• Abimael Guzman, Leader of Guerrilla Group That Terrorized Peru, Dies at

    From (David P.)@21:1/5 to All on Sun Sep 12 15:05:39 2021
    Abimael Guzman, Leader of Guerrilla Group That
    Terrorized Peru, Dies at 86
    By Stephen Kinzer, 9/11/21, NY Times

    Abimael Guzman, the founder & leader of the Shining Path
    guerrilla movement, which spread terror across much of
    Peru in the 80s & 90s, died on Saturday in Peru. He was 86.

    Guzman died in a max-security prison in the Callao naval
    base in Peru, where he was serving a life sentence, prison
    officials said. They said he died of health complications
    but did not specify an exact cause.

    An estimated 70,000 Peruvians were killed during the
    decade-long peak of the Shining Path insurgency, at least
    1/3 at the hands of guerrillas. Shining Path advocated a
    violent reordering of society away from the vices of urban
    life. Its leaders echoed Cambodia’s Khmer Rouge w/warnings
    that “rivers of blood” would flow after their victory, &
    that as many as one million Peruvians might be put to death.

    Shining Path was almost entirely Guzman’s conception, &
    for a time he seemed poised to seize power in one of Latin
    America’s most important countries. His avowedly Maoist
    movement was one of the most violently radical in the
    hemisphere’s modern history, & his fertile mind & extra-
    ordinary powers of persuasion laid the basis for an
    intense personality cult.

    Like many of his generation in Latin America, Guzman was
    thrilled with Castro’s revolution in Cuba in 1959. Later,
    however, he came to scorn Castro, the Soviet Union & even
    moderate factions in China.

    Guzman visited China several times. He came away with the
    vision of a Peru without money, banks, industry or foreign
    trade, where all would be a landholder & live from barter.

    Both of Peru’s main Communist parties expelled him, but
    he developed a devoted coterie of students & professors.

    “He was a very charismatic teacher, with a florid rhetorical
    style that really attracted students,” the poli-scientist
    David Scott Palmer said in 2013. “He became so strong
    partly because of 17 years of prep, & partly because govt
    missteps created conditions favorable to revolution.”

    (Prof. Palmer was a Peace Corps volunteer in the 60s &
    shared an office at San Cristobal of Huamanga National U.
    in Ayacucho, Peru, with Guzman, who was then a faculty
    member. Palmer died in 2018.)

    Shining Path carried out its first violent actions in 1980,
    including the bombing of polling places & takeover of town
    halls in remote villages. One morning in December, people
    in Lima, the capital, awoke to the sight of dead dogs
    hanging from dozens of lampposts. Around the neck of each
    was a placard with a slogan referring to factional struggle
    within the Chi-Comm Party.

    This was the first sign of the phantasmagorical savagery
    that was about to descend on Peru. Guzman, calling himself
    President Gonzalo, proclaimed himself the “4th Sword of
    Communism,” after Marx, Lenin & Mao. He preached “Gonzalo
    Thought,” which he said would bring the world to a “higher
    stage of Marxism.”

    “When the Shining Path took up arms, the attempt seemed
    a doomed effort to graft the Chinese experience onto the
    entirely different Peruvian culture,” the Peruvian journo
    Gustavo Gorriti wrote. “To most people in Peru, including
    the legal left, the movement seemed to be a crazy sect,
    hopelessly divorced from reality.”

    But Guzman’s fighters waged a spectacularly successful
    military campaign that brought large parts of the country
    under their control. Terror & assassination were favored
    tactics. The conflict spread from rural areas to Lima, where
    supplies of water, electricity & food became unreliable.

    Bombs exploded in movie theaters, restaurants & police
    stations. Kidnappings were rampant. Notices appeared on
    walls warning civilians to flee. Thousands did. The economy,
    already in dire shape because of poor political leadership,
    plunged toward chaos.

    Shining Path tried to find a base among Indigenous people
    whose needs had long been ignored by Peru’s elite, though
    many Indigenous people were also victims of the insurgency.
    Part of Guzman’s strategy was to draw the nation’s army
    into bloody reprisals, revealing its “fascist entrails.”

    Military repression was indeed fierce. Soldiers killed
    many civilians & terrorized Indigenous regions, driving
    many to support the rebels.

    After several years, the govt changed course. It withdrew
    some abusive units, gave soldiers rudimentary human rights
    training & began civic action programs.

    Two figures associated with the campaign against Shining
    Path, President Fujimori & his intel director, Vladimiro
    Montesinos, were later given long prison sentences after
    being convicted of engaging in corruption & sponsoring
    death squads.

    On Sept. 12, 1992, members of a special police unit
    dedicated to tracking Shining Path leaders closed in on
    a home in a well-to-do Lima neighborhood & captured Guzman.
    He appeared in a military court wearing a black-&-white
    striped prisoner’s uniform. Hooded judges found him guilty
    of terror crimes & sentenced him to life imprisonment.

    In 1993, Guzman appeared several times on Peruvian TV &
    called on Shining Path fighters to give up their arms.
    Most did, & the rebellion faded.

    Manuel Rubén Abimael Guzman Reynoso was born on Dec. 3,
    1934, in the town of Mollendo, on Peru’s southern coast.
    His father, who had 6 kids with 3 women, won a prize in
    the national lottery & sent him to a Roman Catholic high
    school & to college.

    After earning degrees in law & philosophy, Guzman joined
    the faculty at San Agustín National U. in the mountain
    town of Arequipa. He became director of its teacher
    training program, which attracted students from
    Indigenous villages.

    Guzman is not known to have had children. As a young man,
    he married Augusta La Torre, daughter of a Communist Party
    leader in Ayacucho. Known as “Comrade Norah,” she became
    the 2nd in command of Shining Path. She died in 1988 under
    mysterious circumstances.

    In 2010, when Guzman was 75, the authorities gave him
    permission to marry Elena Iparraguirre, who had replaced
    Comrade Norah as the #2 Shining Path leader & was also
    serving a life sentence on terrorism charges. They
    continued to be held in separate prisons.

    Guzman was given a 2nd trial, before a civilian court,
    after his military trial was found unconstitutional. In
    2006 it found him guilty of aggravated terrorism & murder,
    & affirmed his life sentence. At the trial, he shouted what
    might have been his last public words.

    “Long live the Communist Party of Peru!” he cried, waving
    a fist above his head. “Glory to Marxism-Leninism-Maoism!
    Glory to the Peruvian people! Long live the heroes of the
    people’s war!”


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