The Shining Path suffered a blow on Feb. 12 when a leader of the Peruvian rebel group, known by the nom de guerre of “Comrade Artemio”, was captured by security forces.
The police had been following “Artemio”, whose real name is Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, with financing from the United States. Since 1984, he had dominated the Alto Huallaga River Valley in north-central Peru, one of the country’s main coca-growing regions.
Even though Shining Path’s founder Abimael Guzmán was captured in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison in 2006, “Artemio” remained on the loose, mainly due to his ties to drug trafficking operations.
A member of his security group, who had been recruited by the police, was said to have shot “Artemio” when discovered, and then escaped. “Artemio,” wounded, was moved by his companions to a medical post to be cared for, and then taken to the village of Cachiyacu, where he was abandoned. Then a combined patrol of the army and the police found him there.
“Don’t shoot. I’ve lost,” said “Artemio,” according to press reports.
During the 28 years that he headed the regional Huallaga region, “Artemio” is said to have ordered 500 attacks, leaving 1,000 police, soldiers and civilians killed.
According to Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, between 1980 and 2000, in the central jungle where “Artemio” operated, 6,000 indigenous Ashaninkas were killed by Shining Path and another 5,000 were captured as a slave labor. Ten thousand others were displaced. Between 30 and 50 communities were wiped out.
Still, another column of Shining Path is operating in the Apurimac-Ene River Valley, in the jungle departments of Ayacucho and Cuzco, that is led by Víctor Quispe Palomino, known as “José”. Like “Artemio,” the US government has offered a US$5 million-reward for “José”.