People celebrating the death of Abimael Guzmán on Saturday, at the door of the prison, in Lima.Martin Mejia / AP
The Lima Art Museum repatriated 31 pieces of popular art from the United States. It was 2017. The antiterrorist police, upon seeing the paintings, asked the prosecution for an investigation for apology to terrorism. The paintings portrayed people displaced by the violence of the 1980s and 1990s, and the attacks by the Shining Path and the armed forces on the peasant community of Sarhua in Ayacucho, the region where the Abimael Guzmán uprising began. Months later, a newspaper headlined on the front page:
Pro-Senderista artistic exhibition stops
”. After an anthropological survey, the museum removed them from customs. Shortly after, the Ministry of Culture declared this traditional art cultural heritage to compensate those affected.
It is just one example of the pernicious shadow that Guzmán, who died last Saturday at the age of 86, has exercised over Peruvian public life.
Retired politicians and military men often encourage fear of terrorism and the defunct Maoist organization, even though it was beheaded in 1992 and its leadership sentenced to life imprisonment in a military prison.
The fear strategy is used because it functions as a mechanism of political control, ”says historian Cecilia Méndez, a professor at the University of California at Santa Bárbara.
Even after death he is still present.
Some launch the theory that the greatest terrorist in the history of Peru is still alive and has been freed by the Government of Pedro Castillo.
'Abimael Guzmán, the intellectual of terror', by Santiago Roncagliolo
Some remnants of the Shining Path remained active, although in 1999 they abandoned Guzmán's goal of "overthrowing the state." Its new leaders chose to dedicate themselves to extortion and drug trafficking. “It was a terrorist sect based on the cult of Guzmán's personality and on a Leninist and Maoist dogmatic reading of political power. For more than 20 years, no armed group has vindicated Guzmán or committed terrorist acts in his name. Despite this, politicians, opinion leaders and a majority of the press speak of the
as if there were armed columns attacking left and right, ”says Méndez, author of the chapter
The roads of terrorism in Peru
. recently published in The Cambridge History of Terrorism.
The historian explains that in these two decades she seeks to silence - stigmatizing as "terrorists" - political opponents, social leaders and those who question the status quo, "censoring even artistic production," she adds. That was the case with the paintings held at customs.
Historian José Ragas emphasizes that, as part of the specter of terrorism, a strategy (“crude, but consistent”) has been to disseminate adulterated images of public figures or politicians from the left to disqualify them.
They are presented next to Guzmán or with the hammer and sickle -the icon of the Shining Path-.
“In January 2018, Natalia Majluf, then director of the Lima Art Museum, was unjustly accused of apology to terrorism, and an image of her was circulated next to a portrait of Abimael Guzmán, when the original photo frame corresponded to Simón Bolívar ”, recalls the professor at the Universidad Católica de Chile.
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Ragas points out that the same thing happens with leftist politicians such as the former presidential candidate Verónika Mendoza, and recently with Prime Minister Guido Bellido: his detractors spread doctored photos in which they add the terrorist leader. Méndez warns that the specter of terrorism has taken on new intensity when President Castillo assumes the government: "With the aggravating circumstance that the conservatives are joined by liberal and even progressive opinion leaders."
For the university professor, the recurrent use of the alleged "terrorist threat" occurs because there has not been a reconciliation process in the country, despite the efforts of the Truth Commission, an entity that tried to clarify the crimes and disclose a common story.
"Guzmán has died without apologizing and Fujimori is serving his sentence without showing regret for his crimes," he describes.
”This long period of violence has left very real traumas on people.
Instead of promoting overcoming them, trauma is used politically, manipulating fear, government after government ”.
Military in political life
The Truth Commission reported that the violence left more than 69,000 dead, and the Shining Path was responsible for more than half of them. In turn, the forces of order caused thousands of fatalities and more than 20,000 disappeared. On the other hand, the Fujimori regime used the fight against the Shining Path as a pretext for an Army detachment to assassinate opponents, including union and university leaders. Dozens of soldiers have faced trials for human rights violations between 1980 and 2000, and soldiers and police officers who fought terrorism have come to Parliament in parties of the right and extreme right.
"The right wing has fostered a post-conflict story that focuses on the Shining Path attacks with an emphasis on how they were defeated, and leaves aside problematic elements such as the massacres perpetrated by the military: it does not rescue lessons for the future," says the anthropologist Carlos Ernesto Ráez. According to the researcher, conservative groups tacitly associate the free market economic model - imposed after Fujimori's self-coup in 1992 - with the victory over Shining Path. "That is why anyone who questions the economic model is classified as pro-senderista or terrorist," he notes.
In this climate, a prosecutor must decide what to do with Guzmán's remains.
The opposition hopes they will be cremated to avoid an eventual site of veneration for the sectarian and violent ideology it created.
The terrorist's widow has claimed his body.
That is to be decided.
Whatever happens, its shadow will continue to hover over Peruvian news.
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