Peru: Shining Path Founder Gonzalo Passes Away, at 86

News Politics World

Saturday, September 11, 2021/Lima-
Abimael Guzman, the founder and leader of the Shining Path guerrilla movement, who was captured in 1992, died in a military hospital after an illness.

Guzmán, 86, died at 6:40 a.m. after suffering from an infection, Justice Minister Aníbal Torres said.

Guzmán, a former philosophy professor, launched a movement against the state in 1980 and let to the revolution.

Guzmán was captured in 1992 and sentenced in life in prison, under the topic of terrorism and other crimes.

Guzman preached a messianic vision of a classless Maoist society based on pure communism.

He advocated a peasant revolution in which rebels would first gain control of the countryside and then advance to the cities.

Guzmán’s movement declared armed struggle on the eve of Peru’s presidential elections in May 1980, the first democratic vote after 12 years of military rule.

Throughout the 1980s, the man known to his followers as Presidente Gonzalo built up an organization that grew to 10,000 armed fighters before his capture inside a Lima safehouse in September 1992.

A truth commission in 2003 blamed the Shining Path for more than half of nearly 70,000 estimated deaths and disappearances caused by various rebel groups and brutal government counterinsurgency efforts between 1980 and 2000.

Yet it lived on in a political movement formed by Guzmán’s followers that sought amnesty for all “political prisoners,” including the Shining Path founder. The Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Right failed, however, to register as a political party in 2012 in the face of fierce opposition from Peruvians with bitter memories of the destruction brought by the Shining Path.

For 12 years, Peruvian authorities could not crack the Shining Path’s ranks, organized in a near-impenetrable vertical cell structure. Guzman was nearly captured at a safehouse in Lima in June 1990, but slipped away.

A January 1991 police raid in Lima found a videotape showing Guzman and other rebel leaders mourning at the funeral of his wife, Augusta La Torre, known as “Comrade Norah.” About 15 years Guzman’s junior, La Torre was No. 2 in the Shining Path’s command structure before dying under mysterious circumstances in 1988.

The video showed a portly Guzmán, wearing thick glasses and snapping his fingers as he drunkenly danced to music from the 1960s movie “Zorba the Greek.” It was the first image Peruvians had seen of him since a mug shot taken during a 1978 arrest.

After La Torre died, she was replaced as No. 2 by Elena Iparraguirre, alias “Comrade Miriam,” who later also became Guzmán’s wife.

Guzmán married Iparraguirre in 2010 at the maximum-security prison inside the naval base in Lima where he was serving a life term. Iparraguirre, also captured in 1992, was brought from the women’s prison for the ceremony.

Guzmán was initially sentenced to life imprisonment by a secret military tribunal, but Peru’s top court ruled in 2003 that the original sentencing was unconstitutional and ordered a new trial. He also received a life sentence at the 2006 retrial.

He studied law and philosophy at the University of San Agustin in Arequipa, where he wrote two graduate theses: “The Theory of Space in Kant” and another on law titled “The Democratic-Bourgeois State.”

“Mr. Guzmán was an extraordinarily brilliant man, very studious, very disciplined,” recalled Miguel Rodriguez Rivas, one of his professors.

Guzmán took a teaching job in 1963 at the state University of San Cristobal de Huamanga in Ayacucho, an impoverished central Andean capital neglected for centuries by Peru’s traditional power elite in coastal Lima.

In Ayacucho, he joined the pro-Chinese Bandera Roja political party, or “Red Flag,” becoming head of its “military commission” and visiting China in 1965.

Over 10 years, Guzmán patiently planned before launching his war on what he characterized as Peru’s “rotten and antiquated” state, taking the government by surprise.