Peru to cremate Shining Path leader’s remains, ending weeks of controversy

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Peruvian authorities will cremate the body of Abimael Guzmán – the founder of the Shining Path rebel group that killed tens of thousands of people in the 1980s and 1990s – and spread his ashes in an undisclosed location.

The cremation, announced on Thursday, would put an end to nearly two weeks of controversy over what to do with the body of one of Peru’s most despised figures. Guzmán died in prison on September 11 at the age of 86 from an infection while serving a life sentence for terrorism.

Guzmán’s widow Elena Iparraguirre, herself a former leader of the Shining Path who is also in jail, had tried to cremate the body but keep the ashes, a lawyer told Reuters last week.

Lawyer Sebastián Chávez Sifuentes did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Authorities wanted to disperse Guzmán’s ashes to avoid a burial site that could become a rallying point for supporters.

Cremation was made possible by a new law, passed on September 16, which allows Peruvian authorities to cremate and dispose of the ashes of those who die after being convicted of terrorism.

Peru’s attorney general said in a statement announcing the decision to dispose of Guzmán’s ashes within 24 hours.

Guzmán was a longtime former philosophy professor and Marxist whose Shining Path Maoist group launched a bloody war in 1980 in Ayacucho, an impoverished Andean region, in an attempt to overthrow the Peruvian state.

The government responded by sending the army to Ayacucho, where officers often struggled to distinguish between peasants and militants.

The result killed around 70,000 Peruvians, according to a government commission. More than half were killed by the Shining Path and a third were killed by government forces. Almost half of them were indigenous citizens of Ayacucho.

Guzmán was captured in a bourgeois neighborhood in Lima in 1992 and had been in prison ever since.

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