Guerrillas Blow Up Electricity Transmission Tower in Peru

LIMA – Suspected members of Peru’s Shining Path guerrilla group blew up an electricity transmission tower in the jungle province of Tingo Maria, located some 600 kilometers (373 miles) northeast of Lima, police said Wednesday.

The attack occurred Monday in Santa Rosa de Chapaguilla, a remote area in the Huanuco region, a police spokesman from the Huallaga unit told Efe.

Police suspect that the attack was carried out by the Shining Path, which threatened last month to continue its “revolutionary war” in the Vizcatan area, located some 600 kilometers (373 miles) south of Lima, and expand it to other parts of Peru.

Since August, the armed forces have been making an aggressive push in the Valley of the Apurimac and Ene rivers, known as the VRAE region, against the remaining Shining Path fighters, who officials contend have allied themselves with drug traffickers.

Some analysts, however, say the Shining Path may have transformed itself into a drug cartel.

On Dec. 23, “Comrade Artemio,” the only remaining high-profile fugitive of the Shining Path, which terrorized Peru in the 1980s, called on the government for a “political solution” to end the armed conflict.

Artemio told Radio La Luz, which broadcasts from the jungle town of Aucayacu, some 600 kilometers (373 miles) from Lima, that his fighters would continue to launch attacks as long as the security forces went after them.

The guerrilla commander, whose real identity is not known, repeated that his group wanted “a political solution” and accused the security forces of committing “a great many” violations.

Artemio did not comply with Shining Path founder Abimael Guzman’s order more than a decade ago to end the armed struggle. Guzman, for his part, does not recognize Artemio’s group as Shining Path members.

The Shining Path’s remnants operate mainly in the VRAE, an important area for growing coca and producing cocaine that includes parts of Ayacucho and Junin provinces, as well as a section of the Amazon.

Since the army moved into Vizcatan, a number of clashes have occurred, and troops have captured several rebel camps, destroyed drug production facilities and detonated landmines during the campaign against the guerrillas.

The military operation has come under scrutiny because of the disappearance of 11 people from the area after soldiers moved into Rio Seco, a remote peasant community in the VRAE, on Sept. 14.

The Shining Path and its role in drug trafficking have been blamed for the rise in violence in the interior of Peru.

The Maoist Shining Path launched its uprising on May 17, 1980, with an attack on Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province.

The peasant insurgency led by “Sendero Luminoso,” as the group is known in Spanish, rocked Peru in the 1980s.

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 guerrilla group also caused an estimated $25 billion in economic losses, according to commission estimates.

Guzman, known to his fanatic followers as “President Gonzalo,” was captured with his top lieutenants on Sept. 12, 1992, an event that signified the “defeat” of the insurgency.

Since then, isolated guerrilla bands have engaged in sporadic and largely ineffective activity in a few regions.

Guzman, who was a professor of philosophy at San Cristobal University before initiating his armed struggle in the Andean city of Ayacucho, once predicted that 1 million Peruvians would probably have to die in the ushering-in of the new state envisioned by Shining Path.

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.”

The Correo newspaper reported Wednesday that streets and poor neighborhoods in Huanta, a city in Ayacucho, were flooded with Shining Path pamphlets demanding a political solution to the armed conflict, a general amnesty and national reconciliation with Guzman and other leaders of the guerrilla group. EFE