Peru cremates body of Shining Path leader Guzman

·2-min read

Peruvian authorities said Friday they had cremated the body of Shining Path guerrilla leader Abimael Guzman, a symbolic end to a violent chapter of history that claimed tens of thousands of lives over two decades.

Guzman, dubbed the "Pol Pot" of the Andes for his embrace of the Cambodian leader's genocidal methods, died aged 86 on September 11 at a high security prison where he was serving a life sentence.

He was arrested in 1992.

Guzman's remains had been the subject of a tug-of-war between his also-imprisoned widow Elena Iparraguirre -- a former Shining Path second-in-command, and the state.

She had wanted the body turned over to her for burial.

But officials were concerned that Guzman's gravesite could become a rallying point for any remaining followers, and there was widespread support for his body to instead be cremated and the ashes spread in the Pacific Ocean.

Last Friday, Congress approved a bill giving authorities the final word over the remains of prisoners convicted of "terrorism" in case of a public security threat.

And on Thursday, Peru's prosecution service ordered the remains be cremated within 24 hours, signaling the closure of the official investigation into his death.

The cremation took place Friday at a Naval hospital outside Lima, the interior ministry said.

Present were Interior Minister Juan Carrasco and Justice Minister Anibal Torres.

- 'Remember the victims' -

"Today, more than ever, we remember the thousands of Peruvians killed by terror," Carrasco tweeted on the occasion.

The body was transferred from the morgue to the crematorium under strong police protection.

The interior ministry released images of a corpse wrapped in plastic being transferred to a black bag before being placed in the furnace.

A former philosophy professor, Guzman was the architect of the Maoist guerrilla group's brutal 20-year attempt to overthrow the Peruvian government from 1980 to 2000.

Among his cruelest crimes was ordering the massacre of 117 residents of an Andean village in 1984.

Guzman and Iparraguirre were captured together in September 1992 and married in 2010, despite being held in different prisons.

He was reported to have died from double pneumonia -- an infection that inflames both lungs and has been associated with Covid-19.

Since his death, rightwing lawmakers have been clamoring to see the body amid suspicions that the country's leftist new President Pedro Castillo sympathizes with the Shining Path -- an assertion he flatly denies.

The authorities did not reveal what would be done with his ashes.

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