He was nicknamed the “Pol Pot of the Andes”. The historic leader of the Peruvian Maoist Guerrilla Shining Path, Abimael Guzman, died on Saturday at the age of 86 in the prison where he was serving his life sentence, his lawyer said. “Doctor Abimael Guzman is dead. His wife was informed and requested his remains from the authorities, ”declared Mr. Alfredo Crespo. The former Maoist leader, imprisoned since 1992, was behind bars following two convictions in 2006 and 2018. He was hospitalized in July. In a statement, the Peruvian prison authorities specified that his death was linked to “a worsening of his state of health”.
The guerrilla and his lieutenants were arrested in Lima in 1992 under the presidency of Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), who launched a fierce repression against the movement. The former philosophy professor was responsible for one of the bloodiest conflicts in Latin America, which rocked Peru between 1980 and 2000 and left more than 70,000 dead and missing, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR).
The “fourth sword” of Marxism
Abimael Guzman had forged the image of a tough and ruthless revolutionary. The executions of peasants and burning of villages refusing to support the guerrillas had thus earned him to be compared to Pol Pot, the Khmer Rouge leader of Cambodia. Among his bloodiest actions: the murder in 1984 of 117 peasants in Soras, in the Ayacucho region, or the car bomb attack in an upscale neighborhood of Lima in 1992, which left 25 people dead and more 150 wounded.
The academic, born December 3, 1934 in Mollendo (south), had embarked on the revolutionary struggle in the early 1960s by abandoning his chair of philosophy at the University of San Cristobal de Huamanga in Ayacucho, one of the regions. the poorest in Peru. Shortly after, he launched a political movement, the Communist Party of Peru-Luminous Path (dissident faction of the PC), whose mission was to “build communism by following the luminous path of José Carlos Mariategui”, founder of the Peruvian Socialist Party. . The guerrilla, who called himself “Puka Inti” (“red sun” in the Quechua language), cultivated a cult of personality among supporters of his movement. His followers called his ideas the “fourth sword” of Marxism, alongside those of Marx, Lenin and Mao.
Its movement had developed on the ground of the indigenous revolt, the forgotten ones of the agrarian reform of 1969 and the students leaving the university with unusable diplomas due to racial and linguistic segregation. His trial in 2006, however, revealed an unknown facet of his personality. His lieutenant Oscar Ramirez had described him as a “coward, alcoholic and whiny”, unable to pull the trigger of a gun.
Mao’s “cultural revolution” in the mid-1960s strengthened his desire to establish a similar system in Peru. In 1979, he went underground with the project of carrying the revolution from the countryside to the cities and to overthrow the state through armed struggle. On May 17, 1980, the Path inaugurated the guerrilla war with a symbolic act: the burning of the ballot boxes in an Andean village on the eve of the first election organized after twelve years of military dictatorship.
Shown in a cage
Very organized, the guerrillas were initially well received by the population, to whom they distributed land. But the situation had degenerated with the assassinations of peasants and community leaders. The Maoist organization became more and more totalitarian, not hesitating to enlist children from the age of 5 in its militias or for the cultivation of coca, and to massacre the recalcitrant. Mobilized in 1982 to fight the Shining Path, the army has also been accused of crimes against civilians.
The arrest in 1992 in the suburbs of Lima of the rebel leader – shown to the press in a cage – had led to a rapid and marked decrease in the actions of his movement. In 2010, he married in prison Elena Iparraguirre, n ° 2 of the movement, arrested with him in Lima and sentenced to life imprisonment.
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