Peru���s New First Family Leaving Behind Rural, Andean Home

The war began on May 17, 1980, the eve of Peru’s first democratic elections after twelve years of military rule. That night, a small column of Senderistas, as Guzmán’s followers were known, burned down the registrar’s office in Chuschi, a town of mostly Quechua-speaking peasants in the Ayacuchan countryside. In the weeks and months to follow, Guzmán’s militants carried out actions of little consequence, torching administrative buildings, knocking over power lines, and raiding landed estates.

At one point during the war’s first year, they hung dead dogs from lampposts throughout the capital city of Lima, a reference to “running dogs,” pejoratively used by Mao to refer to those who abetted the forces of imperialism. In this case, the dead dogs were a rebuke of Deng Xiaoping, the Chinese leader who had begun steering his country away from Maoism and toward market reforms.

q">>By the end of 1980, the Senderistas had added what Guzmán called ‘selective terrorism’ to their list of actions.

By the end of 1980, the Senderistas had added what Guzmán called “selective terrorism” to their list of actions. These included, specifically, public executions of abusive landowners, local authorities, and cattle rustlers. These actions initially captured the sympathies of many indigenous peasants, who had long been clamoring for justice against local wrongdoers.

Everything seemed to be going Guzmán’s way. His rural insurgency had captured the attention of the nation, the curiosity of the Peruvian and international left, and the support of the indigenous peasantry. It was the last time he would have all three. By late 1982, as his militants expanded throughout the countryside, the scope of their terror expanded. They not only continued to kill cattle rustlers and landowners, but they also added other customary indigenous authorities, called varayoqs, to their list of victims, threatening to replace these leaders with party-imposed Senderistas. For many villagers, this was a bridge too far.

Beginning in 1983, peasants throughout Ayacucho began revolting against the Shining Path. In the village of Lucanamarca, indigenous villagers killed a Shining Path column leader. In response, Guzmán’s rebels visited bloody vengeance. In April 1983, a column of Shining Path guerrillas went from door to door, ripping men, women, and children from their homes and forcing them onto the ground in the main square. The fortunate ones received a single bullet to the head or chest. The less fortunate ones were hacked to death with machetes or doused with boiling water. The rebels attempted to burn the survivors alive, but they had to abandon the plan when a child sentry alerted them to an incoming army advancement. They fled the scene, leaving sixty-nine peasants — among them seventeen children and one six-month-old baby — dead or dying.

For many, the Lucanamarca massacre would come to symbolize Shining Path’s — and by extension, Guzmán’s — capacity for evil. Nor was it an isolated event. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, Shining Path fighters gunned down civilian leaders, bombed still-occupied buildings, and killed anyone who stood in the way of their ideology and platform.

Yet it was the indigenous peasantry that bore the brunt of the group’s wrath. Shining Path terrorized the Andean countryside, hacking unarmed men, women, and children with machetes, slitting their throats, and bludgeoning them to death with large stones. While several in the party’s hierarchy oversaw this destructive campaign, none had more influence than Guzmán, its chairman and supreme leader. He appeared to welcome the violence, embracing it as necessary for Peru’s liberation. “What good does it do to mourn the dead?” he asked his followers after Shining Path had initiated its terror campaign in the countryside. “The entire history of the peasantry has been drenched in blood. The blood spilled fertilizes the revolution.”

Reflecting years later on the Lucanamarca massacre, Guzmán admitted that there had been “excesses,” but ultimately justified his group’s actions as necessary in order to demonstrate that Shining Path was “a tough bone to gnaw.” Asked by the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission about his party’s 1992 decision to gun down María Elena Moyano, a black activist, community organizer, and fellow leftist who had been vocal in her criticism of Shining Path’s terror tactics, Guzmán allowed only that his fighters’ decision to dynamite her corpse while her body was still warm had been a “useless excess.”

q">>Shining Path terrorized the Andean countryside, hacking unarmed men, women, and children with machetes, slitting their throats, and bludgeoning them to death with large stones.

The state had blood on its hands as well. Peruvian security forces carried out their own reign of terror against anyone suspected of Shining Path sympathies. Once again, the peasantry experienced some of the worst atrocities. In 1985, army soldiers raided the Ayacuchan village of Accomarca, which they believed to be sympathetic to Shining Path. The soldiers lined up dozens of people before going down the line and shooting them dead. Some of the villagers still lay wounded when the soldiers set fire to their bodies. Before leaving, the soldiers burned the village to the ground. Once the smoke had cleared, seventy-one villagers — most of them who had nothing to do with Shining Path and roughly a third of them children — had been murdered.

Then, on September 12, 1992, Peru’s intelligence police captured Guzmán during a raid on his safe house in an upscale Lima neighborhood. Captured alongside his second-in-command and future (second) wife Elena Iparraguirre, Guzmán surrendered without putting up a fight. Authorities brought the rebel leader before a military tribunal of hooded judges, who sentenced him to life in a high-security prison. A subsequent civilian retrial upheld the conviction. The insurgency continued in various forms without Guzmán at the helm, but he eventually acknowledged that his capture marked the effective end of the armed phase of the insurgency. Today, a severely weakened splinter of Shining Path remains active in the coca-producing zones of the Peruvian jungle, but they claim no formal ties or allegiance to their former leader.

Source : https://jacobinmag.com/2021/09/the-shining-paths-abimael-guzman-helped-keep-peru-in-the-past

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