LIMA – Peru’s justice minister said on Tuesday that the political wing of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrilla group has the right to field candidates in next year’s municipal and regional elections.
“Personally, I believe that (Shining Path) should not participate in politics, but legally they can do it,” Aurelio Pastor told RPP radio.
He said that if the group presents candidates, authorities’ task will be to educate the public “so it is not forgotten what Sendero signified for the country in the number of deaths, in losses of time and money.”
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 earlier this decade by then-President Alejandro Toledo blamed the group for most of the nearly 70,000 deaths ascribed to politically motivated violence during the two decades ending in 2000.
The guerrillas also caused an estimated $25 billion in economic losses, according to commission estimates.
Shining Path’s jailed No. 2, Elena Iparraguirre, recently told Efe in an interview that the organization plans to compete in next year’s local and regional balloting and in the 2011 national elections.
Iparraguirre, long-time companion of Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman, said some guerrillas who have completed their prison terms intend to run on the ticket of the Communist Party of Peru-PCP.
The justice minister said he doesn’t understand “how is it that a group that doesn’t respect democracy and doesn’t tolerate any kind of disagreement, but instead (advocates) transformation through violence and death, today tries to use the tools and spaces of democracy.”
Yet even as it prepares to enter the political arena, the Guzman faction of Shining Path faces an ideological challenge from elements of the group that remain at large.
Last week, a Shining Path column operating in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, or VRAE region, rolled out a Web site on which it denies working with drug traffickers and blasts Guzman as a “revisionist” who “made terrorism and not revolution” during his 12 years as head of Sendero.
Known to his followers as “President Gonzalo,” Guzman was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that Peruvian officials hailed as the defeat of the insurgency.
He and Iparraguirre, who have sought permission to wed, are both serving life sentences.
Guzman, an erstwhile philosophy professor, once predicted that 1 million Peruvians would probably have to die to create the new state envisioned by Shining Path.
The group became notorious for blowing apart with dynamite the bodies of community service workers its members killed, or hanging stray canines from lampposts as warnings to “capitalist dogs.”
Shining Path remnants, such as the VRAE faction, did not comply with Guzman’s order more than a decade ago to end the armed struggle, and he does not recognize them as members of the group. EFE