Five soldiers were killed in an attack by presumed Shining Path guerrillas Aug. 15 on a military base in Mazangaro, Junin region, in Peru's Apurimac-Ene River Valley (VRAE). According to La Republica, the attack could be in response to the army's seizure three days prior to the assault of 800 kilos of precursor chemicals used in the production of cocaine. (InSight Crime, Aug. 16) Two days after the attack, Peru's special anti-terrorism prosecutor, Julio Galindo, asserted that the Shining Path column in the coca-growing region was financed not only by the narco traffic, but by illegal gold-mining and logging. He said the state is attempting to crack down on the guerilla column's money laundering networks, which he characterized as "very technical." He also referred to the area of guerilla operations as the VRAEM—including the Mantaro River in the acronym, a western tributary of the Apurimac-Ene, in an implicit acknowledgement that the insurgency is spreading. (Perú21, Aug. 18; El Comercio, Aug. 17)
On Aug. 1, Peru's President Ollanta Humala signed a decree extending for another 60 days the state of emergency in the remote jungle area called the VRAE, for the Apurímac-Ene River Valley, where a remnant faction of the Shining Path guerilla movement remains active. However, as we have repeatedly noted, the acronym "VRAE" is becoming an elastic term defined by areas where the Shining Path is active rather than by geography. The state of emergency includes Echarate district, in La Convención province, Cuzco region—in the valley of the Urubamba, the next river basin to the east of the Apurímac-Ene. Similarly, districts of Tayacaja province in Huancavelica region are also affected—in the watershed of the Río Mantaro, to the west of the Apurímac-Ene, and on the edge of the central Andean section of the country. Affected districts in Ayacucho and Junín regions constitute the VRAE "proper"—actually within the Apurímac-Ene watershed. Most of the affected districts have been under a repeatedly extended state of emergency since May 2003, but Echarate only came under the decree in April after guerillas took scores of oil pipeline construction workers hostage.