- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 10, 2004

COCHABAMBA, Bolivia — Peruvian terror groups thought to have been crushed in the 1990s under former President Alberto Fujimori are mounting a comeback in Bolivia, where they have linked up with Colombian narcoterrorists, regional security officials said.

“We are investigating reports that subversive elements from Colombia and Peru are operating in the coca-growing region of Cochabamba and other parts of the country,” said Bolivian army chief Gen. Cesar Lopez.

Other security officials said the groups are taking advantage of extremist violence that has persisted in Bolivia since a bloody revolt last year toppled President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada.

Intelligence reports indicate that Peruvians arrested in connection with a string of bank robberies over the past two years are militants of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), which gained global attention in 1996 when it seized the Japanese Embassy in Peru.

Security officials say up to several hundred members of Shining Path, another Peruvian terrorist group, which is blamed for tens of thousands of deaths during a decade-long guerrilla struggle, also are hiding in Bolivia.

A Peruvian government study released last week warns of renewed terrorist activity in the high Andes and predicts that Shining Path will try to penetrate universities, labor unions, law-enforcement agencies and other national institutions as a “prelude” to resuming an armed struggle.

The group’s chief ideologue, Abimael Guzman, is being retried in Lima after a court overturned the treason conviction for which he was jailed for life by a hooded military judge in 1992. Guzman is reported to have undergone plastic surgery in Bolivia’s capital, La Paz.

“Peruvian guerrilla networks have long established ties in Bolivia,” said Bolivia’s former Interior Minister Alfonso Ferrufino, who noted that MRTA founder Nestor Cerpa organized the kidnapping of a leading Bolivian businessman in 1996.

Mr. Ferrufino, who was Bolivia’s chief security official until two months ago, said the Peruvian and Bolivian Marxists used part of the $5 million ransom from that kidnapping to finance the assault on a pre-Christmas reception at the Japanese Embassy in Lima. Cerpa was killed when commandos stormed the embassy after four months.

Now authorities fear that a wave of sophisticated assaults on banks and armored vans that has netted more than $500,000 in Bolivia could be intended to fund a resurgent MRTA.

Counterterrorism analysts suspect that the groups are planning to establish “liberated zones” around the tropical region of Cochabamba and in the high plains of Lake Titicaca bordering Peru, where six truck containers loaded with thousands of arms were intercepted last June.

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