Peruvian President Ollanta Humala said on Thursday that the Shining Path rebel movement had suffered an “absolute” defeat in one of its last strongholds after the capture this week of two more key suspects.
Jaime Arenas, also known as Comrade Braulio, was captured earlier this week. He is believed to have been a close associate of Comrade Artemio, a Shining Path leader who was captured in February in the jungle after being shot.
Arenas — who had been on the run for years — has been described as an “ideological” leader of the rebel faction in the Alto Huallaga valley — one of two areas where the guerrillas are still active.
The arrest, after that of Artemio and his successor Walter Diaz Vega, “consolidates the dismantling of the Shining Path in the Huallaga region, a defeat that has become absolute,” Humala said.
Police also captured Elena Requejo Mestanza, who was described as a key guerrilla leader during the 1990s at the height of the Maoist insurgency’s struggle with the government.
Peru’s national police chief General Raul Salazar said that between 1991 and 1993, the 56-year-old participated in “multiple executions, ambushes and armed operations,” with at least 57 murders directly linked to her.
About 70,000 people were killed between 1980 and 2000 as the government battled the Shining Path and a rival leftist guerrilla group, the Tupac Amaru movement, according to Peru’s independent Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The Shining Path suffered a crippling blow when its founder and leader, Abimael Guzman, was captured in 1992. Authorities soon discovered other group leaders and the remaining fighters fled into the jungle where they survived as hired guns for drug traffickers.
The government is still battling the Shining Path faction active in the Apurimac and Ene River valley area.