Peru: last “historic” Shining Path leader captured

Peru’s President Ollanata Humala flew into a remote jungle military base in the Upper Huallaga Valley Feb. 12 to announce the capture by soldiers stationed there of the last “historic” leader of the Shining Path guerilla insurgency, Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala AKAComrade Artemio.” Troops at the Santa Lucía base, in Tocache province, San Martín region, brought “Artemio” in via military plane after after finding him gravely wounded near the Río Misholla. Some reports indicated he was hit in a shoot-out with government forces; others that he was shot by his own bodyguards. “Peru has won,” declared Humala. “We can now say that the terrorist delinquents have been defeated, and we can begin the process of pacification.”

Artemio was the last of the Shining Path commanders active at the time of the 1992 arrest of the movement’s leader Abimael Guzmán to have rejected Guzmán’s order to lay down arms and seek a “peace accord” with the government. In December, Artemio finally did request a truce to negotiate a peace agreement, but this was rejected by the government which instead urged him to surrender. A second and larger group of Shining Path insurgents remains active in the Apurímac and Ene River Valley (VRAE), but its leadership is not believed to date back to before Guzmán’s capture. Artemio is wanted on drug charges in the US, which had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his arrest. (InSight Crime, RPP Noticias, Peru, El Tiempo, Bogotá, from EFE, AFP; Feb. 12; Prensa Latina, Feb. 10)

Aretmio’s capture comes amid a controversy over the political rights of Shining Path sympathists and ex-militants. On Jan. 20, Peru’s National Electoral Tribunal (JNE) blocked the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (MOVADEF) from registering as a political party, citing various shortcomings in the application, including doubts about the validity of signatures collected, and whether the group is committed to democracy. MOVADEF initially appealed the decision, but the day before the final judgement was to be made it withdrew the case, saying that it was the target of a government-backed “political persecution” campaign.

MOVADEF was founded in 2009 by a group led by Alfredo Crespo, a lawyer for Guzmán. Crespo himself had been imprisoned over his work to defend the Shining Path leadership, though he says he was never a member. He says MOVADEF seeks a general amnesty for all those involved in the armed conflict—soldiers, police, and Shining Path militants, including the reviled Guzmán. Also among the MOVADEF founders is Walter Humala, a cousin of the president, who has declared himself an admirer of Guzmán; and Adelina Sedelmayer AKA “La Gringa,” who was arrested in January 2011 on charges of terrorism. Sedelmayar is accused of carrying messages between Guzmán’s wife, Elena Iparraguirre, who is also in prison, and Comrade Artemio.

MOVADEF denies being the political arm of the Shining Path. But Peru’s official human rights ombudsman Eduardo Vega called on the JNE to reject MOVADEF’s application, calling the organization a “front” for the Shining Path. Prime Minister Oscar Valdes pledged that the state will use “all its tools to prevent the restructuring of a group that has done so much damage.”

On Jan. 31, hours before MOVADEF renounced its effort to register as a political party, Shining Path fighters staged an occupation of the town of Campanilla, San Martín, in the Upper Huallaga. In an action reminiscent of the high noon of the insurgency 20 years ago—although without actually hurting anyone—some 50 armed fighters arrived in trucks, rounded up the residents, and forced them to attend a political rally. This lasted about an hour and a half, as the guerrillas made speeches arguing for a “political solution” to the conflict. They painted some 200 houses with the hammer-and-sickle symbol, and distributed flyers calling for a ceasefire and general amnesty. Hours later, in the wee hours of Feb. 1, guerrillas made an incursion into the nearby village of Pucayacu, and distributed more flyers. The next day, three more villages in Campanilla district were targeted, with guerrillas putting up banners calling for a general amnesty. (InSight Crime, Feb. 9)

See our last post on Peru.

  1. Slightly paranoid statement on capture of Comrade Artemio
    From Tankar Rau-Rau Amaru of Peru’s La Mula blog:

    The Fall of “Artemio,” Defeat for the Right

    With the detention of “Artemio,” the oligarchy is left without one of its fundamental arms to continue sacking our country.

    Sendero failed militarily and politically because our comuneros kechwas (ronderos*) defeated it when Guzmán began to assassinate our brothers, calling us “mesnadas.”** It is false that it was Fujimori who defeated Sendero. The capture of Abimael Guzmán came about when he sought refuge in the city after being defeated in the countryside. The MRTA failed militarily because it applied kidnapping as a method of struggle, and failed ideologically because it never understood the Andean thought proclaimed by the true Túpac Amaru.

    And how has the oligarchy lost one of its fundamental pawns with “Artemio”?

    Since the detention of Abimael Guzmán, Sendero has been reduced little by little until it has focused its actions in a small space. Fujimori, [Alejandro] Toledo and Alan [García] could have made it disappear. They didn’t do it because the existence of an armed organization, if reduced to its minimum expression, served their control of the population, keeping in effect the psychological war; that is, terrorism mediated as a strategy and system of manipulation and social control. We are speaking of asymmetrical war, and the journalists know very well what we are speaking of.

    According to Freitas,*** we attend at this moment a new war: the asymmetrical or fourth generation. And in this war, the media of communication play an important role. “The battles do not unfold in far spaces, but in our own head. We cannot even treat it as a war for conquest of territories, but a war for the conquest of brains, where we are the principal target. The objective is to propagate a message for the submission of the masses. The objective is not to kill, but to control. The bullets do not aim at our bodies, but our contradictions and psychological vulnerabilities. Our conduct is being checked, monitored and controlled by psycho-social experts. Our mind is being put under extreme military operations of fourth generation war, through the [TV] channels, the newspapers and radios. A war without front or rearguard, a war without tanks or rifles, where we are at once the victims and the victimizer. The control of the population is effected by a mixture of propaganda and terror.”

    And why is it that every time there are mobilizations or strikes [paros], red flags appear on the mountains? Coincidence? No. This is managed by the government to deflate or discredit the legitimate struggles of the people. “Sendero appears,” says a functionary. “Reds infiltrate the paro,” says another functionary. “Sendero issues a communique,” says a channel. “Sendero founds a party,” they now announce.

    This is the so-called “systemized use of terrorism” (realized by groups infiltrated in civil society), supported by psychological media operations, directed by some mediums of information in Lima, for social, political and military advantage…

    And what would happen if Sendero disappeared? The oligarchy and its press would no longer have a wolf with which to scare the ingenuous Little Red Riding Hoods [caperucitas] of our country.

    Sendero has failed militarily and politically. If what it seeks is to surrender, there is a “bridge of silver for them to flee on,” as Napoleon said. We cannot remain anchored in the time that has passed, with all of its pain and trauma, without overcoming our domestic problems. If Sendero disappears, the oligarchy remains without a weapon.

    Translation by World War 4 Report

    * Ronderos: Peasant self-defense militiamen
    ** Mesnadas: Miltias of the kings and lords in medieval Spain
    *** Manuel Freytas of IAR Noticias