LIMA, Peru (AP) – A movement affiliated with Peru’s largly extinguished Shining Path rebels, which killed thousands in the 1980s and ’90s, said Wednesday it is abandoning efforts to register as a political party after fierce opposition.
“There is a coordinated offensive by the state” against The Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights, or Movadef, that makes the endeavor futile, one of its leaders, Manuel Fajardo, told The Associated Press.
The movement does not advocate violence and seeks the release of all “political prisoners,” including Shining Path founder and maximum leader, Abimael Guzman, who was captured in 1992 and is serving a life sentence.
Fajardo has served as an attorney to Guzman, a former university professor known to adherents as “Comandante Gonzalo.” Fajardo said his movement has about 4,000 adherents, most in the countryside.
Movadef’s attempt to register with Peru’s National Electoral Council so it can field candidates in elections prompted vehement opposition from Peruvians who fear the return of the fanatical insurgency that sought to impose an agrarian-based communist state.
After officials questioned the validity of some of the more than 350,000 signatures that Movadef said it gathered in order to qualify for registration, the movement’s initial application was rejected. A hearing had been set for Thursday so it could argue its case.
Opposition to its application was fierce. Peru’s Cabinet chief, Oscar Valdes, had vowed to use all legal means to prevent Movadef from becoming a party.
In a statement, Movadef said that it was evident there is “a campaign of political persecution by the state against communists, Marxist-Leninist-Maoists, Gonzalo Thought, as well as also against true democrats, which is why today we have decided to desist in the appeal.”
Asked about the movement’s future, Fajardo said only that “it will be defined soon.”
A leading analyst on Peru’s recent violent past, Jaime Antezana, said it is a mistake to bar Movadef from participating in the democratic process because it won’t go away and will attempt to recruit from sectors of society that feel little connection to the country’s widely discredited political class.
“We’re going to have Shining Path as a political organization involved in social protests, mixed up in, as they themselves say, the defense of fundamental rights,” Antezana said in a phone interview.
He said Movadef will also seek to infiltrate various political organizations that are legally registered to run candidates, although Movadef-affiliated aspirants have failed to win a single office in regional and local elections to date.
The Shining Path took up arms in 1980 and terrorized the countryside as well as the capital with brutal killings of peasants and car bombings indiscriminately targeting civilians.
A truth commission determined that it was responsible for the majority of killings in a 20-year conflict that claimed more than 70,000 lives.
A Shining Path remnant composed of a few hundred fighters persists in a remote coca-growing region known as the VRAE.
Associated Press writer Frank Bajak contributed to this report.
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