Abimael Guzmán, the founder and leader of the Shining Path, the Maoist insurgents who terrorized Peru in the 1980s and 1990s, died in a military hospital at age 86, the Peruvian government reported.
After almost 30 years serving a life sentence in a maximum security prison inside a naval base, Guzmán died at 6.40 am on Saturday from “health complications.” Peru’s prison service confirmed.
Once the most feared man in Peru, Chairman Gonzalo, as his fanatical supporters knew him, sparked a bloody internal conflict in May 1980 when Shining Path declared war on the state.
The conflict that followed, marked by brutal massacres, car bombs and targeted assassinations, killed tens of thousands of Peruvians.
Guzmán, a philosophy professor turned messianic leader, preached a Mao-inspired peasant revolution that would first take control of the countryside and then move to urban areas. He was captured in a Lima safe house in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment for terrorism and other crimes.
The main victims of the Shining Path were the very people it intended to defend. Known for his brutality and for not sparing women or children, he killed more than 28,000 Peruvians, most of them from poor rural communities, according to the country’s truth and reconciliation commission.
Between 1980 and 2000, 69,280 people were killed, the truth commission found, 54% by Shining Path, while state security forces and the smaller Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) were to blame for the others. deaths. To date, there are more than 20,000 registered victims of enforced disappearances in the country.
“He was the main author of one of the greatest tragedies that the country has experienced”, tweeted Iván Lanegra, Secretary General of the Peruvian NGO Transparency. “He built a totalitarian ideology that justified murder in the name of political ends.”
Guzmán’s death comes when several ministers in the government of leftist President Pedro Castillo are allegedly sympathetic to the rebel group he founded or have direct ties to him. Castillo’s Prime Minister, Guido Bellido, is accused of defending Shining Path and is being investigated for alleged “apology for terrorism.”
“The terrorist leader Abimael Guzmán, responsible for the loss of countless lives of our compatriots, has died. Our stance in condemning terrorism is firm and unwavering, ”Castillo said on Twitter.
The Minister of Labor, Íber Maraví, allegedly was part of the terrorist group in its beginnings in Ayacucho, where Guzmán was a university professor, according to an investigation by The Republic newspaper.
Guzmán, who was considered the “fourth sword of Marxism” after Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, was captured two months after the deadliest Shining Path attack on the Peruvian capital, which killed 25 people and wounded more than 150.
He later married Elena Iparraguirre, his number 2 in the group, for the second time in 2010 at the prison where he was serving a life sentence. Iparraguirre, who was also captured in 1992, was released from the women’s prison for the ceremony.
Like his widow, Iparraguirre will decide what to do with his remains, amid a national debate over whether Guzmán should be buried in a Peruvian cemetery or his ashes scattered in the sea.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism