From Academic Kids

Manuel Rubén Abimael Guzmán Reynoso (born 3 December, 1934), a former professor of philosophy, was the leader of the Maoist insurgency Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso in Spanish) which was active in Peru from the late 1970s to the early 1990s. Wanted on charges of terrorism, Guzmán was captured by the Peruvian government in 1992 and sentenced to life imprisonment.


Early life

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Abimael Guzmán

Guzmán was born in Mollendo, a port town in the province of Islay, in the Peruvian region of Arequipa, about 1000 km south of Lima. He was the illegitimate son of a well-off merchant, the winner of the national lottery who had six children by three different women. Guzmán's mother, Berenice Reynoso, died when her son was only five years old.

From 1939 to 1946 Guzmán lived with his mother's family. After 1947 he lived with his father and his father's wife in the city of Arequipa, where he studied at a private Catholic secondary school. At the age of 19 he became a student at the Social Studies department of San Agustín National University, in Arequipa. His classmates at the university later described him as shy, disciplined, obsessive, and ascetic. Increasingly attracted by Marxism, his political thinking was influenced by the book Seven Essays on the Interpretation of the Peruvian Reality of José Carlos Mariátegui, the founder of the Communist Party of Peru.

At Arequipa, Guzmán completed bachelor degrees in philosophy and law. His dissertations were entitled "The Kantian Theory of Space" and "The Bourgeois Democratic State." In 1962, Guzmán was recruited as a professor of philosophy by the rector of San Cristóbal of Huamanga University in Ayacucho, a city in the central Andes of Peru. The rector was Dr. Efraín Morote Best, an anthropologist who some believe later became the true intellectual leader of the Shining Path movement. Encouraged by Morote, Guzmán studied Quechua, the language spoken by Peru's indigenous population, and became increasingly active in left-wing political circles. He attracted several like-minded young academics committed to bringing about revolution in Peru. He visited the People's Republic of China for the first time in 1965. After serving as the head of personnel for San Cristóbal of Huamanga University, Guzmán left the institution in the mid-1970s and went underground.

In the 1960s, the Peruvian Communist Party splintered over ideological and personal disputes. Guzmán, who had taken a pro-Chinese rather than pro-Soviet line, emerged as the leader of the faction known as the "Shining Path" (Mariátegui's wrote once: "Marxism-Leninism is the shining path of the future"). He adopted the nom de guerre President Gonzalo and began advocating a peasant-led revolution on the Maoist model. His followers declared Guzmán, who cultivated anonymity, to be the "Fourth Sword of Communism" (after Marx, Lenin, and Mao). In his political declarations, Guzmán praised Mao's development of Lenin's theses regarding the role of imperialism in propping up the bourgeois capitalist system. He claimed that imperialism ultimately "creates disruption and is unsuccessful, and it will end up in ruins in the next 50 to 100 years". Guzmán applied this criticism not only to North American imperialism, but also to what he termed the "social imperialism" of the Soviet Union.

Guerrilla Campaign

The Shining Path movement was at first largely circumscribed to academic circles in Peruvian universities. In the late 1970s, however, the movement developed into a guerrilla group centered around Ayacucho. In May of 1980, the group launched its war against the government of Perú by burning the ballot boxes in Chuschi, a village near Ayacucho, in an effort to disrupt the first democratic elections in the country since 1964. Shining Path eventually grew to control vast rural territories in central and southern Perú and achieved a presence even in the outskirts of Lima, where it staged numerous attacks. The purpose of Shining Path's campaign was to demoralize and undermine the government of Perú in order to create a situation conducive to a violent coup which would put its leaders in power. The Shining Path targeted not only the Peruvian army and police, but also government employees at all levels, other leftist militants such as members of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), workers who did not participate in the strikes organized by the group, peasants who cooperated with the government in any way (including by voting in democratic elections), and ordinary middle-class inhabitants of Perú's main cities. The Peruvian Commission of Truth & Reconciliation later estimated that the resulting civil war led to the deaths of some seventy thousand people, approximately half of them at the hands of the Shining Path and a third at the hands of the Peruvian state. [1] (

