Dimming the Shining Path
PERU's government has deprived the Shining Path guerrillas of a leader, but it still has to deal with the repression, injustice, and poverty that feed the guerrillas' 12-year-old insurrection.
Congressional elections scheduled for late November give President Alberto Fujimori an opportunity to take a first step toward addressing this larger task. Negotiations between Mr. Fujimori's party and opposition parties over electoral procedures have been slow and contentious. Some observers suspect the president's attempts to build in numerous restrictions only confirm his undemocratic tendencies. Last April Fujimori suspended Peru's Constitution, courts, and congress.
While the rationale for that suspension included the intensifying conflict with the Maoist Shining Path, Fujimori's harsh measures had little to do with the capture this week of the guerrilla movement's charismatic founder, Abimael Guzman Reynoso. The Peruvian police have been on Mr. Guzms trail for years, following an antiterrorist strategy devised under the previous administration. They had come close to nabbing him before; it was only coincidental that success came after last spring's suspension of de mocracy.
Guzms arrest means that the Shining Path, which has recently taken its murderous tactics from the countryside into Lima's urban neighborhoods, will lose much of its radical gleam. The government intends to expose Guzman, a former philosophy professor, as a high-living fraud. A military court will probably hand down a life sentence.
The guerrillas' organizational structure is largely a mystery, however, and the Shining Path may be able to continue terrorist bombings and other disruptive activities for an indefinite time.
Still, the successful raid against the insurrection's leadership may start to revive international interest in Peru. Investors and tourists might give the country a second look.
But the best way to ensure the guerrillas' decline and the country's rehabilitation is unequivocally to resume democratic processes. Peru's people, at all levels of society, need to know they're represented in government and their needs are recognized.