Guzmán, Abimael (1934–)

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Guzmán, Abimael (1934–)

Abimael Guzmán Reynoso is the founder and head of the Shining Path guerrilla organization, which launched a people's war on May 17, 1980, that convulsed Peru for twelve years. The Shining Path declined dramatically after his capture on September 12, 1992. He earned degrees in philosophy and law (with theses on the philosopher Immanuel Kant and the bourgeois state) at the University of San Agustín de Arequipa, where he became a member of Peru's Communist Party. He then began teaching in 1962 at the University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga, in Ayacucho, which became his power base.

Once in Ayacucho, he revitalized the local party and developed a strong following among students, many of indigenous origins, as well as some faculty. There he met university student Augusta de la Torre, daughter of the local Communist Party leader, whom he married in 1964 and who was a member of Shining Path's Central Committee until her mysterious death in 1988. While at the university, he assumed positions as director of the teacher training school and general secretary, enabling him to influence a generation of students with his radical Marxist-Maoist perspective, reinforced by three trips to China during the Cultural Revolution. Separated from the university in 1975, he went underground to organize and conduct the people's war. By the early 1990s, the government was on the ropes and Guzmán became overconfident; a new counterterrorism approach led to his capture. Sentenced by a military court to life imprisonment, Guzmán came to advocate a political solution, a position he has repeated during retrials in civilian courts beginning in 2003 and culminating with his reconviction in late 2006.

See alsoPeru, Revolutionary Movements: Shining Path; Peru: Truth Commissions.


Stern, Steve J., ed. Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.

Bacca, Benedicto Jiménez. Inicio, desarrollo, y ocaso del terrorismo en el Perú: El ABC de Sendero Luminoso y el MRTA ampliado y comentado. Lima, Peru: Impr. Sanki, 2000.

                                       David Scott Palmer