Shining Path Seeks Legal Face 20 Years After Its Leader’s Arrest

By Dialogo
September 13, 2012

Abimael Guzmán, the historic leader of the Shining Path guerrillas, served 20 years in prison on September 12. The capture of Guzmán and the guerrillas´ general staff marked the decline of the Shining Path, but its remnants survived in alliance with drug trafficking in coca-growing valleys of southeastern Peru and, according to authorities, a branch is acting politically in labor unions in Peru, with a moderate line.

The government believes that the Shining Path is currently seeking to revive itself through the Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (Movadef), which it considers the legal arm of the Shining Path members.

“The Movadef is not a political arm of the Shining Path because it doesn´t have a body, that is to say a mobilized military force,” Mirko Lauer, a political analyst and newspaper columnist for The República said to AFP.

“The Shining Path’s military structure is defeated and impeded by its own leader, who said ‘no armed fighting while I’m imprisoned’,” indicated Lauer, recalling Guzmán’s call from jail to impose “a pause to the war.”

The existence of remnants of the Shining Path in the coca-growing valleys of southeastern Peru, a geographical region known as the VRAEM (the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valleys) is not linked to Guzmán, who rejected them for the associations with drug trafficking.

“The Shining Path of the VRAEM is usurped by some drug gangs that use the letterhead of SL to wash their face and not pass for criminals,” declared Lauer to AFP.

According to other experts in the conflict, there is a feeling that the new Peruvian generations mostly ignore what the war represented and the terror that the Shining Path provoked.

“This is because there are no political parties or debates to remember the harmful experience that the Shining Path signified for the history of Peru,” Fernando Rospigliosi, a sociologist scholar of violence in Peru, who was the Interior Minister in 2004, told AFP.

“The investigative work of the Commission for Truth and Reconciliation (2003) has been minimized. That is the instrument that was to generate debate and prevent the resurgence of political groups like the Path,” added Rospigliosi.

Police intelligence unit arrested the Shining Path leader on September 12, 1992, in a house in Lima, during an operation in which not a single shot was fired.

Since then, Guzmán now 77, lives in isolation in a prison on a naval base in the port of Callao, where he is serving a life sentence.

Guzmán posed a “peace agreement” towards regaining his freedom, a year after his arrest in 1993 but his initiative was rejected by the successive governments of Peru. In that context, Movadef emerged, led by Guzmán’s lawyers: Manuel Fajardo and Alfredo Crespo.

Last January, Movadef tried to register as a political party. The initiative failed because the Peruvian authorities argued that the group “possessed an ideology that uses violence as a praxis to take power.”