The recently deceased Manuel Rubén Abimael Guzmán Reinoso was probably responsible for the death of more than 40.000 persons in Peru during the Shining Path Guerrilla War (1979-1992). It was thirteen years of an awful conflict plus the anxiety of terrorism. All due to a university professor of Philosophy and later the leader of this war, who also was known as President Gonzalo.

He was born in early December 1934, in the same birthplace of Nobel Prize Mario Vargas Llosa, but they ended up with different destinies. His father had ten children from various mothers, but his mother decided that Abimael from the town of Moliendo should go to study elementary school in the nearby port of El Callao, and later to Arequipa to La Salle Highschool. Since young, he was shy, obsessive but disciplined to learn things. However, he learned from the wrong teacher and book: José Mariátegui, creator of the Peruvian Communist Party and his book.

At the National University of San Agustin, he studied Law and Philosophy, graduating in the early 60s. He was then hired as a professor in the Universidad Nacional San Cristobal de Huamanga. The dean of the University was the second Marxist inspiration for Abimael, he also encouraged Guzman to learn Quechua, the native language of this region of Los Andes. They believed in rejecting the European influence in Peru and returning to aboriginal life.

In 1965 Abimael visited China in the height of Chairman Mao's Cultural Revolution. After his return to Peru, he left the University and went to the Ayacucho mountains in order to follow his communist dreams according to the Mariátegui doctrine of a Shining Path. So, he adopted the alias President Gonzalo and his movement Shining Path was then called Sendero Luminoso in Spanish.

In the 70s he started countryside indoctrination and small subversive activities. But it was in 1980 when he burned electoral ballots in the town of Chuschi trying to interrupt the first democratic election of Peru after 1963. Then, he gathered more followers and society intruders of his Popular Army which controlled vast territories that were even close to Lima, the country’s capital. Most poor and discontented people were the main backbone of his guerrilla fight.

The leading attacks against the Peruvian government were terrorist assaults. They killed police and public officers, destroyed small military stations, and the worst, they were killing peasants or anyone who disagreed with Abimael’s ideas. Of course, excesses happened when the armed forces tried to counterattack Shining Path; that added to the confusion of who was who producing many innocent casualties including several journalists.

One of the main problems with the Shining Path and the peasants was the impossibility to let this people freely sell their products. Abimael's followers only let them self-consumption and avoid any kind of profit. This, and countrymen killings, lead peasants to support the government and the setting of private peasant armies called Ronderos. At the beginning of the 90s the president Alberto Fujimori not only opened the Peruvian economy but became authoritarian, he also built a strong policy against Abimael’s guerrilla and helped the Ronderos.

Another Shining Path mistake was a tiny but significant detail, the guerrilla usually killed and hung black dogs at the entrance of each controlled town, this is a Maoist costume for a despicable animal in China and for trying to avoid the feeding source for the local Asian populations. But in the Andes, black dogs are well-seen companions with a positive mystical influence.

Finally, the worst mistake was to increase the killings of peasants that were not followers and the destruction of everything along their path, even useful infrastructure for Peruvians. Even more, Shining Path started to finance itself not only with extorsion, kidnapping but also with drug trafficking.

In September 1992 Abimael was captured without shooting any single bullet in a house in Lima while gathering money for Shining Path. A trial by military judges sentenced him to life in El Callao prison. Several unsuccessful appeals were tried in early 2000. Abimael made scandals on each trial, however the sentence was always confirmed. President Gonzalo and almost 1800 imprisoned followers never recognized their mistakes, and they never expressed any word of repentance for their victims.

After 29 years in jail, he peacefully died in September 2021, the nowadays Peruvian government incinerated and spread his ashes at an unknown grave preventing a possible peregrination site. Finally, it could be said that he paid the price of his crimes, nevertheless, many of his victims still believe he has not.