PERU PROCESSES THE DEATH OF ABIMAEL GUZMÁN ~ The New Yorker

What do you do with the body of a terrorist?

By Daniel Alarcón

September 19, 2021

Abimael Guzmn behind bars next to a security guard.
Abimael Guzmán, shown after his arrest, in 1992, spent twenty-nine years in prison before his death, on September 11th, at the age of eighty-six.Photograph by Hector Mata / AFP / Getty

A couple of weeks after Abimael Guzmán, the founder and leader of the terrorist group Shining Path, was arrested, in September, 1992, he was presented to Peru and the world in a cage, wearing an ill-fitting, black-and-white-striped jumpsuit that did little to flatter his stocky frame and middle-aged paunch. Aside from a 1978 mug shot, and a few videos found in a raid of a Shining Path safe house, this was the first time that the country had been able to lay eyes on its tormentor, now trapped and humiliated, on display like an animal in a zoo. Guzmán, then fifty-seven, had been, for the better part of a decade, the most wanted man in the country, the personification of a battered nation’s collective nightmare. That day, his scruffy beard was tinged with gray, his eyes hidden behind dark glasses, but his hair was still black and his voice, seething with rage, performed defiance. From behind the bars of his cage, he shook his fist and shouted at the gathered press. “Some think it’s a big defeat,” he bellowed. “They’re dreaming! We say to them, ‘Dream on’!” The television cameras rolled, photographs were taken, and then, after a few more minutes of Guzmán ranting, curtains were drawn over the prisoner, and the show was over. A year later, Guzmán publicly admitted defeat and asked for a peace treaty from the government of Alberto Fujimori, and Shining Path largely collapsed within a matter of months. As for Guzmán, he spent the next twenty-eight years in prison, until September 11th, when he died, at age eighty-six.

Among the many armed Latin-American insurgencies of the seventies and eighties, Shining Path was a totalitarian outlier, a Maoist cult of personality constructed to glorify Guzmán’s messianic fantasies, which sometimes appeared to have little to do with Peru. In 1980, as most Peruvians celebrated the return of democracy by voting in the country’s first elections in seventeen years, Shining Path militants burned ballot boxes in Chuschi, a small town in the department of Ayacucho. On the day after Christmas of that same year, while most Peruvians spent the holidays with their families, Shining Path members marked Mao’s birthday by killing street dogs in Lima and hanging them from street lamps in the colonial center. This macabre spectacle, ordered by Guzmán, was a protest against Deng Xiaoping’s revisionism, a gory act of cruelty that was perhaps more perplexing than terrifying to the average Peruvian.

Terror would come, of course, and, by the time of Guzmán’s capture, Shining Path had claimed tens of thousands of lives, primarily among the rural and indigenous poor for whom he claimed to be fighting. The terrorists had almost no public support, nor did they require it: their mystique was born of fear, which stemmed from their fanatical commitment to violence. In the early eighties, Shining Path focussed its savagery on the countryside, but by the middle of the decade it had shifted its campaign to Lima, the center of the country’s political and economic power, with car bombs, kidnappings, and attacks on police and military installations. An uncle of mine had the misfortune of living in an apartment whose windows overlooked a navy post, the walls of which had been painted with a warning: “No Stopping Under Penalty of Death.” My uncle and most of his neighbors in the building prepared for a car bomb by sticking electrical tape across their windows in a giant “X,” to protect against the shattered glass that they knew could come at any time.

In the final years before Guzmán’s arrest, Shining Path was responsible for more than nine hundred armed attacks in the city, while residents grew accustomed to power outages caused by bombings. Already Shining Path members had decimated the interior of the country, their terror sparking a brutal government response, which was characterized by a wanton disregard for the rule of law or basic human rights, and whose victims, once again, were primarily the rural and indigenous poor. By 1993, the year Guzmán admitted defeat, some six hundred thousand Peruvians had been displaced by the violence. According to the country’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, set up in 2001 to investigate the roots and consequences of the conflict, about seventy thousand Peruvians were killed or disappeared between 1980 and 2000, with nearly half of those deaths directly attributable to Shining Path, and almost a third to the Peruvian military and police.

