LIMA – A court sentenced the last of Peru’s original Shining Path guerrilla leaders, Florindo Flores Hala, known as “Comrade Artemio,” to life in prison
The panel of judges, which convicted the defendant on charges of terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering, also ordered him to pay a fine of 500 million soles (some $185 million) in civil damages to the government.
The Lima court said Friday the evidence showed Flores Hala was the Shining Path’s top leader in the Upper Huallaga Valley, a jungle region in northern Peru.
It also found him guilty of ordering the killings of police and civilians and of being behind the production, processing and sale of drugs for a terrorist group.
Flores Hala told the court this week that he was not a drug trafficker and was merely a political leader.
“They want to incriminate me for crimes I have not committed. I do not have to ask forgiveness for anything, I have nothing to be ashamed of,” the defendant said.
“This is not a movie, it is reality and I have to tell you how it is. I am not a drug trafficker, I am a politician.”
The Maoist-inspired Shining Path launched its uprising on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province.
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, according to commission estimates, also caused an estimated $25 billion in economic losses.
Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman, known to his fanatic followers as “President Gonzalo,” was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that marked the “defeat” of the insurgency.
The guerrilla leader, 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.”