October 14, 2006
For the second time, Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman has been sentenced to life in prison for waging a war of terrorism against Peru. (Because his first trial was conducted in a special anti-terrorism court in which the judges' identities were hidden, human rights organizations called the proceedings unfair.) Guzman had a belated change of heart regarding the use of violence to achieve political ends after he was captured in 1992. Nevertheless, he is not sorry for all the death, destruction, and mayhem he wrought upon Peru: "I am a revolutionary combatant and totally reject being a terrorist." Because of the civil war he launched, about 70,000 people died or "disappeared" in Peru between 1980 and 2000, though some of those people were killed by government forces. See CNN.com. When I first went to Peru in 1994, people would correct me if I used the expressions "rebels" or "guerrillas" to refer to the Shining Path; they made sure I understood that the Shining Path was a terrorist group. Indeed, that group's blood lust and utter disregard for human life put it in a category totally apart from Peru's other insurgent organization, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or even from the vicious FARC rebel movement in Colombia. Guzman used to be a philosophy professor, and adopted an extreme Maoist attitude during the 1960s. He is a very intelligent, charismatic, and ruthless leader. He should be thankful that the death penalty has been essentially abolished in Peru, because if anyone deserves to be executed, he does.