Peru's president says 'no impunity' for those behind jungle massacre 

FILE PHOTO: Peru's interim President Francisco Sagasti talks to Reuters, in Lima, Peru November 19, 2020. Picture taken November 19, 2020. REUTERS/Sebastian Castaneda

By Marco Aquino

May 25, 2021

LIMA (Reuters) -Peru's interim president said on Tuesday there will be "no impunity" for those who massacred 16 Peruvians in a jungle region known for narco-trafficking, an attack authorities attribute to a group tied to Shining Path rebels.

President Francisco Sagasti also warned against allowing this "national tragedy" to influence the June 6 presidential election. Pamphlets encouraging Peruvians to abstain from voting were found at the site of the massacre.

"We are doing all we can to deploy the police and the military in a way that we can efficiently combat this plague," Sagasti told reporters. "We know this is a rough terrain with many ravines that the narcoterrorists know very well."

Markets in the world's No. 2 copper producer plunged on Tuesday following the attack and amid uncertainty over the elections, with the Peruvian sol touching an historic low in afternoon trading. The currency pared losses to end 0.31% weaker on the day.

Peru in the 1980s and 1990s endured a long-running conflict between the leftist-Maoist Shining Path and government forces, a fight that led to the death of 69,000 Peruvians, according to official figures.

The Shining Path has largely retreated in the years since, but a dissident faction of the original group is still active in the Peruvian jungle where they go by a different name and, according to authorities, serve as bodyguards for drug traffickers.

The Sunday massacre took place in that region, known as Valle de los Rios Apurimac, Ene y Mantaro [VRAEM}, where 75% of the nation's cocaine is produced, according to official figures.

The attack comes two weeks before Peruvians are set to elect a new president, choosing between leftist Pedro Castillo, a school teacher, and right-wing Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of jailed ex-president Alberto Fujimori.

Both candidates have condemned the attack.

Fujimori supporters have sought during the campaign to link Castillo to rebel groups sympathetic to the Shining Path, but Castillo has denied those allegations and has called for a thorough investigation of the killings.

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