Thursday, December 8, 2011

Shining Path Leader Calls for Truce

Peruvian investigative journalism website IDL-Reporteros has published a two part interview with alias “Comrade Artemio,” the head of one of the two remaining factions of the country’s Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas, in which the rebel leader called for a truce with government forces and discussed the potential for demobilization.

In the first part of the interview, Artemio (who officials have identified as Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala) openly admitted that the group’s 31-year long war with the Peruvian state has been a military failure. The accompanying video shows Artemio looking slightly weary as he explains that the Shining Path’s objective of provoking a mass insurrection remains the same, but “in practice this is no longer possible today.”

He also called for a truce with security forces, saying that he and his branch of the Shining Path, which is based in the Upper Huallaga Valley in the northern department of San Martin, “have no intention to wield weapons of war in armed struggle.” While Artemio said he would be willing to eventually demobilize, he stressed that this could not happen without a "process of frank and real negotiations" with the government of Peruvian president Ollanta Humala, resulting in a general amnesty for Senderista fighters.

Interestingly, in the second part of the IDL-Reporteros interview Artemio admitted that his guerrilla faction has allowed cocaine production and trafficking in the Huallaga region, but denied that the group has ever profited from drug trafficking organizations. According to him, the rebels turn a blind eye to the drug trade because they simply do not have the resources to take on local trafficking groups and the state at the same time.

It is not immediately clear what the future holds for Artemio’s proposed truce. The guerilla leader told IDL-Reporteros that he had already sent President Humala two letters proposing negotiations, but both were rejected. This may have been due to the rebels’ lack of credibility than a lack of political will, however. As The Guardian notes, Artemio has announced ceasefires in the past, but each has ended with renewed guerrilla attacks on security forces. Peruvian legal scholar Aníbal Quiroga told La Republica that the truce is “legally and constitutionally not viable,” because the Shining Path is not a recognized belligerent group.

Whatever comes of Artemio’s proposal, it will most certainly not apply to the other major Shining Path wing, which is based in the southeast Apurimac-Ene river valley (VRAE). Led by a “Comrade Jose,” the VRAE Shining Path have a reputation for being less political than their cousins in Huallaga, and are less ideologically tied to the imprisoned Shining Path founder, Abimael Guzman. In a 2009 interview with La Republica, Guzman denounced the VRAE-based faction of the guerrillas as mere “mercenaries,” claiming they are actively engaged in cocaine trafficking. The VRAE group, and their alleged involvement in drug trafficking are the main reason that the government has extended a state of emergency in the region.

News Briefs

·         The Mexican government announced yesterday that it had foiled a plot to smuggle the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi into the country under a false identity. According to the New York Times, Saadi Gaddafi had sought the help of a Canadian security firm to house him in a multi-million dollar beach resort in Nayarit. Once there, Gaddafi allegedly planned to disguise himself and his family as wealthy Mexicans.

·         The Wall Street Journal takes a look at allegations of a cover-up in the wake of a fire which killed 52 people in the Casino Royale in August. The paper notes that, other than the Zetas members who allegedly started the fire, no one has been prosecuted in the case. This is despite the fact that officials claimed the casino had violated local fire regulations and was operating without a permit.

·         Guatemalan researchers investigating the infamous U.S. government-sponsored experiment in which people in the Central American country were intentionally infected with syphilis, gonorrhea or chancroid in the 1940s have found that the number of those exposed was far higher than had been reported. A new report claims that 2,082 prisoners, mental patients and sex workers were given sexually transmitted diseases, instead of the 1,300 figure which has been widely cited.

·         Tuesday’s death of Honduran radio host Luz Molina Paz in Tegucigalpa has raised awareness of the risks faced by members of the country’s meda, with Honduran Human Rights Commissioner Ramon Custodio telling BBC news the country is becoming increasingly dangerous for journalists. Paz was the 17th Honduran journalist killed since the beginning of 2010.

·         Meanwhile, El Heraldo reports that former Security Minister Alfredo Landaverde was also assassinated in the Honduran capital yesterday. Landaverde was a vocal critic of corruption in Honduras, and authorities suspect organized crime is behind his death.

·         Over at the Americas Quarterly blog, Daniel Mera Villamizar argues that Afro-Colombians, in general, may identify more with nationality than with their race. Mera cites data from the Barómetro de las Américas 2011 which suggests that, despite being largely marginalized in their country, Afro-Colombians are politically similar to other Colombians.

·         Chilean President Sebastian Piñera is catching flack for a particularly offensive joke he made at a regional summit in Mexico on Tuesday. Asking fellow summit participants what the difference between a politician and a woman was, Piñera said a politician means “No” when he says “maybe,” while a woman means "maybe" when she says “No.” Opposition politicians have slammed Piñera for the remark, which the BBC reports is not his first such major faux pas abroad. Last year he wrote a phrase which was historically linked to Nazi Germany in the guestbook of German President Christian Wulff.

·         In an effort to assist Paraguay in combating a small guerrilla insurgency in the north of the country, the U.S. government has announced it is giving the South American country $1 million in training and equipment.

·         El Universal and AP report that Venezuela’s Attorney General has asked a judge to extend the house arrest of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, claiming she has intentionally delayed her trial by refusing to show up in court. Human rights groups and opposition politicians claim that Aifuni is being unfairly persecuted for her criticism of the Chavez administration.