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.
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