Saturday, 18 April 2009

This Week in Peru

The political fallout from the Shining Path ambush, which caused the deaths of 14 soldiers, continues, with criticism of the fact that one of the fatalities was a minor. Human rights groups have protested and said that Peru has signed treaties which prohibit the use of child soldiers. Soldiers on military service should be at least 18. It seems inconceivable that a seventeen year old could have been trained to a level suitable for sending him into a dangerous, isolated area to fight unconventional warfare against a ruthless and experienced opponent. And he wasn't alone: apparently over 100 under-18s were recruited from the 'selva' (rain forest) region of Peru last year. Can anyone be surprised when terrified and ill-prepared teenagers either fall victim to attacks, are subject to atrocities, or react by carrying out atrocities themselves?
See also this English-language piece.

Prime Minister Yehude Simon is now saying that those reponsible for sending children into battle will be punished, and is upping the budget and priority level of operations in the VRAE.

As a response to the new attacks, the Peruvian army has doubled their estimate of Sendero's numbers. The fact of the re-estimation is an indication that the armed forces are taking the armed group seriously, but I doubt that anyone can be certain that the figures are accurate. As I recall, the estimates of Shining Path's numbers from the highpoint of the violence vary wildly. By definition, the group is clandestine and doesn't exactly stand up to be counted, and aside from that, there have often been difficulties distinguishing between armed combatants, active supporters, sympathisers, and neutral onlookers.

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