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  HOME | Peru

Shining Path Terrorists Threaten to Expand Attacks in Peru

LIMA -- The Shining Path guerrilla group's remnants have threatened to continue their "revolutionary war" in the Vizcatan area, located some 600 kilometers (373 miles) south of Lima, and expand it to other parts of Peru, the La Republica newspaper reported Sunday.

"In 2009, we will continue (fighting) in Vizcatan and the revolutionary war will have expanded to other parts of the country," the Peruvian Communist Party's Central Committee said in a document obtained by military intelligence in late December.

The document summarizes the Shining Path's response to the military operation launched last summer in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, known as the VRAE region, where soldiers are battling guerrillas allied with drug traffickers.

Since August, the armed forces have been making an aggressive push in the VRAE against remnants of the Shining Path.

On Dec. 23, "Comrade Artemio," the only remaining high-profile fugitive of the Shining Path guerrilla group that terrorized Peru in the 1980s, called on the government for a "political solution" to end the armed conflict.

Artemio told Radio La Luz, which broadcasts from the jungle town of Aucayacu, some 600 kilometers (373 miles) from Lima, that his fighters would continue to launch attacks as long as the security forces went after them.

Artemio, whose real identity is not known, repeated that his group wanted "a political solution" and accused the security forces of committing "a great many" violations.

The guerrilla leader, who some sources have identified as Alberto Cerron Cardoso or Gabriel Macario Ala, operates in Peru's central jungle with about 100 fighters.

Comrade Artemio's force has spread fear among the inhabitants of distant areas of the central jungles and in the northeastern Alto Huallaga Valley who live chiefly off growing coca leaf, the raw material of cocaine.

Artemio did not comply with Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman's order more than a decade ago to end the armed struggle. Guzman, for his part, does not recognize Artemio's group as Shining Path members.

Peruvian officials consider the Shining Path's remnants to be allied with drug traffickers, while some analysts say the guerrillas have become a drug cartel.

The Shining Path document published in La Republica says guerrilla leaders consider the military offensive in the VRAE a failure because the security forces have lost 24 men and not captured a single rebel commander.

The document is "a psychosocial (smokescreen) launched by narcoterrorists desperate over desertions and the defeats they are suffering" in the military offensive, VRAE Special Command spokesmen told La Republica.

The document was prepared by Shining Path VRAE commander "Comrade Jose," whose real name is Victor Quispe, to make his fighters think the group has not been hurt by the security forces, which have forced one-third of the rebels to desert, military spokesmen said.

"Of the 350 narco-Shining Path fighters, just 150 men divided up into several operating and reserve groups are left," military spokesmen told the newspaper, adding that the guerrilla group has lost at least 20 men in the VRAE since August.

The armed forces claim they have achieved their four goals in the VRAE: cutting off the supply of food; halting support from residents; preventing young people from joining the guerrillas; and consolidating the state's presence in the area.

The Shining Path's remnants operate mainly in the VRAE, an important area for growing coca and producing cocaine that includes parts of Ayacucho and Junin provinces, as well as a section of the Amazon.

Since the army moved into Vizcatan, a number of clashes have occurred, and troops have captured several rebel camps, destroyed drug production facilities and detonated landmines during the campaign against the guerrillas.

The military operation has come under scrutiny because of the disappearance of 11 people from the area after soldiers moved into Rio Seco, a remote peasant community in the VRAE, on Sept. 14.

The Shining Path and its role in drug trafficking have been blamed for the rise in violence in the interior of Peru.

The Maoist Shining Path launched its uprising on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province.

The peasant insurgency led by "Sendero Luminoso," as the group is known in Spanish, rocked Peru in the 1980s.

A truth commission appointed by former President Alejandro Toledo blamed the Shining Path for most of the nearly 70,000 deaths the panel ascribed to politically motivated violence during the two decades following the group's 1980 uprising.

The guerrilla group also caused an estimated $25 billion in economic losses, according to commission estimates.

Guzman, known to his fanatic followers as "President Gonzalo," was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that signified the "defeat" of the insurgency.

Since then, isolated guerrilla bands have engaged in sporadic and largely ineffective activity in a few regions.

Guzman, who was a professor of philosophy at San Cristobal University before initiating his armed struggle in the Andean city of Ayacucho, once predicted that 1 million Peruvians would probably have to die in the ushering-in of the new state envisioned by Shining Path.

The group became notorious for some of its innovations, such as blowing apart with dynamite the bodies of community service workers its members killed, or hanging stray canines from lampposts as warnings to "capitalist dogs."

 

 

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