist revolution.
In the nearby town of Pichari, "ronderos" or farmers who take turns patrolling to ward off incursions, gather to talk tactics. They line a dozen decrepit rifles and shotguns against a mud wall. Only a couple still work.
"We are very worried. Right now, in Pichari, we are organizing the self-defense. You have seen our weapons; they are totally deteriorated. They're no good. With weapons like this, we can't fight, not even shoot," said a local farmer who earned his nickname "the Hunter" aiding the military against the guerrillas in the 1980s and early 1990s.
Now, as a spate of recent attacks sows fear in a region blighted by two decades of civil war that killed from 30,000 to 60,000 people -- at least 15,000 at the hands of the rebels -- the farmers' prayers may soon be answered.
Peruvian Defense Minister Aurelio Loret de Mola told Reuters the government plans to arm thousands of farmers and peasants so they can help the military head into the mist-enveloped Andean slopes to hunt the guerrillas down.
He added that the government had not yet told the villagers to avoid subversives infiltrating a screening process under way.
"Starting August, we will begin a program that will once again be with the the self-defense committees on one hand, and the military defense of the communities on the other," Loret de Mola said.
It was precisely this kind of alliance between the military and civilian population that helped now fugitive ex-President Alberto Fujimori all but wipe out the guerrillas in the 1990s, when thousands of rebels were caught and jailed.
The government is also reopening 15 remote military bases, stepping up the pressure after a rash of attacks as part of a two-pronged drive to tackle the guerrillas and the drug trafficking trade that is financing them in exchange for protection.
Shining Path rebels kidnapped and later released more than 70 workers building a gas pipeline in June and killed five soldiers and two civilians including Salazar's brother in one ambush this month.
Last year they murdered 10 people in Lima with a car bomb, just days before a high-profile visit by U.S.
President George W. Bush.
But in sharp contrast to the bloody 1980s, the Shining Path is changing its tactics and instead of terrorizing and killing farmers is trying to curry favour, promising to protect their illegal crops of coca, the raw material used to make cocaine.
Villagers say some coca farmers even occasionally play soccer with the guerrillas, who dress all in black and wear rubber boots.
There are now two Shining Path factions. One is led by jailed Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman, who was captured in 1992 and is trying to secure an amnesty and "political solution" for his jailed comrades. The other is led by militants operating around Ayacucho.
Nevertheless, Guzman who signed a truce with the government in 1993, refuses to condemn recent attacks.
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