Peru rebels abduct chil­dren for fight­ing, breed­ing

The Washington Times Weekly - - Geopolitics - BY KELLY HEARN

LIMA, PERU | Re­newed fight­ing be­tween Peru­vian security forces and a rem­nant fac­tion of the Shin­ing Path guer­ril­las has brought to light new ev­i­dence that the Marx­ist rebel group is us­ing chil­dren as com­bat­ants.

In April, a band of rebels, which wit­nesses said in­cluded fight­ers as young as 13, kid­napped and later re­leased 40 work­ers at nat­u­ral gas com­pany in a jun­gle ham­let in Peru’s cen­tral Ama­zon.

The brazen raid, the first of its kind in years, prompted a crack­down by state forces in Peru’s deadly Apuri­mac and Ene River Val­leys, known as the VRAE, where half the coun­try’s co­caine is pro­duced.

The raid also has gen­er­ated more ev­i­dence against the no­to­ri­ous ter­ror­ist group, which waged an ide­o­log­i­cal war against the state in the 1980s and 1990s and con­tin­ues to con­vert chil­dren as young as 7 into com­bat­ants and im­preg­nate cap­tured ado­les­cents in order to sus­tain their ranks.

“We must save th­ese chil­dren from the ter­ror­ists,” Os­car Valdes, pres­i­dent of Peru’s coun­cil of min­is­ters, said shortly af­ter the raid.

Mr. Valdes called on non­govern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions to help bring an end to the group’s re­cruit­ment.

Teresa Car­pio, direc­tor of the Peru­vian branch of the in­ter­na­tional ad­vo­cacy group Save the Chil­dren, said the Peru­vian govern­ment has not pro­vided es­ti­mates on how many chil­dren the group is hold­ing. But based on jour­nal­ists’ ac­counts, she said, an es­ti­mated 80 mi­nors are be­ing de­tained inside a 12,000-squaremile swath of re­mote jun­gle.

Ms. Car­pio said the scale of the prob­lem in Peru pales in com­par­i­son with re­gions such as Africa, but it stands out for an­other rea­son.

“The case here in Peru is dif­fer­ent from Africa be­cause the Shin­ing Path are us­ing chil­dren start­ing at the ages of 4, 5 and 6,” she said.

A Peru­vian tele­vi­sion sta­tion, Canal N, re­cently broad­cast video of child com­bat­ants thought to have been taken in 2010. It shows small chil­dren march­ing through the high jun­gles, some with ma­chine guns, oth­ers with cargo.

Some footage shows sol­diers, in­clud­ing some who ap­pear to be pre­teens, in mil­i­tary for­ma­tion with AK-47 as­sault ri­fles. Chil­dren are shown study­ing com­mu­nist pro­pa­ganda. In one shot of a jun­gle en­camp­ment, tod­dlers are clearly vis­i­ble.

Ac­cord­ing to me­dia re­ports and tes­ti­mony of chil­dren who es­caped, the group be­gins a Marx­ist ed­u­ca­tion as early as age 2. By 5, many are sent to a mil­i­tary camp. They en­ter train­ing to be­come snipers by 11, and the “lit­tle pi­o­neers” be­come fullfledged com­bat­ants by 13.

Of­fi­cials say the chil­dren also serve as hu­man shields to pre­vent air­borne strikes from Hu Jin­tao, to purge or sup­press the PLA’s “strate­gic hawks” from be­com­ing in­flu­en­tial in China.

Sev­eral “strate­gic hawks” were iden­ti­fied. Maj. Gens. Luo Yuan and Qiao Liang and se­nior Cols. Dai Xu and Liu Mingfu were named as the main vic­tims of the sup­posed U.S. plot.

Rea­gan ad­min­is­tra­tion de­fense pol­i­cy­maker Michael Pillsbury, iden­ti­fied in the ar­ti­cle as “a se­nior of­fi­cial in charge of U.S. strat­egy to­ward China” who closely mon­i­tors the PLA, was de­scribed as be­ing “pleas­antly sur­prised” by the down­fall of one of such Chi­nese “strate­gic hawks.” mil­i­tary he­li­copters.

