Abimael Guzmán, founder and leader of Shining Path, the Maoist insurgents who terrorized Peru in the 1980s and 1990s, has died in a military hospital at the age of 86, the Peruvian government said.
After nearly 30 years of life imprisonment in a high security prison inside a naval base, Guzmán died at 6:40 am on Saturday from “health complications”. The Peruvian Prison Service confirmed.
Once Peru’s most feared man, President Gonzalo, as his fanatic supporters called him, sparked a bloody internal conflict in May 1980 when the Shining Path declared war on the state.
The ensuing conflict, marked by brutal massacres, car bombings and targeted assassinations, kills tens of thousands of Peruvians.
Guzmán, a philosophy professor turned messianic leader, preached that a Mao-inspired peasant revolution would first take control of the countryside and then take hold in urban areas. He was captured in a Lima refuge in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison for terrorism and other crimes.
The Shining Path’s main victims were the very people it claimed to be defending. Known for his brutality and for sparing neither women nor 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, according to the truth commission, 54 percent of them by the Shining Path, while state security forces and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA, were to blame for them. other deaths. To date, more than 20,000 victims of enforced disappearances are registered in the country.
“He was the main author of one of the greatest tragedies the country has ever experienced”, tweeted Iván Lanegra, secretary general of the Peruvian NGO Transparencia. “He built a totalitarian ideology that justified the murder in the name of political ends. “
Guzmán’s death comes as several ministers in the government of left-wing President Pedro Castillo are said to have sympathies or direct links with the rebel group he founded. The Prime Minister of Castillo, Guido Bellido, is accused of defending the Shining Path and is under investigation for alleged “apologies for terrorism”.
“The terrorist leader Abimael Guzman, responsible for the loss of countless lives of our compatriots, has passed away. Our position in condemning terrorism is firm and unwavering, ”Castillo said on Twitter.
Labor Minister Íber Maraví is believed to have been part of the terrorist group in its early days in Ayacucho, where Guzmán was a university professor, according to an investigation by the newspaper La República.
Guzmán, who considered himself the “fourth sword of Marxism” after Karl Marx, Vladimir Lenin and Mao Zedong, was captured two months after the Shining Path’s deadliest attack on the Peruvian capital that left 25 people dead and over. 150 injured.
He then married for the second time to Elena Iparraguirre, his No. 2 in the group, in 2010 at the prison where he was serving a life sentence. Iparraguirre, who was also captured in 1992, was brought from the women’s prison for the ceremony.
As a widow, Iparraguirre will decide what to do with his remains, amid a nationwide debate over whether Guzmán should be buried in a Peruvian cemetery or his ashes scattered at sea.