Peru rebel leader refuses to lay down arms
September 18, 2008 - Associated Press

LIMA, Peru (AP) -- The leader of Peru's notorious Shining Path leftist rebels rejected an ultimatum to surrender and demanded to negotiate a political accord with the Peruvian government, in an interview aired Thursday by Peruvian broadcaster Radioprogramas.

Filomeno Cerron Cardoso, who goes by the nom de guerre "Comrade Artemio," said the group will never lay down arms or surrender in the face of "widespread military repression" from the government.

"We completely reject the ultimatum" issued by national police chief Octavio Salazar, Artemio said in a radio broadcast originally recorded Wednesday at a local station in the Huallaga Valley where the rebels still operate.

"We still insist that what is needed is a political solution, what is needed is a general amnesty and national reconciliation," Artemio said.

The Shining Path devastated Peru, which saw nearly 70,000 people killed from 1980 to the mid-'90s during the rebels' efforts to impose a Maoist communist regime. It faded after its leader, Abimael Guzman, was captured in 1992, though it continues to operate in much smaller numbers on money collected for protecting the drug trade.

Artemio said his group is "taking steps toward peace," but that President Alan Garcia's "dictatorial" government does not want it.

"Instead it wants the peace of the cemeteries. It wants everyone dead," he said.

The interview is Artemio's first since he appeared in a ski mask, flanked by 70 guerrillas in a taped television interview in November 2006.

Ruling party Congressman Yonhy Lescano told Radioprogramas that a general amnesty is out of the question and reiterated that the group must lay down its arms.