LIMA – The armed group that held 36 gas company contractors captive for five days in the jungles of southern Peru has disavowed any affinity with the Shining Path, an insurgency blamed for tens of thousands of deaths in the Andean nation, the press said Wednesday.
Several members of the group, including leader Martin Quispe Palomino, known as “Gabriel,” made contact with reporters who traveled to the region of Cuzco to cover the mass abduction.
A man calling himself Rolando intercepted several reporters on Tuesday as they were moving on foot through the jungle, El Comercio newspaper said.
The rebel was toting a combat rifle and two-way radio and wearing a cap with the insignia of the Peruvian air force, according to the daily.
Rolando told the journalists that he and his comrades were not part of the original Shining Path – which rose up in arms in 1980 and collapsed in 1992 – nor of the Shining Path remnant operating in northern Peru’s Upper Huallaga Valley.
“We don’t do damage to the people. We don’t kill, we don’t rape, we don’t rob or loot,” Rolando said. “From (19)99 forward we have changed our policy, we no longer attack civilians.”
He then led the reporters past trees festooned with helmets, boots and uniforms of government soldiers killed by the rebels to another part of the jungle where they were joined by several other guerrillas, including one later identified as Gabriel.
The abduction of the gas workers, who were released last Saturday, was meant to “unmask this old system of exploitation and oppression,” Gabriel told the journalists.
He said his group will continue targeting the security forces and “confiscate their weapons to extend fighting capacity.”
No ransom was paid for the gas workers, he said, insisting: “We don’t fight for money,” but to emancipate the Peruvian people from “feudal imperialism.”
Gabriel confirmed that his group – the “militarized Communist Party of Peru” – shot down a police helicopter last week, killing one officer, and said the rebels also killed three other police officially listed as missing.
Media outlets said Gabriel is the younger brother of Victor and Jorge Quispe Palomino, leaders of the Shining Path faction based in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, where the mass kidnapping took place.
The reporters’ encounter with Gabriel and his comrades came amid what Defense Minister Alberto Otarola described as “a fight without quarter” against guerrillas in southern Peru.
“And this means that we are not going to pull out of the areas in which we already are. The security forces have gone there to stay forever,” Otarola told the official Andina news agency earlier this week.
“Peru’s presidency can report that the release of the 36 hostages occurred because the terrorists pressured by the siege fled and abandoned them,” the government said last Saturday after the captives in Cuzco were freed.
Minutes later, the Defense Ministry released a statement saying that no ransom was paid for the workers’ release.
The captors had reportedly demanded $10 million to free the workers, as well as an annual “war fee” of $1.2 million and explosives.
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 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.”
Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that marked the “defeat” of the insurgency. EFE