Sendero Luminoso

Peru claims new blow against Sendero Luminoso, assails Bolivia

Peru's President Ollanta Humala on Dec. 9 announced the capture of the new commander of the remnant Sendero Luminoso column in the Upper Huallaga Valley—one of two remaining pockets of coca-producing jungle where the scattered Maoist guerilla movement is still keeping alive a local insurgency. The commander was named as Alexander Fabián Huamán AKA "Héctor"—said to have assumed leadership of the guerillas' "Huallaga Regional Committee" after the capture last year of "Comrade Artemio," the last "historic" Sendero leader (that is, dating back to the insurgency's heyday 20 years ago). Gen. Víctor Romero Fernández, commander of the National Police Anti-Drug Directorate (DIRANDRO), called the arrest a "hard blow" against the guerillas, and predicted that "Sendero Luminoso is disappearing in this zone." (InfoBAEAndina, Dec. 9)

Peru: 'narco-terrorist' busted; narco-politician exposed

On Oct. 23, National Police in Peru apprehended in Lima an accused commander of one of the two surviving remnant factions of the Sendero Luminoso guerilla movement. The Interior Ministry named the detained man as Rolando Pantoja Quispe, and said he was under the orders of Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala AKA "Comrade Artemio"—the notorious Sendero commander who was captured last year and condemned to life in prison. The ministry said Pantoja Quispe controlled cocaine trafficking in the Yanajanca Valley of Huanuco region, and hailed the arrest as a further blow against Artemio's crippled network. (BBC Mundo, Oct. 23)

Sendero Luminoso in Bolivia?

On Oct. 19, a patrol of Bolivia's Joint Task Force, coordinating National Police and army troops in coca-eradication missions, was ambushed by unknown gunmen at  Miraflores pueblo, Apolo municipality, in the coca-growing Yungas region, sparking a gun-battle that left four dead—three troops and a medic. Up to 30 were injured, but all the assailants seem to have escaped. Government vice-minister Jorge Pérez said the attack was "planned by people related to the narco-traffic," adding that the partially buried remains of a cocaine lab had been found nearby. Days later, Leopoldo Ramos, the public prosecutor appointed to investigate the case, said that "by the form of execution, for the Public Ministry it is probable that those who attacked in Miraflores are persons trained by Sendero Luminoso."

Peru: life term for neo-senderista

Peru's National Penal Chamber on June 7 sentenced one of the last "historic" leaders of the Shining Path guerilla movement to life in prison on terrorism, drug trafficking and money laundering charges. Florencio Flores Hala AKA "Comrade Artemio" raised his fist in defiance as the sentence was read at a naval base in Callao, where the trial was carried out under tight security. He said that he preferred the death penalty over life imprisonment, adding: "I have nothing to ask forgiveness for, I have nothing to regret." "Artemio," 51, was also fined 500 million soles ($183 million) in damages. Attorney Alfredo Crespo called the sentence a "political statement," and his client a "political prisoner." After the guerilla movement was crushed in the 1990s, "Artemio" retreated to the high jungles of the Upper Huallaga Valley, where he led remnant Sendero Luminoso forces in a local insurgency.

Peruvian left bids farewell to Javier Diez Canseco

On May 7, thousands filled the streets of Lima, as notables and activists from across the spectrum of Peru's political left joined the funeral march for Javier Diez Canseco, longtime leader of the progressive bloc in the country's Congress and veteran of generations of struggle, who died of a sudden cancer three days before at the age of 65. Three rallies were held as the procession made its way through the capital's central district, each swelling the ranks of the mourners: congressional deputies at Plaza Bolívar, outside the Congress building; popular organizations at Plaza Dos de Mayo, overlooked by the offices of the CGTP labor federation; and leftist political parties at Plaza Bolognesi. Many expressed a sense that Peru's progressive forces have been left adrift without their most respected figure. 

Peru: protests over militarization of coca zone

Peru's coca-producing Apurímac-Ene River Valley (VRAE), where a remnant faction of the Shining Path remains active, has seen growing protests over militarization and abuses by the security forces. On May 21, Fedia Castro, mayor of La Convención province (Cusco region), led a "March for Peace and Dignity" at the provincial seat of Quillabamba, to demand justice in a recent incident that left nine local residents wounded by army gunfire—including four women and a one-year-old infant. In the May 6 incident at Kepashiato village, army troops opened fire on a combi (commercial minibus) filled with local campesinos. The army says gunfire first came from the combi, and that a G3 assault rifle was later found on board. The passengers—including the wounded driver and owner of the vehicle, Rómulo Almirón Fuentes—deny that any firearm was found, challenging the army to produce it. They are also demanding compensation, including for damage to the combi. (Enlace Nacional, May 21; RPP, May 9; El Comercio, May 6)

Peru: Lucanamarca massacre remembered

Peru's President Ollanta Humala oversaw a ceremony April 3 at the village of Lucanamarca (Huancasancos province, Ayacucho region), delivering a "symbolic" package of reparations for the massacre there on that date in 1983. The reparations, delivered to five communities in the district-level municipality, ammounted to 100,000 soles (not quite $40,000). The ceremony centered around the reading of the names of the 69 victims of the massacre, including 11 women and 18 children. The youngest of the victims was less then six months old. (Andina, April 3) Sendero Luminoso guerillas occupied the village and "executed" the 69 residents after villagers had killed their local commander Olegario Curitomay, in retaliation for cattle thieving by the rebels. (La Republica, April 4; pro-Sendero account at RevLeft)

Peru: scandal over Israeli security contractor

Peru's Congress has opened a high-profile investigation into a contract with Israeli security firm Global CST, entered into by the previous government of Álan García, after an audit by the Comptroller General of the Republic found irregularities in the deal. The probe concluded that the Peruvian state had lost $16 million when the firm failed to fulfil terms of its contract with the Armed Forces Joint Command. A congressional oversight commission has questioned three former cabinet members in the scandal—ex-housing minister Hernán Garrido, and ex-defense ministers Ántero Flores Aráoz and Rafael Rey—as well as ex-Joint Command chief Gen. Francisco Contreras. Special anti-corruption prosecutor Julio Arbizu has called on García himself to testify before what is being called the Mega-Commission, and for the attorney general's office, or Fiscalía, to investigate the former president. 

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