“If Guzmán had died a year ago, it wouldn’t have been so explosive,” Alberto Vergara, a political scientist and co-editor of “Politics After Violence,” told me. The leftist President Pedro Castillo has been in office for only a couple of months, after narrowly winning, in the second round of voting, by forty-four thousand votes. His rival for the Presidency, Keiko Fujimori, alleged fraud but failed to produce evidence, and eventually, after a weeks-long stalemate, conceded. Meanwhile, Castillo endured incessant attacks from sectors of the right, which accused him and his allies of being Shining Path sympathizers, a fairly common strategy, known in Peru as terruqueo, which is used to delegitimize all manner of leftists and progressives. In the case of Castillo, however, the accusations are not baseless. A member of his cabinet has ties to Shining Path dating back to the early nineteen-eighties, and his prime minister has made sympathetic remarks about the group, which is what makes the death of Guzmán now particularly fraught: What might Castillo’s handling of it reveal about the President and his administration? “What’s remarkable is not that we happen to have a leftist government at the moment,” Vergara said. “What’s remarkable is that we have a leftist government with members who appear to sympathize with Shining Path.”

Media reports of Guzmán’s death began to filter out on the morning of September 11th. The Minister of Health, Hernando Cevallos, who was visiting a covid-19 vaccination site in Lima, was asked by a reporter to comment on the passing of a man responsible for so much bloodshed. “It’s sad, like the death of anyone in the country,” Cevallos said. “No one can applaud anyone’s death, no matter their past.” Aside from this tin-eared response, there was no statement from Castillo’s administration for hours. The hashtag #SinCuerpoNoHayMuerto (Without a body, there is no dead man) popped up on social media to fill the vacuum, along with wild speculation that Guzmán hadn’t died at all but had been secretly released by Castillo. Finally, at 12:30 p.m. local time, there was something official: a blandly worded tweet from the President condemning terrorism and praising democracy. So underwhelming was the response that, on Sunday, a small group of congress members visited the morgue to see the body for themselves, and then held a press conference to confirm that Guzmán was indeed dead.

By then, another question had emerged: What to do with Guzmán’s body? Normally, after the death of an inmate, the body is turned over to the family or the next of kin. But the leader of the Shining Path, of course, is no ordinary inmate. According to Romy Chang, the director of the master’s program in criminal law at the Catholic University in Lima, the norms can be changed depending on the nature of the offense. “Drug trafficking and corruption are terrible crimes, but their motive is profit. Terrorism is different because at its core is an ideology,” she said. In any case, it wasn’t clear, initially, who would claim the body. Guzmán’s first wife, Augusta La Torre, second-in-command of Shining Path, died mysteriously, in 1988. In 2010, the imprisoned Guzmán was allowed to marry Elena Iparraguire, who had taken La Torre’s place, both as Guzmán’s partner and within the leadership hierarchy of Shining Path. Like Guzmán, she had been sentenced to life in prison for terrorism. But on Sunday the 12th another woman appeared at the morgue, with power of attorney from Iparraguire, to claim the body. Iris Yolanda Quiñónez Colchado, alias Comrade Bertha, was a former Shining Path militant, who had been convicted of the 1992 murder of a police officer but was later released. The authorities denied her request.

José Carlos Agüero is a historian and writer whose memoir, “Los Rendidos,” tells the story of his parents, Shining Path militants whose devotion to Guzmán led to their deaths. I asked Agüero if the death of Guzmán, a man who had been the direct cause of so much pain for him, brought any sense of satisfaction. It didn’t. “For those of us who are interested in democracy, he had already died,” Agüero said. “I understand why some people are celebrating, of course.” As to the question of the body: “The very idea that his tomb could become a pilgrimage site, that he could be reinterpreted as a martyr, is offensive,” Agüero said, but, despite these misgivings, he hoped the state would turn the body over to Guzmán’s family or its representatives. “Even if it scares us. That’s what it means to be a democrat, to be above the barbarism that they and others inflicted. Because in the end it isn’t the body that’s offensive. It’s the damage, the pain he caused, that offends. Shining Path’s victims are all around us.”

In a sense, Guzmán’s body has always been both a mystery and a matter of national security: for years, no one knew for certain if he was dead or alive, or where he might be hiding. As early as 1983, some speculated that he was living abroad, seeking treatment for a chronic kidney condition. Meanwhile, the militants believed in his mystical powers, and sacrificed accordingly: they sang war songs even as they died, while Guzmán directed Shining Path’s war on the Peruvian state from comfortable safe houses in middle-class Lima neighborhoods. The decision to present him in a cage after his arrest was perhaps a way of demystifying his body as well. This monster, who appeared in Shining Path prison murals as an all-seeing god, stood before the Peruvian people, his victims and his devotees alike, who could now see for themselves that Guzmán was just an ordinary man.

