Peru: Children Join Shining Path Guerrillas

By Dialogo
May 27, 2009

On Monday Peruvian politicians and human rights organizations called images of gun-bearing children ten to thirteen years old among the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas filmed for a TV program in the Amazon region “abnormal." At least 17 children were undergoing military training in a remote spot in the jungle of Peru and shouting the slogan "Long live Marxism-Leninism, Maoism, mainly Maoism, for the worldwide socialist proletarian revolution." The minors, their right fists held high, also repeated the theme of the group's leader, another child who appears to be less than 13 years old. This was staged in the presence of Víctor Quispe Palomino, "Comrade Jose," who identified himself as the head of the Central Regional Committee of the Communist Party of Peru, known as the Shining Path. The spread of this video on Sunday night on the program “Punto Final” broadcast by “Frecuencia Latina TV” in Lima astonished the country. Prime Minister Yehude Simon condemned and deplored the use of children by the Path. "You cannot use a child in combat; the Shining Path turns children into soldiers, but how much responsibility can these children take? Minors are less responsible because they can be incited and misled," he said. "We have to wake up and realize that the Shining Path is not defeated and is still active," he said. For his part, Francisco Soberon, from The Association for Human Rights in Peru (APRODEH) strongly protested the recruiting of children by the Maoist organization. "That is unbelievable, those methods were employed in Africa, the use of children by armed groups is a result of forced recruitment," he said. "Thus juveniles have no will or discretion; it is a form of indoctrination which must be rejected completely," Soberon said, stressing that forcibly recruited children "are not responsible and are blameless.” "They are minors, so the state has an obligation to rescue and not stigmatize them, to reeducate and rehabilitate them because they are compelled to act against their reason and conscience," he said. The television report also shows the children playing soccer in a clearing in the jungle, probably in the troubled Valley of the Apurimac and Ene Rivers (VRAE), which is a mountainous area in the center and southeast of the country that serves as a refuge for the remnants of the Shining Path. The first video shows the face of "Comrade José," a man about 50 years old, a Shining Path leader who led an ambush against an army patrol on April 9 that killed fifteen soldiers and who is being intensively searched for by the army. Soldiers who survived the ambush subsequently claimed that the attacking forces included armed children who were forced by various women, including members of the Shining Path, to deal the coup de grace to at least one seriously wounded soldier. In the report, leader Quispe Palomino said that his organization is a new phase of the Communist Party and has no links with the Shining Path, the party founded by Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, who has been in prison since 1992 and is sentenced to life imprisonment, and who unleashed a civil war between 1980 and 2000 that left 69,000 dead and missing.