Abimael Guzmán, founder of Shining Path, Peru, dies

The historic leader of the defeated Peruvian Maoist guerrilla Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzmán, died aged 86 in a maximum security prison where he had been serving a life sentence since 1992, his lawyer told AFP on Saturday 11.

“The Doctor. Abimael Guzmán passed away, the Navy informed his wife Elena Yparragurre about the death,” lawyer Alfredo Crespo said by telephone.

“I don’t know what time the death occurred. She asked the authorities to hand over the remains,” he added.

The prison authority stated in a note that Guzmán’s death took place “on Saturday, September 11, at approximately 6:40 am (8:40 am GMT) at the Callao Naval Base Maximum Security Detention Center (…) due to complications in his state of health”.

Guzmán’s wife is imprisoned in the Virgen de Fátima penitentiary in Lima, sentenced to life in prison for terrorism. She was number two on the Shining Path.

The guerrilla leader’s death was announced the day before the 29th anniversary of his capture, on September 12, 1992.

The former university professor of philosophy, who suffered health problems in July, spent his last 29 years in prison for being the intellectual responsible for one of the bloodiest conflicts in Latin America, with 70,000 dead and missing in two decades (1980 -2000), according to data from the 2003 Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

Guzmán ended his days as Peru’s most famous prisoner, without realizing his plan to reproduce in the country with blood and fire the model of his icon Mao. The cause and details of his death were not disclosed.

He was serving a life sentence in the maximum security prison at the Callao Naval Base, near Lima, but would be transferred to an ordinary prison in the coming months.

He embraced the Maoism and methods of Cambodian leader Pol Pot and forged the image of a tough, ruthless revolutionary willing to order the massacre of villagers in the Peruvian Andes as punishment for not supporting him.

In 2006, during a trial whose hearings lasted more than a year, one of his unknown sides was revealed when his lieutenant Oscar Ramírez, comrade ‘Feliciano’, accused him of being a “coward” and of failing to pull the trigger of a weapon.

“A coward, an alcoholic and a whiner,” said ‘Feliciano,’ who led a radical Shining Path faction that continued the war after its leader’s arrest, disregarding his order to end the conflict.

Abimael Guzmán gained prominence when, in the early 1960s, he left the chair of philosophy at the San Cristóbal de Huamanga University, in Ayacucho, a region in southeastern Peru where poverty has become an indelible mark.

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