LIMA – “Comrade Artemio,” one of the leaders of the remnants of Peru’s Shining Path guerrilla group, was captured on Sunday, Defense Minister Alberto Otarola said.
“Peru has won,” the defense minister said.
President Ollanta Humala arrived in Santa Lucia, the town in the Upper Huallaga Valley where the guerrilla commander is being held, to get a firsthand look at the situation.
The guerrilla commander “is being treated for his wounds, mainly in an arm,” Otarola told the N television channel.
“He is alive, very seriously wounded, he has practically lost his right arm,” the defense minister said.
“This is a great day for the country,” Otarola said, adding that the operation to capture the rebel chief was conducted by the army and the National Police.
“He is in our power at this time, in a safe place, he is alive, he is receiving the necessary medical care, this subject is going to be turned over to the authorities,” the defense minister said.
The security forces launched a search this weekend for Artemio, who some captured rebels said had been killed.
Officials said Friday that the security forces were in pursuit of Comrade Artemio, who was identified by the government as Florindo Eleuterio Flores, in a jungle area in the Upper Huallaga Valley.
Comrade Artemio, who commanded the Shining Path’s remnants in the Upper Huallaga Valley, admitted in an interview published last December by the IDL-Reporteros Web site that his insurgent group had been defeated by the government and called on officials to begin a dialogue for a peace agreement.
Comrade Artemio said in an interview granted to journalists Gustavo Gorriti and Romina Mella on Dec. 1 that the war declared against the state more than 30 years ago had ended in defeat.
“Yes, it is true. We are not going to deny it,” Comrade Artemio said.
The group still has the same “political objectives,” but “in practice that’s not possible today,” the rebel commander said.
Artemio proposed a “military truce” with the government to open the way for negotiations.
“We honestly want to make our position clear that we want a political solution. We want it to end, but through the methods of the negotiating table,” the guerrilla commander said.
The Shining Path also operates in the coca-growing Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, or VRAE, region under Victor Quispe Palomino, known as “Comrade Jose.”
The rebels have joined forces with drug cartels and producers of illegal coca, the raw material for cocaine, officials say.
The government has made the elimination of the Shining Path’s remnants a priority.
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 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.”