Abimael Guzmán: why in Peru they don’t know what to do with the body of the Shining Path leader

Abimael Guzmán passed away at the age of 86.

Abimael Guzmán passed away at the age of 86.

Peru debates what to do with its most uncomfortable death.

Abimael Guzmán, leader of the Maoist guerrilla Shining Path, which caused tens of thousands of deaths in the country between 1980 and 1992, died last Saturday at the age of 86 in the prison of the Naval Base of El Callao, the prison of maximum security in which he was serving a sentence for crimes of terrorism.

According to the autopsy, Guzmán died from a bilateral pneumonia caused by the action of a pathogen. The National Penitentiary Institute of Peru (INPE) reported that Guzmán refused to receive food and be transferred to a medical center, despite the fact that in recent weeks he had already had health problems.

Guzmán was not just another prisoner. Was the founder and absolute leader of Shining Path, the armed group that rose up in 1980 against the State in its attempt to turn Peru into a communist republic, unleashing a conflict whose fatalities are estimated at 69,000. Sendero’s actions still move Peruvian society, which recalls with horror a war in which state forces also perpetrated human rights violations.

His widow, Elena Iparraguirre, requested from the prison where she is serving a sentence for her membership of the Shining Path that Guzmán’s body be delivered to you.

But the courts have so far rejected his request, while the policemen who captured him ask that he be cremated and his remains thrown into the sea to prevent him from receiving the tribute of his followers.

The government says the final destination of the corpse it will be decided by the Prosecutor’s Office, but voices have also been raised that assure that the Executive cannot evade its responsibility in this matter.

The Minister of Justice, Aníbal Torres, asked the Prosecutor’s Office on Monday to order the cremation of Guzmán’s remains. Although the Prosecutor’s Office had reported in a previous communication that, in accordance with the General Health Law and the Procedural Code, “the remains must be delivered to duly accredited direct relatives.”

The final destination of the remains of one of the most reviled figures of the Peruvian 20th century has become a matter of state.

The legal mess


Guzmán in 2004.

What to do with Guzmán’s remains has delicate political but also legal implications.

At the moment they are in the El Callao morgue, where a committee of congressmen attended on Monday to verify that the body was indeed that of the Senderista leader.

His wife’s attempts to seize the body have so far been dismissed.

The first petition was made through Iris Yolanda Quiñones Colchado, also convicted for her activism in the Shining Path, who presented to the Prosecutor’s Office a power granted by Iparraguirre to take charge of the body. But the power of attorney had not been granted before a notary, so it was not considered valid.

Being incarcerated and held incommunicado, Iparraguirre was not able to go personally to claim the remains of her late husband, nor was she able to access a notary to certify her willingness for someone else to do so on her behalf.

The widow presented a first writ of habeas corpus that was also rejected by the First Permanent Preparatory Investigation Court of Callao.

In the official letter in which he asked the Prosecutor’s Office to incinerate the body, Minister Torres affirmed that burying Guzmán “could lead to damage to public order and security” due to the risk that Guzmán’s followers would want to “exalt and honor him ”.

Torres invoked the General Health Law and the General Cemeteries Law, and affirmed that if the corpses are not claimed by the family within the legal term, the Public Ministry must take charge of them, which would then have the power to donate them for scientific research or request their cremation.

But the widow, in comments cited by the website of the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef), which promotes amnesty for senderistas deprived of liberty, whom it considers “political prisoners”, blamed the Peruvian State for ” murder ”of her husband and “The disappearance of his body.”

The authorities reported that Iparraguirre would be transferred to a maximum security prison for having communicated with the outside world, bypassing the prison regime to which he is subjected.

Legal experts cited by the Peruvian press affirmed that the problem lies in the lack of a forecast on what to do with those convicted of terrorism who died in prison in Peruvian law.

The National Prosecutor, Zoraida Ávalos, admitted that Guzmán’s case confronts the authorities with “a regulatory vacuum.”

Why is it a problem for Pedro Castillo and his government

During the electoral campaign, the president of Peru, Pedro Castillo, received accusations of ties to the Shining Path, something that he has always rejected.

The alleged connections of some members of his government with the organization that Guzmán founded have become a source of criticism and have thinned the political climate.

Pedro Castillo, in an act, flanked by a military man.

