Overview: Peru successfully hosted the Pan American and Parapan American Games in 2019, with 8,500 athletes competing over 38 days across 20 venues – unprecedented in scale and duration. The U.S. government coordinated with Peruvian security services to provide security support to U.S. athletes, teams, and attendees. Peru’s execution of its comprehensive security plan for the Games enabled effective responses to several emerging threat streams, including arresting an alleged ISIS sympathizer.
On January 17, Peru began retrying on terrorism charges Muhammad Ghaleb Hamdar, a Lebanese citizen suspected of links to Hizballah currently serving a sentence on document fraud. If convicted, Hamdar would represent the first terrorism conviction of a Hizballah operative in South America.
President Martín Vizcarra reaffirmed Peru’s commitment to restore law and order in the Valleys of the Apurímac, Ene, and Mantaro Rivers (VRAEM) by its national bicentennial in 2021. On November 1, despite protests and violence from coca farmers, Peru initiated coca eradication in the VRAEM for the first time.
Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso or SL) continued to operate in the VRAEM. Estimates vary, but most experts and Peruvian security services assess SL numbers between 250 and 300 members, including 60-150 armed fighters. SL collects “revolutionary taxes” from those involved in the drug trade and, for a price, provides security and transportation services for drug trafficking organizations to support its terrorist activities.
Víctor Quispe Palomino (aka Comrade José), a U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency Most Wanted Fugitive, continued to lead the SL’s VRAEM’s remnants, which he calls the Militarized Communist Party of Peru (MPCP). The son of an SL founder, Quispe Palomino allegedly oversees all MPCP illicit activities, including extortion, murder, and drug trafficking. A U.S. Department of State reward offers up to $5 million for information leading to his arrest and/or conviction and the U.S. Department of Defense offers an additional $1 million for information leading to his capture.
SL founder Abimael Guzmán and key accomplices are serving life sentences for terrorism in the 1980s and 1990s. Many former SL members and leaders have served 25 to 30-year sentences on terrorism charges and could be released in the coming months and years. Guzmán and other captured SL figures from earlier years deny association with the SL’s VRAEM group.
2019 Terrorist Incidents: The overall number of terrorist attacks and deaths of security forces attributable to terrorism declined in 2019. Four soldiers died in two terrorist incidents:
- On June 25, SL members killed three soldiers upon attacking a joint military-police patrol in the VRAEM town Vizcatán.
- On August 9, SL members killed one soldier and injured two others during a VRAEM patrol that resulted in the death of an SL operative in Ayacucho’s Huanta province.
Legislation, Law Enforcement, and Border Security: Peru adopted multiple counterterrorism laws over the past 30 years. CT measures have broad public support. On October 19, Peru issued an executive decree with measures to neutralize domestic and transnational terrorist actions: the National Multisectoral Policy to Combat Terrorism.
Peru’s significant 2019 counterterrorism actions included:
- Security forces’ July 12 capture of SL military commander Julio Chapo, reportedly fifth in the SL military hierarchy and responsible for several killings and ambushes against security forces, in Huancavelica’s Churcampa province of the VRAEM.
- The July 17 arrest and preventive detention of Brian Eugenio Alvarado Huari in Lima for alleged links to ISIS and plans to “attack foreigners” during Peru’s 2019 Pan American Games.
- The July 29 capture of Serapio Cárdenas Villarroel (a.k.a. “Papicho”) in Ayacucho’s Huanta province in the VRAEM. A veteran SL member since the 1980s, Cárdenas is allegedly responsible for killing at least four people, including two police officers.
- The August 9 killing of SL central committee member and firearms specialist Juan Carlos Badajoz Vizarres (a.k.a. “Miguel” or “Bomba”) during a joint patrol of the Peruvian National Police and Army in Huanta province.
Immigration authorities collected limited biometrics information from visitors to protect Peruvian border security. Peru implemented a new regulation June 15 allowing only Venezuelan citizens who hold passports and humanitarian visas to enter Peruvian territory. Visas were not required for citizens of most countries from Europe, Southeast Asia, or Central America (except El Salvador and Nicaragua).
The U.S.-Peru arrangement to exchange terrorist screening information became operational April 17, in time for Peru’s hosting of the Pan American Games and Parapan American Games.
Countering the Financing of Terrorism: Peru is a member of the GAFILAT. Its FIU, the Financial Intelligence Unit of Peru, is a member of the Egmont Group. GAFILAT completed its mutual evaluation report of Peru in February 2019; the report contained several recommendations to enhance its AML/CFT regimes. The superintendent of banking, insurance, and private administrators of pension funds improved efforts to regulate cooperatives, including enhanced measures to prevent money laundering and terrorist financing.
Countering Violent Extremism: Peru promotes concrete measures to prevent and combat terrorism. The government’s multi-sectoral VRAEM 2021 Development Strategy consolidates opportunities for sustainable social and economic development as part of its bicentennial vision. Peru’s whole-of-government effort to foster alternative development and social inclusion in the VRAEM complements aggressive action against SL terrorism, propaganda, and recruitment.
On November 26, Peru co-hosted with Belgium, Poland, and the UK the UN Security Council’s Arria-formula meeting on reintegrating former child combatants, reflecting Peru’s focus on the needs of children who are vulnerable to social stigmatization and re-recruitment following their rescue from SL.
International and Regional Cooperation: Peruvian officials participated in CT activities in international organizations, including the UN, the OAS Inter-American Committee against Terrorism, the Union of South American Nations, and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation. Peru chaired the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee for the second of a two-year term. Peru sent a high-level delegation to the Second Western Hemisphere Counterterrorism Ministerial Conference in Argentina in July and offered to host a future ministerial conference.
In November, the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Directorate conducted an assessment in Peru to identify good practices, challenges, and areas in which Peru may require technical assistance or provide technical assistance to other member states. Peru’s Counter-Terrorism Directorate, a Peruvian National Police branch, coordinated with police in other countries to track activities of domestic terrorist organizations abroad.