By Dialogo April 16, 2009 The armed guerrilla organization called “Shining Path” (Sendero Luminoso) has become a business conglomerate that benefits economically from the growing of coca leaf and the exploitation of wood, gas, and minerals in the jungle region of Peru, journalist Gustavo Gorriti, an expert in subversion, said today. The Peruvian armed guerrilla organization “seems to have become increasingly similar to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) for the last 10 or 12 years, and employs, recruits, and provides money and credit to small entrepreneurs,” Gorriti said in a news conference with foreign correspondents in Lima. The current Shining Path has evolved alongside the development of energy and mining in its territory: the valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, called VRAE, which covers the southern departments of Ayacucho, Cuzco, Junin, and Huancavelica, he said. The veteran journalist stated that the Path is now “an organization that solves their historical problems with social foundations and is sympathetic toward much of the population.” Drug trafficking is the major employer of the people there, and the Path is allied with mafias operating in that area to provide security, he said. It also makes money through major operations and “is supported by the most vulnerable part of the country – the backbone of the energy supply – and thus its capability to sabotage is tremendous,” he said. Gorriti recalled that since the kidnapping in 2003 of 71 employees of the Argentine company “Techint” – one of the firms building the Camisea gas pipeline in Peru – the Path has not returned to attack the operations on that site or the private consortium in charge of operations and distribution. Moreover, “The Path said to favor foreign investment,” he said. The development of the organization, which was founded in 1980 by Abimael Guzmán, “coincides with energy and mining production in an atmosphere of perfect peace, but who pays for the peace, and how much?” Gorriti asked. The forces of the remnants of the Path, which last Thursday attacked two military patrols, killing 14 soldiers, have been continually at war since they were created, and their ability to strike at the Armed Forces is growing, not diminishing, he said. However, the Path “does not have a national plan; it is more regional, with economic and industrial involvement, but with a politically-driven military organization,” he said. In this regard, Gorriti rejected some versions from official sectors: that it is another sign of drug trafficking. He stated that “it is a different kind of political military organization with respect to the old Path,” which denies its current leadership of the VRAE, led by “Comrade Jose.” “They are deeply involved in drug trafficking, but that is not the main objective; its objective is political,” he said. Regarding the plan carried out by the government to end the presence of the Path in VRAE, Gorriti said that there are no clear ideas, and that there has been drastic official disorganization. The Peruvian government has defended the VRAE plan, enforced since August of last year in that area, but criticism rained down from all sectors because the last week’s ambush caused one of the major losses of life in recent months, as well as a large number of weapons. Gorriti, whose abduction during the administration of Alberto Fujimori was one of the cases for which the former President was sentenced to 25 years in prison, said the patrols ambushed by the Path was negligent on their return to the base, since they were practically together, the number of casualties was greater.