Left-wing Shining Path activists killed at least 16 people, including two children, in a remote part of Peru and burned some of the bodies beyond recognition, according to the military.
Peru’s interim president said on Tuesday that there would be “no impunity” for the perpetrators of the massacre in the jungle region known for the production of cocaine, which authorities attribute to a dissident faction of rebels of the Shining Path.
“We are doing all we can to deploy the police and the army so that we can fight this scourge effectively,” Interim President Francisco Sagasti told reporters. “We know this is rugged terrain with many ravines that drug terrorists know very well.”
Brochures encouraging Peruvians to abstain from voting in the June 6 presidential election were found at the site of Sunday’s massacre, the Joint Command of the Peruvian Armed Forces said in a statement.
The military called the killings an “act of genocide” and said Shining Path had previously called such attacks “social cleansing.” The statement assured Peruvians of a “safe electoral process”.
The incident took place in an area called Valle de los Rios Apurimac, Ene y Mantaro (VRAEM), which produces 75% of the South American nation’s cocaine, authorities say.
VRAEM, a mountainous region the size of Puerto Rico, is the center of constant security forces operations against the remains of the Shining Path, which police say acts as “bodyguards” for drug traffickers. .
The Maoist rebel group started one of the deadliest internal conflicts in Latin America in the 1980s. According to a truth commission, around 69,000 people were killed.
The Shining Path began to fade in the early 1990s after the imprisonment of founder Abimael Guzman and has since developed links with drug traffickers.
Peru is expected to hold elections in less than two weeks, pitting socialist Pedro Castillo against conservative Keiko Fujimori. Both candidates denounced the attack.
“I urge the police to investigate immediately and find those responsible,” Castillo told reporters.
Fujimori said: “Terrorist groups who want to generate fear, we must not allow them.”
The United Nations condemned the “murder” of the people and expressed their solidarity with the victims and their families.
“As part of the ongoing electoral process, we call on all actors to act responsibly, avoiding hate speech which increases tensions,” his Lima office said in a statement.
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