Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

Captured rebel leader, who has been ill for the past few months, has died at the age of 86.

Abimael Guzman, leader of the Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, rebels who nearly overthrew the Peruvian state in a bloody Maoist revolution, has died in prison, the government said. He was 86.

Guzman was arrested in the Peruvian capital, Lima, in 1992 and sent to prison for the rest of his life after being convicted as a ‘terrorist’.

Susana Silva, head of the prison system in Peru, told RPP radio on Saturday that Guzman had been ill for the past few months and had been discharged from hospital in early August.

She said his health had deteriorated over the past two days, without expanding further, adding that Guzman would receive more medical attention on Saturday, but died in his cell around 06:40 local time (11:40 GMT) .

A former professor of philosophy, Guzman, was a lifelong communist who traveled to China in the late 1960s and was impressed by Mao Zedong’s cultural revolution. He decided to bring Mao’s brand of communism to Peru through a class war he started in 1980.

Guzman founded the Shining Path and transformed it from a ragged group of peasants and radical students into a powerful rebel group. An estimated 69,000 people, mostly in the poor interior of Peru, died between 1980 and 2000 in the internal conflict started by the shiny road.

In this file, photo taken on October 14, 1992, Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman exhausted his last appeal in Lima after a military court did not overturn his life sentence. [File: Hector Mata/AFP]

Shining Path’s daring and impeccably planned attacks, his networks of informants and spies and Guzman’s incredible ability to evade arrest gave him an almost legendary reputation for appearing everywhere.

His followers call Guzman the Fourth Sword of Marxism, after Marx, Lenin and Mao, and idolize him in revolutionary hymns, songs, posters and literature.

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

“Mr. Guzman was an extraordinarily brilliant man, very inquisitive, very disciplined,” recalls Miguel Rodriguez Rivas, one of his professors.

His few written works, though little regarded by Marxist academics, have become like a mantra for followers of Shining Path who repeat his words as if they were biblical truths.

After Guzman was captured by police in a spacious safe house in Lima in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison, the gleaming road largely collapsed as a military threat, although the remains remain to this day. In 2018, Guzman was sentenced to a second life sentence for a car bomb attack in Lima in 1992 in which 25 people were killed.

Guzman’s first wife, Augusta La Torre, died in mysterious circumstances in the late 1980s. In 2010, he married his longtime girlfriend, Elena Iparraguirre, who, like Guzman, is serving a life sentence. Both women were the Shining Path leaders.

From left to right are Angelica Salas, Osman Morote and Martha Huatay; (sit) Elena Iparraguirre, Abimael Guzman and Maria Pantoja, leaders of the Sendero Luminoso (SL) fighters [File: AFP]

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