Eighteen people were shot dead in the village of San Miguel del Ene, in the valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers, Peru’s main coca production area. According to the head of the counterterrorism police, Oscar Arriola, they are ten men, six women and two children.
The slaughter, which authorities attribute to Shining Path, could exacerbate tensions in the polarized campaign of the second round of the presidential election, which will be held on June 6.
According to the government, the Shining Path – a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist movement that sowed terror throughout Peru, in the name of its “People’s war against the state », between 1980 and 2000, causing thousands of casualties – continues to operate in this region.
Right-wing populist candidate Keiko Fujimori did not fail to accuse her radical left-wing rival Pedro Castillo of being linked to the political wing of the Shining Path, which he fiercely denies. Mr. Castillo was quick to denounce on Twitter “This terrorist act”, Mme Fujimori condemning these “Bloody acts”.
“These facts remind us of the time of barbarism and terror that the country lived through for more than twenty years, which left more than 70,000 dead and a large number of missing”, worried Archbishop Miguel Cabrejos, president of the Latin American Episcopal Council. “Leaflets were found on the site, urging the population not to participate in the electoral process of 2021”, the army explained in a statement, attributing the attack to a column of the Shining Path led by Victor Quispe Palomino, known as “Comrade José”.
Jailed leaders, scattered fighters
Abimaël Guzman, the leader of the Shining Path, visited in 1992 and was sentenced in 2006 to life imprisonment for “Aggravated terrorism against the State and qualified homicides”, just like Elena Iparraguirre, his partner and right-hand man at the head of the party. Ten other rebel leaders have received sentences ranging from twenty-four to thirty-five years in prison. However, there are still a few fighters scattered in isolated forest and mountainous areas. Authorities estimate their number at 350 and accuse them of cooperating with drug traffickers.
Peruvian interim president Francisco Sagasti ordered “The deployment of patrols” military and police in the area “So that this terrorist action does not go unpunished”. The prosecution has tasked a unit specializing in terrorism to investigate these murders. Defense Minister Nuria Esparch has pledged that they “Would not go unpunished”.
In 2003, the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) estimated that some 70,000 died or disappeared during the twenty years of conflict (1980-2000) between the army and the guerrillas of the Shining Path and the Revolutionary Movement Tupac Amaru (MRTA , Guévariste).
According to the CVR, the Shining Path is responsible for 54% of the victims of this internal conflict. Among its most bloody actions, the assassination, in 1984, of 117 peasants of Soras, in the region of Ayacucho (south of the country), for refusing to support the movement. Peru is one of the world’s leading producers of coca and cocaine, along with Colombia and Bolivia.