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Peru captures rebel leader. Is this the end of the Shining Path?

President Ollanta Humala declared the Maoist guerrilla group is no longer a threat after the capture of Comrade Artemio, reports guest blogger Hannah Stone.

By Hannah StoneGuest blogger / February 13, 2012

"Comrade Artemio," one of the top leaders of Peru's Shining Path guerrilla group, is seen at a camp in Huallaga valley in the Amazon jungle of Peru in this file photo taken on December 2, 2011. Artemio, the nom de guerre of Florindo Eleuterio Flores, was captured by security forces after being shot in a remote jungle rife with drug trafficking, Peru's President Ollanta Humala said on Sunday.

IDL Reporteros/REUTERS

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The capture of “Comrade Artemio,” one of the last of the Shining Path rebels’ old guard to remain at large, is a security success for Peru’s government, but is unlikely to affect the country’s burgeoning drug trade.

On Thursday, the news emerged that Artemio, whose real name is Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, had been seriously wounded in the early hours of the morning. Some reports (most links are in Spanish) said he was shot by his own bodyguards, who were working for the authorities, though others said he was hit in a confrontation with the police.

He was found on Sunday morning by a military patrol, lying gravely wounded in a hut near the river Misholla, in Tocache province, San Martin region. Later that day he was flown by military helicopter to Lima. As the veteran guerrilla fighter was carried on a stretcher into a police hospital, his hands heavily bandaged, he shouted some unintelligible words and raised a fist to the watching press.

Peruvian authorities had declared in advance that Artemio would be captured alive, so that he could give information about his group and its activities. This is in contrast to the fate of another recently-fallen rebel leader, “Alfonso Cano” (in English) of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC), who was shot dead while resisting capture, according to the account of the Colombian Army.

Peru’s politicians hailed the news as the definitive end of the Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso in Spanish, which they say is now finished politically and militarily. President Ollanta Humala declared that the group was no longer a threat, and that “those that remain are tiny remnants, who it will not take us long to capture.” He called on Artemio’s followers to surrender, and made a triumphant visit to the hospital to see the new captive.

Artemio was one of the last commanders from the rebels’ heyday to remain at large. After leaving the army in 1980, he joined the Shining Path and was sent to the Huallaga region to set up a new branch of the group and seize control of the area from drug traffickers. He rose up the ranks, and became a member of the Shining Path’s Central Committee in 1989.

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