LIMA Peru will crack down on the political wing of the Shining Path and quash armed remnants of the insurgency, President Ollanta Humala said on Wednesday, dismissing the idea of holding peace talks with the rebels.
The Maoist insurgency that nearly toppled the state was severely weakened after its founder Abimael Guzman was captured in 1992, but it did not disappear altogether.
The government says the Shining Path's political arm, known as Movadef, is trying to rebuild by infiltrating labour unions and environmental groups. Electoral authorities have rejected Movadef's request to form a political party.
At the same time, the government continues to battle hundreds of rebels who have never put down their weapons and still ambush the police and army in remote jungles rife with cocaine-trafficking.
"We can't negotiate with terrorists," Humala said when asked if he would follow the lead of neighbouring Colombia, where President Juan Manuel Santos has agreed to hold peace talks with leftist FARC rebels after half a century of conflict.
"They are cold-blooded killers, who kidnap children, don't respect basic rights, and try to use terror and extortion to change the democratic nature of the country," Humala told Peru's foreign press club.
He defended a controversial law he wants Congress to pass that would jail anyone who denies Shining Path's role in the war it started in 1980 that killed 69,000 people.
The bill aims to prevent Movadef from spreading its radical message. Critics say it would violate the constitution's free speech protections.
"This law isn't aimed a hurting freedom of expression. It falls within the guidelines of (the Inter-American Court of Human Rights), which says you can't defend terrorism, death and hate," he said.
Humala said the state had been too permissive over the last decade. Up to 20,000 people with alleged ties to Shining Path or the smaller Tupac Amaru insurgency were detained. Most were released; 654 remain behind bars.
"We can't say that terrorism is over. I think the state has committed an error by resting on its laurels after important arrests and not going after what remains of the organization," said Humala, a former army officer who fought against the Shining Path.
(Reporting By Terry Wade and Marco Aquino; editing by Mohammad Zargham)