Extremist massacre hits polarized Peruvian electoral campaign
By Alvaro Mellizo
Lima, May 24 (EFE).- A brutal extremist massacre reportedly caused by remnants of Peru’s Shining Path rebels in a remote jungle region marred the country’s electoral campaign and brought to mind the political violence of decades past.
Sources from the Joint Command of the Armed Forces confirmed the death of 14 people including two minors whose bodies had been burned, in a remote town in the jungle Valley of the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro rivers.
This area is notorious for cocaine cultivation and production in the country, a region where government presence is very weak.
The massacre, which left crude images that have spread like wildfire on social networks, took place in a makeshift premises used as a bar and brothel by the local population, mostly dedicated to the cultivation of coca leaf.
The Armed Forces said the attack was what extremists call “social cleansing,” as a pamphlet supposedly left by the perpetrators at the scene claimed the need to clean Peru of “brothels, idols, degenerate homosexuals and lesbians, drug addicts, undisciplined individuals …”
The document, published on social media by Keiko Fujimori’s presidential campaign aide Fernando Rospigliosi, tells Peruvians not to vote in the upcoming Jun. 6 elections.
It also called those who vote for the right-wing candidate “traitors.”
Remnants of the Shining Path militia, who remain in the area as bodyguards and drug trafficking partners, allegedly told the owners of the premises to leave the place and attacked when they refused.
Attacks by the Shining Path have become common during Peru’s electoral periods. However, on this occasion, with the presidency being disputed between Pedro Castillo and Keiko Fujimori following a highly polarized campaign, they take on special relevance.
Throughout Fujimori’s campaign, various related media tried to link Castillo and his party, Peru Libre, with the extremist group.
Several parliamentarians elected by the extreme left organization have been taken to court for their alleged links with the group and one of them, Guillermo Bermejo, is about to be tried for it.
Castillo has said he rejects extremism and that he belonged to the peasant rounds, the rural militia that successfully fought the extremist group during the toughest years of the Peruvian internal conflict (1980-2000.) This left more than 69,000 dead, according to the final report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.
The candidate was one of the first to reject the attack as soon as he heard the news and asked for the respect for the victims and called on those responsible to be made accountable. EFE