The movement promoted the writings of Abimael Guzmán as Gonzalo Thought, a new theoretical understanding that built upon Marxism, Leninism, and Maoism. In 1989, Guzmán declared that the Shining Path had progressed from waging a guerrilla war to waging a "war of movements." He further argued that this was a step towards achieving "strategic equilibrium" in the near future. Guzmán claimed that such an equilibrium would manifest itself by ungovernability under the "old order." When that moment arrived, Guzmán believed that the Shining Path would be ready to move on to its "strategic offensive."


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The safehouse in Lima where Guzmán was captured

In 1992, during the first administration of President Alberto Fujimori, the Peruvian National Directorate Against Terrorism (DINCOTE) began casing several residences in Lima because agents suspected that terrorists were using them as safehouses. One of those residences, in the middle-class neighborhood of Surco, had been operating as a ballet studio. The DINCOTE operatives routinely searched the garbage taken out from the house. The house was supposedly inhabited by only one person, the dance teacher Maritza Garrido Lecca, but it was soon noticed that the household produced more garbage than one person could account for. Furthermore, agents found discarded tubes of cream for the treatment of psoriasis, an ailment that Guzmán was known to have. On 12 September, 1992, an elite unit of the DINCOTE raided the Surco residence. On the second floor of the house, they found and arrested Guzmán and eight others, including Laura Zambrano and Elena Iparraguirre, Guzman's female companion. (This episode inspired Nicholas Shakespeare's novel The Dancer Upstairs).

At the time of capture, the police seized Guzmán's computer, in which they found a very detailed register of his armed forces and the weapons each regiment, militia and support base had in each region of the country. Guzmán had registered that, in 1990, the Shining Path had 23,430 members armed with approximately 235 revolvers, 500 rifles and 300 other items of military hardware such as grenades. The government tried to portray Guzmán as a crazed psychopath and common criminal, publicizing photos of him in striped prison garb, and promised that Sendero Luminoso's rank and file who turned themselves in would get lenient treatment.

Trial and Imprisonment

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Guzmán as a prisoner

Guzmán was tried by a court of hooded military judges under provisions of the draconian anti-terrorism laws adopted by Fujimori's government. After a three-day trial, Guzmán was sentenced to life imprisonment and incarcerated at the San Lorenzo Island naval base, in Callao, the port of Lima, where he is currently. Subsequently, he is said to have proceeded to negotiate with presidential advisor Vladimiro Montesinos in order to receive some benefits in exchange for helping the Peruvian government put an end to the Shining Path's militant activities. Guzmán appeared several times on Peruvian television and in 1993 he publicly declared "peace" with the Peruvian government. This declaration split the Shining Path and raised questions about the organization's future. Some within the party accepted it as a sign of defeat. Others held that it was either a forgery or an insincere statement made under duress.

Although the vast majority of Peruvians are convinced Guzmán is responsible for the most violent period in modern Peruvian history, more than 5,000 individuals presented an appeal to Peru's Constitutional Court in 2003 asking that the verdicts against Guzmán and more than other 1800 prisoners convicted of terrorism be voided. The court agreed, declaring that the military trials had been unconstitutional and ordering new trials before civilian courts. The new trials began in 2003. Since then, more than 400 prisoners who had been found guilty by military courts have been freed. The majority are still awaiting trial.

Guzmán's re-trial was scheduled to begin on 5 November, 2004. After the three judges, Dante Terrel, Carlos Manrique, and José de Vinatea, failed to prevent Guzmán from disrupting the preeliminary hearing by shouting slogans and gesturing defiantly to the spectators, several politicians and members of the press accused them of being too lenient towards Guzmán. Two of the judges subsequently recused themselves. Guzmán's trial will therefore have to begin again for the third time.

External links

fr:Abimael Guzman Reynoso


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