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  HOME | Peru

Peruvian President Calls for Rebels to Lay Down Arms

LIMA – Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said he asked captured Shining Path guerrilla leader “Comrade Artemio” to call on his fighters to “lay down their arms and leave the path of violence.”

Humala had a brief meeting with the guerrilla chief, who was captured on Sunday, at the military base in Santa Lucia.

“After noting that his (Artemio’s) health was stable, (Humala) told him that the judicial proceedings against him would be conducted with full respect for his rights, but before going on trial his health would be restored,” the Office of the President said in a statement.

The guerrilla leader was flown later in the day to a National Police hospital in Lima, where he will be treated for his wounds.

Comrade Artemio, whose real name is Florindo Eleuterio Flores, was surrounded by medical personnel and soldiers as he was carried off the plane on a stretcher.

The ambulance carrying the rebel leader was escorted through the streets of Lima by police and soldiers to the National Police Central Hospital.

“This allows us to tell the country that we have defeated the terrorist criminals in the Upper Huallaga, capturing ‘Artemio’ alive, who is being treated for his wounds,” Humala told Television Nacional del Peru, or TNP.

The government has long made the elimination of the Shining Path’s remnants a priority.

“The Shining Path is no longer a threat to the country, they are armed remnants that have been causing uneasiness, we have eliminated the head of these remnants and all the important commanders and principals have been captured,” the president said.

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 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.” EFE

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