Shining Path leader offers truce


By Dan Collyns, Nov 26, 2006

The only active leader of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla movement, Comrade Artemio, has offered a truce with the government.

In return he wants amnesty and a negotiated end to the armed conflict.

The guerrilla leader, who is thought to command between 200 and 300 fighters, spoke to journalists near his base in Peru's jungle interior.

The Peruvian government has yet to respond, but in 2004 offered a $50,000 reward for Comrade Artemio's capture.

At a secret location in the jungle province of San Martin, the leader of the remnants of the Shining Path guerrilla movement offered his terms in the pouring rain.

Brutal insurgency

Comrade Artemio, the last remaining leader of the group which terrorised Peruvians in the 1980s and '90s, said he was prepared to call a truce with the government of Peru in return for a political settlement and a general amnesty.

However, the government is unlikely to respond favourably.

The Shining Path began their brutal 12-year insurgency in 1980 in which 70,000 people were killed.

It is now considered to be a spent force presenting little threat to the state.

Its main leader, Abimael Guzman, is serving a life sentence. So are practically all the group's other leaders.

Nevertheless, rebel factions still cause difficulties for the government.

At the end of last year, eight soldiers were ambushed and killed by the rebels who now provide protection for cocaine traffickers in Peru's remotest areas.

Last month, the Peruvian President Alan García called for the death penalty for terrorists.

The government still organises a self-defence force against the remaining factions of the Shining Path.

But Comrade Artemio said he did not fear the death penalty and if the government ignored his call for a truce, more violence would be inevitable.