An ad­di­tional prob­lem, of­fi­cials say, is that young cap­tives freed from re­mote jun­gle en­camp­ments must be re­so­cial­ized be­cause they have grown up know­ing only their cap­tors.

Ado­les­cent fe­males are forced to bear chil­dren. In 2011, Peru­vian forces res­cued a 19-yearold woman and her baby son. She said she was kid­napped when she was 9 years old and forced to have a child.

In April, a preg­nant teenager said she was forced to work in jun­gle co­caine lab­o­ra­to­ries.

Re­cent events have opened painful mem­o­ries. The Shin­ing Path is in­fa­mous for its bar­baric treat­ment of chil­dren. The Peru­vian govern­ment’s Com­mis­sion on Truth and Rec­on­cil­i­a­tion has doc­u­mented ev­i­dence that rebels tor­tured mi­nors to strike fear in vil­lages and some­times killed them to pre­vent them from be­ing re­cruited into the Peru­vian army.

Peru­vian pros­e­cu­tor Julio Galindo re­cently re­called that snubbed the Bri­tish by can­cel­ing Wu Bang­guo’s visit to Lon­don. Mr. Wu is ranked No. 2 in the Com­mu­nist Party hi­er­ar­chy and heads the Na­tional Peo­ple’s Congress.

China then uni­lat­er­ally sus­pended nearly all ex­changes at the min­is­te­rial level with Bri­tain.

The Bri­tish news­pa­per Daily Tele­graph re­ported June 13 that Bri­tish of­fi­cials were snubbed by their Chi­nese coun­ter­parts. Trade min­is­ter Stephen Green and for­eign min­is­ter Jeremy Browne were de­nied meet­ings with their equiv­a­lents in Bei­jing. Many meet­ings have been ei­ther can­celed or pushed to ju­nior bu­reau­crats.

Last week, the Dalai Lama was in­vited again to Bri­tain, this time by the pri­vate in­vest­ment as­so­ci­a­tion York­shire In­ter­na­tional Busi­ness Con­ven­tion to give a speech on busi­ness ethics.

And the Chi­nese govern­ment con­tin­ued to bully the Bri­tish over the Ti­betan monk’s visit.

Elected city of­fi­cials in Leeds, where the speech was given, re­ceived a threat from the Chi­nese Em­bassy to re­lo­cate some 200 Chi­nese ath­letes train­ing there for the Summer Olympics to other lo­cales if the Dalai Lama’s speech was not can­celed, ac­cord­ing to a re­port by Bri­tish news­pa­per the Guardian.

Chi­nese For­eign Ministry spokesman Liu Wei­minid of the one of the Shin­ing Path’s worst mas­sacres, in the state of Ay­acu­cho in April 1983, in­volved the killings of 69 vil­lagers who op­posed their strug­gle. A quar­ter of those, he said, were chil­dren.

Many of the mi­nors un­der the Shin­ing Path’s con­trol today are said to be chil­dren or grand­chil­dren of the group’s founders. Much of what is known about them comes from a hand­ful of in­ter­views given to jour­nal­ists in re­cent years and from tes­ti­monies by cap­tured rebels or their vic­tims who es­caped.

In 2010, police ar­rested Vic­tor Quispe Zaga, the el­dest son of Vic­tor Quispe Palomino, a Shin­ing Path leader. He left the rebels af­ter learn­ing that his fa­ther had killed his mother. The younger Quispe told au­thor­i­ties of grow­ing up in hor­ri­ble con­di­tions that com­pelled him to un­dergo ide­o­log­i­cal and mil­i­tary train­ing start­ing at age 5.

Other mi­nors be­ing held are thought to be Ashaninka na­tive chil­dren kid­napped from marginal­ized jun­gle com­mu­ni­ties in the VRAE, which of­ten lack even the most ba­sic govern­ment ser­vices.

In April, Save the Chil­dren and an­other Peru­vian rights group, known as Iprodes, for­mally re­quested that the govern­ment ar­rest the rebel group’s re­main­ing lead­ers specif­i­cally on charges re­lated to their mistreatment of chil­dren.

