Capture of the century: the second death of Abimael Guzmán, the greatest murderer in the history of Peru

Abimael Guzmán, the greatest murderer in the history of Peru, died a year ago and his remains were reduced to ashes, the same ashes that now envelop his figure, practically forgotten in a country to which he left a legacy of death and terror as a leader and terrorist gang founder Luminous Path.

He died at the age of 86 from pneumonia. Alone, without pain or glory, and carrying on his conscience -if he had one- the death of thousands of Peruvians, while he was serving a life sentence in a maximum security military prison in Callao, where he had been held since 1992.

The day after his death, exactly 29 years after his capture, the front pages of the main Peruvian newspapers celebrated the death of the “monster”, the “devil”, the “greatest genocide in the history” of the country, which sounded as a kind of final slab to the stage of violence and mortality that hit Peru between 1980 and 2000.

“No one felt pain, no sorrow, not even his family or the few remaining relatives, who did not want to pick up the body,” the writer Umberto Jara, author of the book, reminds Efe “Abimael: The path of terror” (Planeta, 2021).

Although, as a reflex act of the collective soul, the news of his death set fire to painful memories of those who, under a Maoist flag, embodied the worst atrocities of a long war, the national debate soon focused on what to do with his body, before the fear that the site where he might be buried might become a place of pilgrimage.

Finally, after 13 days in the morgue, his remains were cremated in an act that now seems to have buried a story that many already consider archived. About his ashes, nobody knows what became of them. Nor has it aroused interest.

a legacy of death

As the architect of hundreds of attacks, his legacy was reduced to the enormous wounds that still hurt those who lived, in their own skin, the orgy of violence and horror of the internal armed conflict, in which 69,000 people died, according to the Commission of Truth and Reconciliation.

As a political actor, his Marxist-Leninist-Maoist preaching did not catch on. After his capture, the last remnants of Sendero moved to the jungle valley of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro rivers (VRAEM), but they replaced their ideological influence with the power of money that they achieve with the control of the succulent machinery of cocaine trafficking.

“His death was like the end of an archaic political cycle that corresponded to the 20th century, the void of a political space that has not been filled,” reflects Jara, for whom Guzman he was a “blind” and out of date man, “a fanatic who was out of touch with reality” for devising a revolution “that was only possible in the delirium of his mind”.

The man, born in December 1934 in the Arequipa region, promoted the Communist Party of Peru when he was a professor of philosophy at a university in Ayacucho, seeking military training and financing in China and the Soviet Union.

After the creation of the terrorist group, he adopted the alias “Comrade Gonzalo” to go underground and launch his first armed action in the 1980 general elections, in Peru’s return to democracy after years of military rule.

Guzman begins to build the Shining Path in the example of Mao (Tse-Tung) of the sixties who no longer existed and if we add to that that he was out of perceiving that Russia was no longer that super revolution that he had imagined, that the wall of Berlin fell, only a man who has locked himself in the script of fanaticism could have had that notion”, insists Jara.

And Gonzalo Thought?

For the author, who keeps in his hands a manuscript of more than 400 pages written by the terrorist himself, Guzman He was not an ideologue or intellectual, but rather a repeater of classic authors of communism and a “psychopath” lacking empathy for the pain of others.

“When one reviews his life well, he realizes that there is no doctrinal work of his, that thought does not exist Gonzalo“, he maintains after recalling that the so-called “slogan” of the “gonzalo thought” was coined by Augusta La Torre, who was the first wife of Guzman and played a key role in the founding and leadership of the Maoist guerrilla.

In Jara’s eyes, the terrorist found in Marxism-Leninism a “pretext to turn his deep resentment into a political option”, a resentment sown in his childhood years, stripped of any type of affection and roots for being “a son abandoned” and always “an outsider”.

One year after his last breath and thirty from the beginning of the end of luminous paththe researcher insists on the need to revive the memories of the past in order to understand Peru today, where terrorism has practically been annihilated but where, he warns, poverty persists.

And this, he adds, if it is not attended to, it can be a breeding ground for extremist tendencies that channel just demands into violence, a path that, rightly so, “will never be able to bear valid fruit for a society.” (EFE – Carla Samon Ros)

Capture of the century: the second death of Abimael Guzmán, the greatest murderer in the history of Peru