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Abimael Guzmán, leader of the terrorist group "Sendero Luminoso".
Abimael Guzmán, leader of the terrorist group, Shining Path. Photo: El Comercio/ZUMA Wire

The leader of Shining Path in Peru dies at 86 years old

Abimael Guzman founded the Peruvian terrorist group, Shining Path in 1969 and proceeded to lead a war against the government for the next 40 years.

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At the age of 86 and one day away from serving 29 years in prison (of a life sentence) the leader of the terrorist group Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), Abimael Guzman, died in his cell of "bilateral pneumonia." Considered the biggest "genocide" of Peru from the resulting armed conflict suffered by the Peruvian people between the 80s and 2000, Guzman's death takes place in a complicated context for the country.

Although a vast majority of the country recognizes Guzman's terrorist acts and repudiates them, some kind of demonstration in favor of the deceased is not ruled out. The Minister of Justice has considered that the best thing would be to cremate his remains. 

"The most appropriate way would be cremation, so as not to have a place for certain Peruvians to pay homage to this character," Anibal Torres told TV Peru. He also reminded that any expression in favor of Guzman would be considered apology for terrorism, punishable by prison sentences of four years or more.

Guzman was a philosophy professor at the San Cristobal de Huamanga National University in Ayacucho, a city in the central Andean region of Peru. A Marxist by conviction, during a trip to China, Guzman was inspired by communist leader Mao Zedong and upon returning to Peru, he encouraged other academics to join him at the university. 

With Shining Path, Guzman became a leader of the guerrilla group in the 1980s and waged a bloody insurgency against the Peruvian government. During the internal conflict, nearly 70,000 people were killed or disappeared in more than a decade at the hands of the terrorist group and the state. He was arrested in 1992 and was serving a life sentence for terrorism and treason.

Since July of this year, he presented health problems and was transferred to a hospital. Despite Guzman's arrest, some of the members of Shining Path are still active in the VRAEM, the largest coca producing region in the country.

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