Josh Partlow’s recent article on Peru’s home grown terrorist organization, the Shining Path, is yet another ‘shining example’ of a designated foreign terrorist organization’s involvement in one or more aspects of the global drug trade.
The illicit global drug trade as a ready source of funding for terrorist organizations is a dimension of terrorism that many in Washington, D.C. fail to comprehend, and many more neglect to even talk about.
In the early 1990s, the Shining Path’s funding began to ebb, and many experts link this to the fall of the Soviet Union. In other words, the funding stream from the Soviet Union through Cuba and onward into Latin America began to quickly dry up.
The Shining Path’s involvement in the drug trade before this period, although not totally absent, was minimal by most accounts. However, like the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), and now the Taliban in Afghanistan, the group made a strategic ‘corporate’ decision to involve itself in the drug trade to keep their ‘movement’ alive.
By 1992 the only real difference between the Shining Path and the FARC, who’s funding also began to fade away, was that the Shining Path’s founder and leader, Abimael Guzman, was apprehended by Peruvian authorities, tried in a court of law and put behind bars where he belonged-for the duration.
The Shining Path, unlike the FARC, did not have a hearty succession plan, and after continued, relentless pressure from the Peruvian military and police, was almost totally decimated.
The DEA has conservatively linked 19 of the 43designated foreign terrorist organizations to some aspect of the global drug trade. The principal reasons for the growing drugs & terrorism nexus are: 1) ‘state sponsorship’ for terrorism is on the decline and 2) our Departments of Defense, State, Treasury, Justice and Homeland Security, as well as the CIA, have done an incredible job of identifying and cutting off the terrorist funding stream from powerful private donors.
The United Nations (UN) estimates that the global drug trade generates about $322 billion dollars a year in revenue; no other illicit market comes close. In fact, the UN estimates the next closest illicit global market, alien trafficking, generates only about $32 billion dollars a year in proceeds, or one-tenth of the global drug trade.
The bottom line-more and more global terrorist organizations will naturally migrate to one or more aspects of the global drug trade. The Shining Path is further proof of this phenomenon.
I’ve got some sweat-equity in Peru. As a DEA Special Agent, I spent six months of my life in the late 1980s and early 1990s battling drug traffickers and the Shining Path in the jungles of the Upper Huallaga Valley. During that period we responded many times to pleas for assistance from the Peruvian National Police and Peruvian Military, who had come under attack by the Shining Path. I lost six fellow DEA agents, a number of U.S. contract employees and far too many Peruvian cops, many of whom I knew and cared deeply for, to the drugs & terrorism struggle that appears to have reignited in Peru.
The possible reemergence of the Shining Path in Peru and their involvement in the global drug trade, coupled with Venezuela, Bolivia and Ecuador refusing to work aggressively and cooperatively with the United States and other international partners on counter-narcotics matters, should cause our policy makers to pause and ask themselves, “What’s happening in our own back yard?”