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Peru massacre revives fears of violence ahead of presidential election

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
A demonstrator writes a graffiti reading "Keiko does not go" during a protest against the right-wing presidential candidate Keiko Fujimori, in Lima on May 22, 2021. (Photo by AFP)

A massacre of civilians in a jungle area of Peru in the run-up to the country's presidential election has sent shockwaves through the nation, raising fears of a revival of bloody rebel violence.

At least 14 people, including two children, were murdered in a remote coca-growing region in central Peru, allegedly by members of a rebel group, who have warned people against voting in the upcoming presidential poll.

The military said in a statement on Monday that the attack occurred in the mountainous town of San Miguel del Ene, near Peru’s central Amazon region.

“It is likely there will be more deaths,” said police chief Cesar Cervantes. He, initially put the number of fatalities at 18.

He blamed the massacre on a dissident faction of the Shining Path, a rebel group that terrorized Peru before being put down by former president Alberto Fujimori, in the 1990s.

His daughter conservative candidate Keiko Fujimori is running against socialist Pedro Castillo in next month's vote.  

The military called the murders “an act of genocide” and said the Shining Path had previously labeled such attacks a form of “social cleansing.”

The bodies of the victims have yet to be identified, said the statement.

The murderers left pamphlets at the site of the attack, calling for residents to boycott the June 6 presidential election, according to the police commander.

They said anyone who voted for Fujimori would be considered a “traitor.”

The military, however, assured Peruvians of “a secure electoral process.”

Castillo condemned the killings as a “terrorist attack.”

The United Nations also denounced “the murders” and expressed its solidarity with the victims and their families.

“In the framework of the ongoing electoral process, we call on all actors to act responsibly, avoiding hate speech that increases tensions,” said a statement from the UN office in Lima.

Such attacks, according to security expert Pedro Yaranga, were not uncommon during election time.

Yaranga said that the country is "returning to something that we thought we had overcome."

“Most in Peru have thought the Shining Path no longer existed. This tragedy shows that this is not the case.”

Yaranga predicted that the country could see a further uptick in violence if Fujimori wins the race, adding the remaining Shining Path members could step up punitive attacks against the daughter of their opponent.

The mountainous region around San Miguel del Ene, which is known for cocaine production and trafficking, is believed to be the last significant operating area for Shining Path remnants.

Peru has emerged as the world’s top coca and cocaine producer.


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