The commander of a remnant faction of Peru’s Shining Path guerilla movement pledged more attacks after their 11th deadly ambush this year. “We will fight militarily those who defend imperialism and the government, and they are the armed forces and the police,” local guerilla leader “Comrade José”—identified as Victor Quispe Palomino—said in an audio statement sent to the media. His comments came five days after suspected guerillas killed 14 soldiers in two ambushes in Ayacucho region.
Although the government claims the size of the Shining Path has dwindled to about 300, it has bought more powerful weapons with narco profits. At least 30 soldiers have been killed in fights with the group since August, when the government launched an operation to take back control of the Ene and Apurimac River Valley (VRAE) in Ayacucho.
The operation has many critics. “The Shining Path is using more and more fire power in each attack,” said Fernando Rospigliosi, a former interior minister. “The plan has not produced results and the government keeps on insisting on the wrong strategy.”
But President Alan García, pledging new schools and hospitals for the impoverished VRAE, said: “The terrorists won’t hold us back. We will see that democracy prevails. Our armed forces are trained to smash them, and they will not hold us back.”
Gen. Otto Guibovich, Peru’s army commander, complained that his efforts are hobbled by human rights groups that file lawsuits whenever the army kills a guerilla. “It’s pathetic,” Gen. Guibovich said. (AP, 24 Horas Libre, Peru, Trome, Peru, April 14)
In the latest controversy, the Defensoría del Pueblo (official human rights ombudsman) for Ucayali—a jungle region to the north of Ayacucho—has charged the army with recruiting local minors for the VRAE counter-insurgency operation. Defensoría representative Hilda Saravia said five Ucayali minors, aged 15 through 17, had been illegally recruited for service in the VRAE and other “emergency zones.” Saravia told Peru’s Coordinadora Nacional de Radio (CNR), that one youth of 16 has been identified at Los Cabitos military base in Huanta, Ayacucho; another has been identified at Base 42 in Pichari, Cusco. The Defensoría has issued a formal complaint, demanding that the youth be immediately returned to their families. (CNR, April 15)
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