Peru: “Chairman Gonzalo” gets life —again

But, as we noted as long ago as 2003, the Shining Path guerilla movement has fractured, with a new ultra-hardline element refusing to accept the ceasefire call issued (whether under coercion or not) by Abimael “Chariman Gonzalo” Guzmán upon his arrest in 1992. From Latinamerica Press, Oct. 19:

The founder of the Shining Path, a Maoist insurgency, that led a campaign of terror throughout Peru betweeen 1980 and 2000, and was responsible for many of the 69,000 deaths in that period, has been sentenced to life in prison.

Abimael Guzman, 71, was sentenced by a civilian court Oct. 13. It was the third trial the group’s leader faced. Under ex-President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000), Guzman was sentenced to life in prison by a secret military tribunal in 1992, but that sentence was discarded in 2003 for violation of due process. His 2004 re-trial ended in a mistrial as chaos erupted in the courtroom when he and his top commanders began yelling communist phrases at television cameras.

This time cameras were banned from the courtroom at the Callao Naval Base prison, a maximum-security prison housing Guzman (since 1993) and Fujimori’s ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

Guzman was tried with 11 of his top commanders, including Elena Iparraguirre, his lover and second-in-command. She was also sentenced to life in prison.

Peru�s Truth and Reconciliation Commission blamed the Shining Path for more than 30,000 of the deaths that occurred during the insurgency, which had another subversive actor, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA).

Victims of the April 1983 Lucanamarca massacre, in which Shining Path guerillas brutally murdered 69 Andean campesinos — including many children — waited outside the courthouse for news of the sentencing.

Guzman was captured in 1992 in a safehouse rented by a Lima ballet dancer. His lawyer, Manuel Fajardo is appealing the sentence. His case will be heard in last instance by the Supreme Court. The other Shining Path’s top commanders received sentences of 24-35 years, which many have called lenient.

See our last posts on Peru’s dirty war, and Sendero Luminoso’s stateside cheerleaders.