Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Peruvians Laud Guerrilla's Arrest but the Capture of Shining Path's Top Leader May Not End Terrorist Attacks, Experts Warn

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Peruvians Laud Guerrilla's Arrest but the Capture of Shining Path's Top Leader May Not End Terrorist Attacks, Experts Warn

Article excerpt

PAUNCHY and bespectacled, the elderly man pulling himself together in front of the television cameras could not have looked less like a revolutionary leader feared by an entire nation and for whom thousands would willingly die. This, clearly, was precisely the effect Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori wanted to achieve.

These images - broadcast to an expectant Peruvian nation late Sunday night - showed Abimael Guzman Reynoso, founder and leader of the hard-line Maoist guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) - one of the world's most wanted men.

For 12 years, Mr. Guzman has headed Sendero's bid to overthrow the Peruvian state. He was last seen publicly in 1979. Now he is behind bars, captured in a police raid Saturday night.

Personally presenting the eagerly awaited evidence of the arrest, President Fujimori was at pains to strip away the almost-mythical aura with which Guzman has surrounded himself. Instead he appeared as a common criminal with a number around his neck.

Fujimori dubbed Guzman "sinister," "an evil genius," and "the henchman of the drug trade." The president painted a picture of debauchery, immorality, and luxury funded by the cocaine trade, whose close links to Sendero, he said, could no longer be denied.

The detention of Guzman is a spectacular and timely coup for Fujimori. Criticism of his regime's apparent inability to make inroads against the guerrillas - even with the free hand allowed the military by the April 5 suspension of the Constitution - has been mounting. A recent opinion poll showed more than half the nation dissatisfied with counter-subversive strategy.

Now the national mood has swung rapidly to satisfaction and relief. Even politicians bitterly opposed to the de facto Fujimori government "should seize this opportunity for national reconciliation," said Sen. Alberto Borea, president of the now-defunct Peruvian Senate.

For Sen. Enrique Bernales, former chairman of the Senate Commission on Pacification and Violence, "Sendero has undoubtedly been winning the war of fear and intimidation in many parts of the country." Guzms detention, he says, "reverses that tendency in the collective behavior of Peruvians - people now realize that citizen cooperation is essential if terrorism is to be defeated."

Nationwide, Peruvians jammed television and radio programs Sunday with phone calls acclaiming Guzms detention.

"Thank God," said Lucia Gonzalez, a Miraflores housewife who lives close to Tarata, the street destroyed in mid-July by a Sendero car-bomb that killed 30 and wounded 100. "Now that that evil man is behind bars, we can look forward to peace and prosperity."

But the experts are more cautious. US Ambassador to Peru Anthony Quainton, himself a former State Department counter-terrorism specialist, emphasized the "hard work, patience, and perseverance" of the Peruvian counter-terrorist police who tracked down and arrested Guzman. …

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