Abimael Guzmán, leader of the Shining Path, dies

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The founder of Shining Path, the Maoist-inspired terrorist group that caused panic in the 1980s and 1990s in Peru, died this Saturday at the age of 86. Abimael Guzmán was serving a life sentence in a maximum security military prison in Lima, where he had been a prisoner since 1992.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission, the entity that was created to clarify what happened in those fiery years, determined that Guzmán, also known as comrade Gonzalo, was responsible for the death of 30,000 Peruvians. According to the authorities, he died at 6.40 in the morning “due to complications in his health.” In recent weeks, it turned out that he refused to eat food.

In its day, the then Peruvian government, chaired by the autocrat Alberto Fujimori, focused all its efforts on finding Guzmán. The terrorist leader had turned into a ghost. On September 12, 1992, he was captured in a house in the Surquillo neighborhood, in Lima, by a special intelligence group. Authorities showed him to the press two weeks later, caged and wearing a black and white striped suit. That image became an icon.

From that day on, he was only seen on a few occasions, during the legal proceedings to which he was subjected. Those responsible for the prison never allowed him to grant an interview. The head of intelligence with Fujimori, Vladimiro Montesinos, visited him often in his cell during his first years in prison. From those encounters a book was born. Montesinos fell out of favor shortly after due to the multiple corruption that was discovered and ended up imprisoned in the same prison as Guzmán, the maximum security prison at the Callao Naval Base.

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