LIMA (EFE) – Peru’s Abimáel Guzmán, the founder of a Maoist guerrilla movement-cum-death cult that sometimes dynamited the bodies of just-murdered functionaries and hanged canines from lamposts as warnings to “capitalist dogs,” also had his soft, sappy and romantically poetic side.
The man known by his fanatic followers as “President Gonzalo” revealed some of his secrets in a hand-written ode dedicated to his wife, who died in 1988 under mysterious circumstances. A video seized in 1992 by the security forces, after Guzmán’s arrest, shows the wake of Augusta La Torre, better known as “Comrade Norah” and the Shining Path’s second-in-command.
Her body was never found.
In a document written by Guzmán, to which EFE had access, the guerrilla leader reviews the bloody civil war sparked by Shining Path in Peru and discusses his decision to call an end to the conflict.
On May 17, 1980, the Maoist guerrilla group launched its uprising with an attack in Chuschi, a small town in Ayacucho province.
Peru’s truth commission concluded that the Shining Path was responsible for more than half of the nearly 70,000 deaths attributed to politically motivated violence between 1980 and 2000, and the group caused an estimated $25 billion in economic losses.
Though terrible, the toll was far short of the 1 million Peruvians some Shining Path spokespeople over the years predicted would have to die during the ushering-in of the utopian peasant-based regime of “pure” Marxism-Maoism. The group was considered practically defeated by the time of Guzmán’s arrest, though “remnant” isolated bands have continued with sporadic activity in recent years.
Guzmán says in the document that “in June 1993,” five years after Norah’s death, “meeting as the Historical Permanent Committee, you (a reference to his late wife), Miriam (his current companion, Elena Iparraguirre) and I decided to end the people’s war.”
At the unusual meeting, with Guzmán counting the dead Augusta La Torre as being present, if only allegorically, the details were hammered out for the peace agreement that the Shining Path leadership signed months later with President Alberto Fujimori’s administration.
The document, full of symbolism, offers a window into the personality of the Shining Path leader, who was perceived as cold and distant, a man who lived a clandestine and mysterious existence from the early 1980s until his arrest in 1992. Guzmán’s ode, entitled “In Memoriam of Norah,” sheds light on the unknown poetic side of an ideologue known for his rigidness, extremism and solemnity.
“Ayacucho, an afternoon in April ... blue skirt, beige blouse and the beautiful woman emerges from the girl walking at seventeen. And our life together opened up, love and struggle, growing struggle and deeper love, solid, fertile,” Guzmán writes. One of Guzmán’s most closely guarded secrets is how his wife died on Nov. 14, 1988.
While Guzmán and Iparraguirre, Shining Path’s No. 2 leader and Guzmán’s lover, say that Norah died from heart problems, Oscar Ramírez Durand, another member of the leadership, claims that she hanged herself due to depression.
At the most recent hearing in the ongoing trial of Guzmán and 11 other leaders of the guerrilla group, Ramírez Durand called for an investigation into the death of Augusta La Torre, who was a member of the organization’s Permanent Committee.
Guzmán, who was born 70 years ago in Arequipa, reveals that his romance with Comrade Norah took place “amid the clamor of the formation of Bandera Roja (Red Flag), which was the seed for Shining Path.”
The Maoist leader recalls that during his February 1964 honeymoon with her, “the daunting battle began,” noting that they visited the Inca city of Machu Picchu, in Cuzco, Lake Titicaca, in Puno, and Arequipa.
He describes the trip they took together “to the China of Mao Zedong,” where she became a “committed communist who returned ready for wartime.”
Guzmán reveals that after his wife’s death, her remains “were placed in safe-keeping because they belonged to the party,” and a traditional Andean funeral rite was performed.
Norah was the only member of the Shining Path awarded the “Order of the Hammer and Sickle.”
In early 2005, Guzmán initiated the process for marrying Iparraguirre when officials decided to separate them after 10 years in prison together.
Prosecutors are seeking life prison terms for Guzmán and the rest of the Shining Path’s leadership for homicide and terrorism against the state, as well as demanding $909 million in reparations in a mass trial that started Sept. 26 and is expected to take a long time to complete.