Last week it was announced that Florindo Flores – better known as Comrade Artemio, the last original leader of the Peruvian communist party (Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path) – had been sentenced by a court in Lima to life in prison for terrorism. Judge Clotilde Cavero told the court: “It was proven that Artemio ordered the execution of a number of civilians, police and soldiers. It was proven that he belonged to the Central Committee of the Shining Path. It was proven that he was the top leader in the Alto Huallaga Valley.”What was less reported was that Flores had also been found guilty of drug trafficking and money laundering – and fined 500 million soles [about £117 million].
The Sendero Luminoso is not the first “revolutionary force” (as Flores referred to his organisation) to use its “heroic people’s war” (Flores again) as a cover for your basic, scummy, un-shining crime and laundering – and it will almost certainly not be the last. Their supporters claim that the Shining Path turned to drug trafficking only out of desperation, and that they kept it at a subsistence level, but the truth is that they held sway for decades in remote parts of Peru that were (and still are) dominated by cocaine production. In 2012, Peruvian terrorism expert Jaime Antezana told the Washington Times: “The group should not be called the Shining Path. This is a family clan that is driven by money. It is purely a trafficking operation that we believe has ties to Mexican cartels.” He was speaking after the arrest of nineteen members of the extended Quispe family, who were subsequently charged with laundering over US$100 million of drug money for the Shining Path through businesses such as fertilizer stores, brick factories and poultry producers. And that ain’t no chicken feed.