Arrest of Shining Path Leader’s Guard Suggests Govt is Closing In

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The Peruvian government has arrested a member of “Comrade Artemio’s” security detail, suggesting that the Shining Path guerrilla leader is on the run and could soon be captured or killed.

On January 9, Peruvian National Police Commander Raul Salazar Salazar announced that officials had captured Marino Tapullima Tapullima two days earlier in the remote northern region of San Martin. Tapullima was allegedly a member of the security ring assigned to Florindo Flores Hara, alias “Comrade Artemio,” who leads one of the two remaining wings of the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrilla group.

According to authorities, the arrest is a sign that they are closing the net around the Huallaga-based faction. Yesterday Peruvian cabinet chief Oscar Valdes told local media that he was certain Artemio would be captured soon, and would likely be followed by the leader of the southeast Apurimac Ene river valley (VRAE) faction, “Comrade Jose.”

InSight Crime’s Analysis

The announcement comes just a month after Artemio called for dialogue with the government, acknowledging that the Shining Path’s conflict with the Peruvian state has been a military failure. Security forces have also dealt a number of strong blows to Artemio in recent months, capturing his girlfriend and cracking down on his group’s support from local coca growers.

If the government’s claims about Tapullima’s ties to Artemio are true, it could mean that the guerrilla leader’s peace offer was spurred by an awareness that his organization is on its last legs, and is an effort to avoid being killed or arrested.

The precedent for those in the Shining Path chief’s shoes is not promising. In neighboring Colombia, Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) commander-in-chief “Alfonso Cano” died just four months after the army killed several members of his security detail. Considering the emphasis that Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has placed on increasing security in the country, it is very likely Artemio will meet the same fate.

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