Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has announced that one of the two remaining factions of the Shining Path guerrilla group has been “totally defeated.”
On April 5, President Humala claimed that the Shining Path faction based in the northern Upper Huallaga Valley region had been successfully dismantled following the recent arrest of Freddy Jaime Arenas Caviedes, alias "Comrade Braulio." Arenas was the newly appointed leader of the rebel organization, replacing Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, alias "Comrade Artemio," after the latter’s capture in February.
Officials also arrested another potential successor to Artemio in March.
Speaking at an inauguration of a new system of paved roads in eastern Lima, Humala told a crowd that the Maoist rebels were finished in the Upper Huallaga Valley. "We have not only caught Artemio, their last celebrated leader, but we have also captured the remaining heads that had, in effect, been left in charge of this totally defeated movement,” he said.
Despite his victorious announcement, Humala acknowledged that much work remains to be done in the region. The president claimed that the government now plans to develop greater economic opportunities there, in addition to increasing the presence of security forces.
InSight Crime Analysis
With the Upper Huallaga Valley rebels effectively neutralized, the Humala administration will likely focus its attention to the south, on the Shining Path faction in the Apurimac and Ene River Valley (VRAE). This group is believed to be better armed and better trained than that in the north, and will likely pose more of a threat to Peru's security forces.
As InSight Crime has reported, the collapse of the Upper Huallaga Valley Shining Path was almost inevitable, as there was really no one in the group with enough political training to fill Artemio’s shoes. Without a clear ideological leader, the organization will likely dissolve, its members fleeing in order to avoid prosecution. Or they could become soldiers for some of the drug trafficking organizations that are based in the region.
Some of these deserters may attempt to rejoin society under a different identity, but they will doubtlessly be hounded by law enforcement, as the recent arrest of a 56 year-old former guerrilla illustrates. After years of investigation police tracked Elena Requejo Mestanza, alias “Comrade Cristal,” to the northern city of Chiclayo, where she was working as a housekeeper. Authorities claim Requejo is responsible for 57 deaths, most of whom were police, while the rest were civilians.