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 AKA "Comrade 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)
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