Wednesday, March 18, 2009

los tios

NYTimes | First the soldiers came to Río Seco, a coca-growing village in the lush mountain jungles of southern Peru. “They called us subversives and they opened fire,” said Benedicto Cóndor, 55, a coca farmer. They shot dead four people at close range, including a woman who was five months pregnant, witnesses said. Two children, ages 6 and 1, disappeared and are believed dead.

Four months later, the guerrillas arrived, accusing the villagers of helping the military. They abducted the village leader, who has not been seen since.

The harrowing tales of violence trickling out of the jungle as dozens of families have fled their villages in recent months raise an ominous specter: a brutal war that terrorized the country for two decades may be sparking back to life.

The war against the Shining Path rebels, which took nearly 70,000 lives, supposedly ended in 2000.

But here in one of the most remote corners of the Andes, the military, in a renewed campaign, is battling a resurgent rebel faction. And the Shining Path, taking a page from Colombia’s rebels, has reinvented itself as an illicit drug enterprise, rebuilding on the profits of Peru’s thriving cocaine trade.

The front lines lie in the drizzle-shrouded jungle of Vizcatán, a 250-square-mile region in the Apurímac and Ene River Valley. The region is Peru’s largest producer of coca, the raw ingredient for cocaine.

As the military and the rebels skirmish for control of isolated coca-producing hamlets, the reports of rising body counts and civilians killed in the cross-fire, still far lower than the carnage at the height of the Shining Path war in the 1980s and early 90s, are rousing ghosts most Peruvians thought were long dead.