Peru: Who Will Lose with the Death of Shining Path Founder, Abimael Guzman?

Ollantay Itzamná
Abimael Guzmán, founder and leader of Shining Path, diedOn September 11, 2021, at the Callao Naval Base, Peru, the founder and leader of the terrorist group Shining Path (SL), Abimael Guzman, died at the age of 86, on the eve of his 29th anniversary of his arrest. He was serving a life sentence.

Is Abimael Guzman the only bloodthirsty perpetrator in Peru?

According to the report of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, carried out at the request of the Peruvian State, after having “militarily defeated” terrorism in Peru, 54% of the more than 69 thousand violent deaths during the internal armed conflict experienced by that country are attributable to the SL. Approximately 46% of the total number of deaths are the responsibility of the Armed Forces (FFAA).

The anti-subversive actions of the Armed Forces were as terrifying as those of the SL, because their mission was to attack the terrorists and protect the Peruvian population. But they murdered close to 30,000 innocent Peruvians in defense of “democracy and the homeland”.

SL was made up of indigenous people and peasants from the most socioeconomically submerged territories of the country. “El pensamiento Gonzalo” found fertile ground in highly vulnerable territorial and social pockets resulting from the Peruvian Creole Republic, which was and is designed to enrich a few with the common goods and the work of the great majorities.

What motivated the emergence of the Shining Path in Peru?

One of the main reasons that led young students to take up this path as their only vehicle for individual and collective emancipation was the impoverished conditions in which almost the entire peasant population survived in the highlands of Peru.

The almost viceregal political and economic centralism of Lima had almost completely annulled the condition of humanity of the peoples and peasant sectors of “deep” Peru. Despite the attempts at change of the “Agrarian Reform” of 1969. In these conditions, SL apologists became acclaimed messengers of the “Shining Path revolution” to establish the promised homeland.

In the 1970s, Peru’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was close to 7.5 billion dollars. At the death of Abimael Guzman, the Peruvian GDP amounted to more than 220 billion dollars, but more than 90% of it was controlled by the private sector. Today, nearly 12 million Peruvians are still living in poverty.

The Shining Path, to a great extent, was largely sponsored by the opulent Peruvian Creole oligarchy that denied any possibility of a dignified subsistence to the native peoples, peasants and natives of Peru. In this context, the Maoist, Leninist and mariateguista messianic promise of Gonzalo’s philosophy became socially ignited.

Who loses with the death of Abimael Guzmán in Peru and what do they lose?

In 1992, Abimael Guzman and the SL leadership were captured. Since then, the State and the entire media apparatus of the Peruvian oligarchy, build a triumphalist and intimidating political-military narrative against any attempt of insubordination or political uprising in the country.

Alberto Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos remained in power for a decade (1990-2000), committing atrocities of corruption and crimes against humanity, showing their war trophy: “Abimael Guzman and the Shining Path leadership alive and caged”.

Those of us who have lived in Peru during the Fujimori dictatorship remember that Guzman was the living trophy that Fujimori showed to the Peruvian people every so often, not only to remind them of his efficient anti-terrorist struggle, but also to punish any insubordination against the neoliberal system. Keeping Guzman alive and imprisoned was a fruitful strategy for the neoliberal Peruvian oligarchy.

With the death of Abimael Guzmán, the local oligarchy, its political actors and communicators do not know how to proceed because their fetish used to protect themselves against any attempt of social insubordination has died. Therefore, they are reluctant to believe that this death has actually occurred!

But, the most aberrant and archaic thing about the oligarchy and its analysts/journalists is that when they learned that Guzman had died, they began to debate on what to do with the body to “prevent Guzman from resurrecting in the impoverished towns of Peru and returning in the millions”. Modern legal reason presumes that the penalty ends with the death of the condemned, and that the decision on the fate of his remains is up to his relatives.

We do not know what path will be taken by those who, with their opulence, have promoted Guzman and SL, now that their fetish for maintaining their neo-liberal political and economic hegemony has died. The only certainty is that, now, the structural socio-historical causes that motivated the adhesion of thousands of Peruvians to Gonzalo’s philosophy are still in force, and even more charged than 50 years ago. And this is the central issue that Peruvians must debate and solve, not what to do with Guzman’s body.

Translation by Internationalist 360°