Wednesday, March 18, 2009
The New York Times has a huge story up about new Sendero Luminoso activity in Peru. The organization, whose last member supposedly turned themselves in in 2000, has simply gone underground for nearly ten years and become a drug cartel. Now people in Peru are faced with the same war on terrorism that killed tens of thousands of people in the mountains and scarred an entire generation. The war is hard to fight because of the jungle terrain, and the fact that senderistas look like anyone else in the mountains and are able to disappear into the undergrowth in a split second.
The coca leaf is an important cultural item. I chewed it ALL the time when I was in the mountains. It's great for altitude sickness and there's nothing more special than offering a little bit of it to the apu (mountain peak gods) before a planting, when you are fixing an anden wall, prior to harvest... So it's hard to control it because you shouldn't just ban the plant but about 90% of the stuff gets turned into cocaine rather than sold as a plain leaf, so...
I honestly don't know how I would fight this war if I were the Peruvian government, though I am pretty sure I wouldn't do it the same way they are doing it now; searching vehicles, declaring war, killing civilians. One official is basically quoted saying that a pregnant woman who was killed deserved what she got. There's a complete lack of sympathy for the mountain people, which in a racist country like Peru is what one might expect. Even in Sendero's previous era the war against terrorism (by both the government and The Shining Path) only became a serious issue once the terrorists bombed Lima.
I am going to look at which human rights organizations are working in Peru now, and try to keep up with the news, maybe donate some money so that at the very least we know what is happening. And in terms of the Seedling Project stuff, I am convinced that the best thing to do is provide alternate sources of income for remote rural mountain people so that there is an alternative to growing and selling cocaine. How do we get fair trade yarn, woven blankets, knitted caps out of Andamarca and into the US for some economic stimulus?