“No one in Peru, none of the Shin­ing Path lead­ers, has been charged specif­i­cally with the forced re­cruit­ment of chil­dren,” Dalai Lama’s visit to Leeds: “We hope the Bri­tish side stop mak­ing mis­takes again and again, which un­der­mine China’s in­ter­ests.

“China-U.K. re­la­tions have been af­fected by the re­cent meet­ing be­tween the Bri­tish leader and the Dalai Lama. The re­spon­si­bil­ity lies with the Bri­tish side.”

But will the Chi­nese pull out of the Olympics if the Dalai Lama keeps vis­it­ing Bri­tain and giv­ing speeches?

“The Chi­nese del­e­ga­tion is mak­ing prepa­ra­tions for the 2012 Olympics. I think pol­i­tics and sport should be sep­a­rated,” Mr. Liu said.

China ap­par­ently is un­able to sep­a­rate the Dalai Lama from its pol­i­tics. Ms. Car­pio said.

Peru is a sig­na­tory to in­ter­na­tional con­ven­tions that give au­thor­i­ties le­gal grounds for prose­cut­ing those ac­cused of us­ing chil­dren as sol­diers, said Fabian No­vak Talav­era, of Peru’s Catholic Univer­sity, a re­searcher on child com­bat­ants.

One Peru­vian con­gress­man is push­ing a mod­i­fi­ca­tion to Peru’s anti-ter­ror­ism leg­is­la­tion to specif­i­cally deal with the is­sue.

Con­gress­man Oc­tavio Salazar has pro­posed leg­is­la­tion that would im­pose a min­i­mum 25year sen­tence on any­one who cap­tures mi­nors for the pur­poses of arm­ing and ed­u­cat­ing them in ter­ror­ist prac­tices. Mr. Salazar said he plans to sub­mit a doc­u­ment to con­gres­sional lead­er­ship this week ask­ing for an ur­gent de­bate on his pro­posal.

“If passed, it will be the first law of its kind in Peru,” he said.

An­a­lysts say the U.S. govern­ment has taken no stance on the is­sue. Ms. Car­pio of Save the Chil­dren said that when she worked at Amnesty In­ter­na­tional, she was con­tacted by a U.S. Em­bassy of­fi­cial and asked about hu­man rights re­lat­ing to chil­dren.

“But I’ve had no con­tact with any­one from the em­bassy on the mat­ter of child sol­diers, nor have I heard of any mem­o­ran­dums be­tween the U.S. and Peru,” she said. “They’ve said noth­ing de­spite the fact that our procla­ma­tions have been all over the in­ter­na­tional me­dia lately.”

The U.S. Em­bassy in Peru de­clined to comment. decades ago. It stated that China’s space am­bi­tions should be based on Chi­nese re­al­ity and should not waste too many re­sources.

“China should in­crease our pres­ence in space but no mat­ter how im­por­tant it is to build a space sta­tion, its connection with the peo­ple’s in­ter­ests is not as di­rect and self-ev­i­dent as build­ing com­fort­able hous­ing projects for the peo­ple,” the Global Times, a sub­sidiary of the Com­mu­nist Party mouth­piece the Peo­ple’s Daily, said June 17 in a rare ed­i­to­rial.

“China is a big coun­try with a con­sid­er­able amount of re­al­is­tic tasks for so­cial de­vel­op­ment,” the ed­i­to­rial said. “We must cor­rectly bal­ance the re­la­tion­ship be­tween solv­ing prob­lems for peo­ple’s liveli­hood and seek­ing a bet­ter fu­ture strate­gic po­si­tion for our na­tion.”

The ed­i­to­rial warned that “any im­bal­ance in deal­ing with th­ese two ob­jec­tives will be my­opic and mud­dle-headed.”

It is rare for a party-con­trolled news out­let to chal­lenge pub­licly an on­go­ing strate­gic pro­gram that has the pub­li­cized bless­ing of the top lead­er­ship.

The re­port prompted some spec­u­la­tion among an­a­lysts that it re­flects in­ter­nal dis­agree­ment among China’s top lead­er­ship over the coun­try’s strate­gic pri­or­i­ties.

Miles Yu can be reached at


Martin Quispe Palomino, also known as “Com­rade Gabriel,” is a com­man­der with Peru’s Shin­ing Path rebels.

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