Ayacucho, Peru, (CNA) – The president of the Peruvian bishops’ conference has condemned Sunday’s killing of 16 persons by the Shining Path, a communist rebel group.
The May 23 attack took place in San Miguel del Ene in the Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene y Mantaro, about 180 miles north of Ayacucho.
The bodies of those killed were found in bars. They had bullet holes in them, and some were burned. Earlier reports indicated 14 or 18 persons had been killed, but Peru’s defense minister has confirmed that there were 16 victims.
The bodies were found with leaflets saying the Shining Path would “Clean out Vraem and Peru of the hangouts of bad actors, parasites and corrupt people,” and urged against voting in the upcoming general election, and particularly against voting for Keiko Fujimori.
Archbishop Hector Miguel Cabrejos Vidarte of Trujillo said May 24, “I express my profound condemnation of the cruel murders of 14 people, including women, children and youths, that took place in Vraem by Shining Path terrorists led by Víctor Quispe Palomino. No one has the right to take the life of any person. Life is sacred.”
The archbishop said that “this tragic event reminds us of the time of barbarism and terror that the country went through for more than 20 years, which resulted in more than 70,000 deaths and a large number of disappeared.”
Archbishop Cabrejos emphasized that it’s time to say “never again to terrorism. Never again violence in Peru, from whatever quarter. Our country has the right to live in peace and build a future that benefits everyone.”
“I pray to God for the eternal repose of these victims, so their families may find peace and consolation, and that there be a thorough investigation,” he concluded.
The Militarized Communist Party of Peru is the Shining Path group active in the Vraem, a remote, coca producing region of the country.
The second round of Peru’s general election is due to be held June 6. Vying for president are Pedro Castillo of Free Peru, a socialist party, and Keiko Fujimori of Popular Force.
Keiko is the daughter of former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, whose administration largely defeated the Shining Path insurgency in the 1990s.
The Shining Path was founded in the 1960s, and began armed conflict in 1980. Tens of thousands have died in the ensuing violence.
Three European priests who were killed by the Shining Path were recognized as martyrs by the Holy See in 2015.
Fathers Michele Tomaszek and Zbigneo Strzalkowski of the Conventual Friars Minor were killed Aug. 9, 1991, by the Shining Path. Both worked in Pariacoto in the Peruvian Andes, and their work to help the poor was considered a threat by the terrorists, who saw their efforts to recruit new members thwarted.
Father Alessandro Dordi was also working in the Peruvian Andes. He was shot dead by Shining Path militants Aug. 25, 1991.