LIMA – “Comrade Freddy,” who took over the leadership of the Shining Path guerrilla group following the arrest last month of rebel chief “Comrade Artemio,” was captured in the Huanuco region, National Police commander Gen. Raul Salazar said.
Walter Diaz, considered Comrade Artemio’s right-hand man, was captured in the Huallaga River region, Salazar told Radio Programas del Peru, or RPP, without providing the date of his capture.
Diaz, who was armed and carrying communications equipment, was arrested in the town of Alto Alianza, located in Jose Crespo y Castillo district, the police chief said.
The guerrilla leader was in charge of the Shining Path’s operations on the left bank of the Huallaga River, Salazar said.
“He was in charge of organizing an armed column to kill the (National Police) officers infiltrated to capture Artemio,” Salazar told RPP.
Diaz will be taken to Lima and be charged with multiple crimes, the National Police chief said.
Comrade Artemio, who was identified by the government as Florindo Flores Hala, was captured on Feb. 12 in a jungle area in the Upper Huallaga Valley
He is being held at the Callao navy base and faces trial for terrorism and drug trafficking.
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.” EFE