The leader of the brutal Shining Path insurgency in Peru, passed away in a military hospital on Saturday

Abimael Guzmán, the leader of the brutal Shining Path insurgency in Peru who was captured in 1992, died on Saturday in a military hospital after an illness. He was 86.

Mr. Guzmán died at 6:40 a.m. after suffering from an infection, Justice Minister Aníbal Torres said.

Mr. Guzmán, a former philosophy professor, launched an insurgency against the state in 1980 and presided over numerous car bombings and assassinations in the years that followed. Guzmán was captured in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison for terrorism and other crimes.

President Pedro Castillo tweeted that Guzmán was responsible for taking “countless” lives.

“Our position condemning terrorism is firm and unwavering. Only in democracy will we build a Peru of justice and development for our people,” he said.

Even so, Mr. Castillo has faced criticism over alleged links of some of his Cabinet ministers to the Shining Path. Prime Minister Guido Bellido has been investigated by authorities over his alleged sympathy for the group. Last week, a media outlet made public police records from the 1980s that describe Labour Minister Iber Maraví as a Shining Path member and a fugitive.

“We do not forget the horror of that time, and his death will not erase his crimes,” Economy Minister Pedro Francke said.

Mr. Guzmán preached a messianic vision of a classless Maoist utopia based on pure communism, considering himself the “Fourth Sword of Marxism” after Karl Marx, Vladimir Ilyich Lenin and Mao Zedong. He advocated a peasant revolution in which rebels would first gain control of the countryside and then advance to the cities.

Mr. Guzmán’s movement declared armed struggle on the eve of Peru’s presidential elections in May 1980, the first democratic vote after 12 years of military rule.

Throughout the 1980s, the man known to his followers as Presidente Gonzalo built up an organisation that grew to 10,000 armed fighters before his capture inside a Lima safehouse in September 1992, by a special intelligence group of the Peruvian police backed by the United States. Since then, he was housed in a military prison on the shores of the Pacific, that was built to hold him.

By the time Mr. Guzmán called for peace talks a year after his arrest, guerrilla violence had claimed tens of thousands of lives in Peru, displaced at least 600,000 people and caused an estimated $22 billion in damage.

“Unlike other leftwing insurgent groups in the region, (the Shining Path) targeted civilians and actively sought to terrorise them, both in the cities and in the countryside,” Noam Lupu, associate director of the Latin American Public Opinion Project at Vanderbilt University, said. “The fear that this generated in Peru was extraordinary, and it has marked Peruvian politics and society since. Shining Path’s violence is a big part of why Castillo’s is the first explicitly leftist presidential administration in Peru since the 1980s.”

A truth commission in 2003 blamed the Shining Path for more than half of nearly 70,000 estimated deaths and disappearances caused by various rebel groups and brutal government counterinsurgency efforts between 1980 and 2000.

Yet it lived on in a political movement formed by Mr. Guzmán’s followers that sought amnesty for all “political prisoners,” including the Shining Path founder. The Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Right failed, however, to register as a political party in 2012 in the face of fierce opposition from Peruvians with bitter memories of the destruction brought by the Shining Path.

In its songs and slogans, the Shining Path celebrated bloodletting, describing death as necessary to “irrigate” the revolution.

Its militants bombed electrical towers, bridges and factories in the countryside, assassinated mayors and massacred villagers. In the insurgency’s later years, they targeted civilians in Lima with indiscriminate bombings.

For 12 years, Peruvian authorities could not crack the Shining Path’s ranks, organised in a near-impenetrable vertical cell structure. Mr. Guzmán was nearly captured at a safehouse in Lima in June 1990, but slipped away.

A January 1991 police raid in Lima found a videotape showing Mr. Guzmán and other rebel leaders mourning at the funeral of his wife, Augusta La Torre, known as “Comrade Norah.” About 15 years Mr. Guzmán’s junior, Ms. La Torre was No. 2 in the Shining Path’s command structure before dying under mysterious circumstances in 1988.

After Ms. La Torre died, she was replaced as No. 2 by Elena Iparraguirre, alias “Comrade Miriam,” who later, also became Mr. Guzmán’s wife.

Mr. Guzmán married Ms. Iparraguirre in 2010 at the maximum-security prison inside the naval base in Lima where he was serving a life term. Ms. Iparraguirre, also captured in 1992, was brought from the women’s prison for the ceremony.

Mr. Guzmán was initially sentenced to life imprisonment by a secret military tribunal, but Peru’s top court ruled in 2003 that the original sentencing was unconstitutional and ordered a new trial. He also received a life sentence at the 2006 retrial.

The Shining Path was severely weakened after Mr. Guzmán’s capture and his later calls for peace talks. Small bands of rebels have nevertheless remained active in remote valleys, producing cocaine and protecting drug runners.

Mr. Guzmán was born the illegitimate son of a prosperous trader in Tambo, Arequipa, in Peru’s southern Andes on Dec. 3, 1934.

He studied law and philosophy at the University of San Agustin in Arequipa, where he wrote two graduate theses: “The Theory of Space in Kant” and another on law titled “The Democratic-Bourgeois State.”

“Mr. Guzmán was an extraordinarily brilliant man, very studious, very disciplined,” recalled Miguel Rodriguez Rivas, one of his professors.

Mr. Guzmán took a teaching job in 1963 at the state University of San Cristobal de Huamanga in Ayacucho, an impoverished central Andean capital neglected for centuries by Peru’s traditional power elite in coastal Lima.

In Ayacucho, he joined the pro-Chinese Bandera Roja political party, or “Red Flag,” becoming head of its “military commission” and visiting China in 1965.

Later returning to Ayacucho, Mr. Guzmán discovered that political rivals had expelled him from the party and he formed his own splinter group.

Over 10 years, Mr. Guzmán patiently planned before launching his war on what he characterised as Peru’s “rotten and antiquated” state, taking the government by surprise.

Peruvian officials were debating what to do with Mr. Guzmán’s body.

Mr. Torres told state television that they would study the possibility of cremation and warned that “paying homage to or mobilizing in the memory of Abimael Guzmán” would be considered an apology for terrorism.

Sebastián Chávez, Guzmán’s lawyer, said that by law the decision belongs to his wife, Iparraguirre, who is in a prison in Lima.

“She will decide what steps will be taken,” he said.

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