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Peru museum of Maoist rebels bears warning for future

  • Published at 05:12 pm November 29th, 2016
Peru museum of Maoist rebels bears warning for future

In a gloomy room in Peru's anti-terrorism police headquarters lies a trove of old red flags and books of Marx, seized from jailed communist rebel leader Abimael Guzman. Now the police officers who curate this mini-museum in Lima fear a new generation could be dusting off the legacy of the leader of the dreaded Shining Path guerilla force.

In one corner, dressed in striped convicts' overalls with his trademark brown sunglasses and bushy black beard, stands a lopsided effigy of Guzman himself, shut in a cage. That is how many Peruvians prefer to think of the insurgent, who turns 82 on Saturday. His fighters waged a two-decade fight against the Peruvian state that authorities say left 70,000 dead.

[caption id="attachment_37024" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Picture taken at a museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote that keeps some personal belongings of the leader of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, and other stuff related to the group, in Lima, on October 27, 2016. A modest police museum keeps hundreds of personal belongings of the historical leader of the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzman, to show the threat posed by this fundamentalist guerrilla to Peru. / AFP PHOTO / Ernesto BENAVIDES Picture taken at a museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote that keeps some personal belongings of the leader of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, and other stuff related to the group, in Lima, on October 27, 2016 AFP[/caption] [caption id="attachment_37025" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Personal belongings of the leader of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, and other stuff related to the group, are displayed in a small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote dedicated to Guzman and his guerrilla, in Lima, on October 27, 2016. A modest police museum keeps hundreds of personal belongings of the historical leader of the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzman, to show the threat posed by this fundamentalist guerrilla to Peru. / AFP PHOTO / Ernesto BENAVIDES Personal belongings of the leader of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, and other stuff related to the group, are displayed in a small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote dedicated to Guzman and his guerrilla, in Lima, on October 27, 2016 AFP[/caption]

Bloody history

Among the collection - open for visits only by appointment - are personal effects taken from other Shining Path followers who were jailed over the years. Peru turned a page on a dark, bloody period in its history when Guzman was captured in 1992 and handed a permanent life sentence. But officials warn that now two political groups are trying to revive his legacy.

The Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights (MOVADEF) is a group of families of imprisoned guerrillas, considered by police to be the Shining Path's political wing. Another allied group is also active, police say: the People's Unity and Defense Front (FUDEPP).

"The aim of the museum is to show that the message of Guzman's cult was one of death and destruction," says Jorge Luis Pinzas, the retired police colonel who looks after the museum. "That is something that the young people who did not live through the time of terrorism have to learn, now that MOVADEF is trying to recruit them."

[caption id="attachment_37027" align="aligncenter" width="800"]A book that belonged to the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), is seen in the small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote dedicated to the group's leader Abimael Guzman, in Lima, on October 27, 2016. A modest police museum keeps hundreds of personal belongings of the historical leader of the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzman, to show the threat posed by this fundamentalist guerrilla to Peru. / AFP PHOTO / Ernesto BENAVIDES A book that belonged to the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), is seen in the small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote dedicated to the group's leader Abimael Guzman, in Lima, on October 27, 2016 AFP[/caption] [caption id="attachment_37028" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Books on Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Tse-Tung that belonged to the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), are seen in the small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote dedicated to the group's leader Abimael Guzman, in Lima, on October 27, 2016. A modest police museum keeps hundreds of personal belongings of the historical leader of the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzman, to show the threat posed by this fundamentalist guerrilla to Peru. / AFP PHOTO / Ernesto BENAVIDES Books on Chinese communist revolutionary Mao Tse-Tung that belonged to the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), are seen in the small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote dedicated to the group's leader Abimael Guzman, in Lima, on October 27, 2016 AFP[/caption]

Preying on poor

Peru has enjoyed a relative economic boom in recent years, but millions still live in poverty. And now growth is slowing. Pinzas says the Maoist political groups are preying on the young and poor to revive Guzman's fundamentalist message: that society should be rebuilt through violent struggle.

"Both groups are like wolves in sheep's clothing," says Pinzas. "They do not want a new society. They want to destroy it."

[caption id="attachment_37029" align="aligncenter" width="800"]Personal belongings of the leader of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, and other stuff related to the group, are displayed in a small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote dedicated to Guzman and his guerrilla, in Lima, on October 27, 2016. A modest police museum keeps hundreds of personal belongings of the historical leader of the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzman, to show the threat posed by this fundamentalist guerrilla to Peru. / AFP PHOTO / Ernesto BENAVIDES Personal belongings of the leader of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, and other stuff related to the group, are displayed in a small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote dedicated to Guzman and his guerrilla, in Lima, on October 27, 2016 AFP[/caption]

Political path

MOVADEF and FUDEPP have tried to run for office in elections but have met with legal obstacles. Authorities fear their political efforts are a prelude to more violence.

In September, a court barred them from seeking office until they formally renounce Guzman's teachings of violence. Authorities estimate some 400 members of what remains of Shining Path are engaged in drug trafficking in the remote southeast.

The two political groups meanwhile have some 2,500 members, 70% of the students, police say.

[caption id="attachment_37030" align="aligncenter" width="800"]A police office speaks about the leader of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, in a small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote that keeps some of his personal belongings and other stuff related to the group, in Lima, on October 27, 2016. A modest police museum keeps hundreds of personal belongings of the historical leader of the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzman, to show the threat posed by this fundamentalist guerrilla to Peru. / AFP PHOTO / Ernesto BENAVIDES A police office speaks about the leader of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, in a small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote that keeps some of his personal belongings and other stuff related to the group, in Lima, on October 27, 2016 AFP[/caption]

They demand a general amnesty for all who took part in the conflict on both sides, including Guzman. His lawyers meanwhile have tried unsuccessfully in the courts to reclaim his book collection.

The library occupies the walls of a whole room and includes books by Karl Marx, Mao, Lenin and more. The books offer a tour through the political mind of the philosophy professor turned guerilla.

There is even an old travel guide- "How To Travel Through Europe On Five Dollars a Day!!"

[caption id="attachment_37031" align="aligncenter" width="800"]A dummy behind bars representing the leader of the terrorist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, is displayed in the small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote that keeps some of Guzman's personal belongings and other stuff related to the group, in Lima, on October 27, 2016. A modest police museum keeps hundreds of personal belongings of the historical leader of the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso, Abimael Guzman, to show the threat posed by this fundamentalist guerrilla to Peru. / AFP PHOTO / Ernesto BENAVIDES A dummy behind bars representing the leader of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), Abimael Guzman, is displayed in the small museum at the anti-terrorist direction Dircote that keeps some of Guzman's personal belongings and other stuff related to the group, in Lima, on October 27, 2016 AFP[/caption]