The arrest on February 12 of “Comrade Artemio,” leader of one of the two remnant factions of the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path in Peru, puts an end to more than 20 years of escapes and underground life by the last member of the guerrilla group’s historical leadership committee to remain free.
“Artemio,” 47 years old, whose real name is Florindo Eleuterio Flores Hala, led the Shining Path remnant wing made up of half a hundred men active in the coca-producing Alto Huallaga valley, in the northern Peruvian jungle, since the 1990s.
Peru and the United States put a price on arresting him alive: Lima offered a reward of 350,000 dollars, and Washington, D.C., another of 5 million dollars, since both governments believed him to have ties to drug trafficking.
“Artemio” was found on February 12 by an Army patrol, in serious condition from a bullet wound, in a cabin near the Mishollo River where he had taken refuge after escaping a clash with the police on February 9.
Of modest origins, single, and without children, in 2004 he acquired a new identity in an attempt to throw the authorities off his trail, buying false documents under the name of José Flores, according to police.
The fall of “Artemio” represents the Humala administration’s most significant victory over the guerrilla group since the nationalist president took office in July 2011, after winning that year’s presidential election.
During an interview in December with a local media outlet, “Artemio” said that his branch of the guerrilla group had been defeated, for which reason it would not launch any more attacks.
He even advocated negotiations with the state over laying down arms, following the official line dictated from prison by Abimael Guzmán, Shining Path’s founder.
“Artemio” was the last free leader of Shining Path’s Central Committee. The rest are in prison or dead. His face become known when he appeared in 1990 in a video recorded by the members of Shining Path at a party hosted by Guzmán, where the guerrilla group’s general staff danced to “Zorba the Greek.”
At present, Shining Path has remnants in the country’s two chief coca-producing areas, Alto Huallaga and the Apurímac and Ene River Valley, with around 300 men, according to analysts.