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The Pedro Castillo government has said that the decision on Guzmán’s body will be made by the Prosecutor’s Office.

The prime minister, Guido Bellido, is under investigation for apology of terrorism, for his messages praising the historic senderista Edith Lagos and for his alleged links with some senderista leaders in the VRAEM area (Valle de los Ríos Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro) .

And the Minister of Labor, Iber Maraví, is accused of commanding Senderista guerrillas in Huamanga between 1980 and 1981. He denies it.

Aware of the controversy, the Presidency tried to mark distances when the news of Guzmán’s death was known, while Castillo reiterated his condemnation from his Twitter account “Firm and indeclinable” terrorism.

As a government we respect the law and the independence of powers. It is not for us to decide on the final disposition of the body of the terrorist Abimael Guzmán, as it is the responsibility of the Public Ministry. #GovernmentOfBicentennial

– Presidency of Peru 🇵🇪 (@presidenciaperu) September 12, 2021


“We cannot continue to say and tell, that we have a senderista ideology. False, totally false. We are men of the people, peasants, teachers, and patrolmen, and I will say it in any corner of the country, “the president reiterated this Monday in a speech in Tacabamba, according to the Peruvian press.

Santiago Roncagliolo, author of several books on the Shining Path, warned in an interview with BBC Mundo that “if the government makes any decision that can be interpreted as being close to the Shining Path, it will provoke a very visceral reaction against half of the Peruvians ”.

Minister Torres, who has taken the initiative to have Guzmán cremated, is starring these days in a public confrontation with Vladimir Cerrón and other leaders of the most radical sector of Peru Libre, whose most prominent figures have been accused by the parties to the right of the political arc of collusion with “terrorism”. Their differences once again highlight the internal divisions in the government.

“A threat in itself”

Until his arrest, which is just now 30 years old, Guzmán and his criminal organization held the Peruvian State in check.

Convinced that Peru should complete a revolution and become the new vanguard of world communism, this professor of Philosophy and Law pushed the organization into an insurgent campaign that especially affected the Peruvian peasant populations, largely in the Department of Ayacucho, although also in the capital, Lima, where there were bloody attacks and attacks against the electricity grid.

Gustavo Gorriti, journalist and author of several books on the Shining Path, told BBC Mundo that “the response of the State and a large part of society to a Maoist insurrection totally different from others that had occurred in Latin America was marked by ignorance ”. This explains that, according to Gorriti, “an analysis was not made of the figure of Guzmán, but a exorcism; it seems that his corpse is a threat in itself“.

Women cry next to the coffin of a police officer victim of Sendero.

The action of the Shining Path left thousands of deaths in Peru.

The capacity and threat of the Shining Path were almost eliminated with the capture of Guzmán and the rest of the members of his leadership.

Gorriti believes that, “when Guzmán is arrested, all the fear that he had generated turns into blind and permanent indignation.”

The thorny issue of Shining Path continues to cause a great divide across the Peruvian political spectrum, now very polarized.

In an article published in the newspaper La República, Salomón Lerner Febres, former president of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Peru, lamented that “from the right of the political spectrum the accusation of ‘terrorist’ is practiced in an indiscriminate way and, of course, cynical and liar, against anyone who questions the status quo. “

“From a certain left, including characters from the current government, the crimes of the Shining Path are trivialized,” he wrote.

What will happen then with Abimael Guzmán

As the hours go by, it seems clearer that the authorities will do everything possible to prevent the body from being handed over to the family and receiving any tribute.

Roncagliolo affirms that “the problem is that it is not about giving the body to an innocent wife, but we are talking about Sendero’s number two, that what she wants is to build a sanctuary for her husband, and that would be very painful for Peruvians. ”.

Woman carries a sign with the message "No to terrorism."

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The violence of the Shining Path continues to be a source of outrage for many Peruvians.

Roncagliolo doubts the legality of taking the body from the family. According to him, “Peru triumphed over Sendero with the instruments of the rule of law and that rule of law must continue to be respected.”

Gorriti, for his part, advocates that Iparraguirre be granted a exceptional permit to say goodbye to her husband.

“There are certain considerations of humanity that a democracy must have, even if those were not the values ​​that its enemies had.”

BBC Mundo

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