On Thursday afternoon, local media reported that a proposal to cremate the terrorist leader’s body had been discussed at a cabinet meeting, and the majority of Castillo’s ministers had voted against it. That night, Congress hastily passed a measure to allow the state to cremate the bodies of terrorists and those convicted of treason who die in custody. While there were a few abstentions, the majority of the parties voted in favor, except Castillo’s Perú Libre, which voted against. The President had fifteen days to sign the bill into law or send it back to Congress, but in the end, perhaps eager to move on from an uncomfortable topic and attend to the pressing concerns of the living, Castillo wasted little time pondering the decision. By Friday afternoon, the bill was signed. There are still exams and DNA tests pending, and Iparraguire, Guzmán’s widow, has filed a habeas corpus in a bid to delay the cremation, accusing the state of murdering her husband. According to the new law, when this is all cleared up, the Ministry of Justice will have twenty-four hours to cremate Guzmán’s body, dispersing his ashes as it sees fit.

Media reports of Guzmán’s death began to filter out on the morning of September 11th. The Minister of Health, Hernando Cevallos, who was visiting a covid-19 vaccination site in Lima, was asked by a reporter to comment on the passing of a man responsible for so much bloodshed. “It’s sad, like the death of anyone in the country,” Cevallos said. “No one can applaud anyone’s death, no matter their past.” Aside from this tin-eared response, there was no statement from Castillo’s administration for hours. The hashtag #SinCuerpoNoHayMuerto (Without a body, there is no dead man) popped up on social media to fill the vacuum, along with wild speculation that Guzmán hadn’t died at all but had been secretly released by Castillo. Finally, at 12:30 p.m. local time, there was something official: a blandly worded tweet from the President condemning terrorism and praising democracy. So underwhelming was the response that, on Sunday, a small group of congress members visited the morgue to see the body for themselves, and then held a press conference to confirm that Guzmán was indeed dead.

By then, another question had emerged: What to do with Guzmán’s body? Normally, after the death of an inmate, the body is turned over to the family or the next of kin. But the leader of the Shining Path, of course, is no ordinary inmate. According to Romy Chang, the director of the master’s program in criminal law at the Catholic University in Lima, the norms can be changed depending on the nature of the offense. “Drug trafficking and corruption are terrible crimes, but their motive is profit. Terrorism is different because at its core is an ideology,” she said. In any case, it wasn’t clear, initially, who would claim the body. Guzmán’s first wife, Augusta La Torre, second-in-command of Shining Path, died mysteriously, in 1988. In 2010, the imprisoned Guzmán was allowed to marry Elena Iparraguire, who had taken La Torre’s place, both as Guzmán’s partner and within the leadership hierarchy of Shining Path. Like Guzmán, she had been sentenced to life in prison for terrorism. But on Sunday the 12th another woman appeared at the morgue, with power of attorney from Iparraguire, to claim the body. Iris Yolanda Quiñónez Colchado, alias Comrade Bertha, was a former Shining Path militant, who had been convicted of the 1992 murder of a police officer but was later released. The authorities denied her request.

José Carlos Agüero is a historian and writer whose memoir, “Los Rendidos,” tells the story of his parents, Shining Path militants whose devotion to Guzmán led to their deaths. I asked Agüero if the death of Guzmán, a man who had been the direct cause of so much pain for him, brought any sense of satisfaction. It didn’t. “For those of us who are interested in democracy, he had already died,” Agüero said. “I understand why some people are celebrating, of course.” As to the question of the body: “The very idea that his tomb could become a pilgrimage site, that he could be reinterpreted as a martyr, is offensive,” Agüero said, but, despite these misgivings, he hoped the state would turn the body over to Guzmán’s family or its representatives. “Even if it scares us. That’s what it means to be a democrat, to be above the barbarism that they and others inflicted. Because in the end it isn’t the body that’s offensive. It’s the damage, the pain he caused, that offends. Shining Path’s victims are all around us.”

In a sense, Guzmán’s body has always been both a mystery and a matter of national security: for years, no one knew for certain if he was dead or alive, or where he might be hiding. As early as 1983, some speculated that he was living abroad, seeking treatment for a chronic kidney condition. Meanwhile, the militants believed in his mystical powers, and sacrificed accordingly: they sang war songs even as they died, while Guzmán directed Shining Path’s war on the Peruvian state from comfortable safe houses in middle-class Lima neighborhoods. The decision to present him in a cage after his arrest was perhaps a way of demystifying his body as well. This monster, who appeared in Shining Path prison murals as an all-seeing god, stood before the Peruvian people, his victims and his devotees alike, who could now see for themselves that Guzmán was just an ordinary man.ADVERTISEMENT

On Thursday afternoon, local media reported that a proposal to cremate the terrorist leader’s body had been discussed at a cabinet meeting, and the majority of Castillo’s ministers had voted against it. That night, Congress hastily passed a measure to allow the state to cremate the bodies of terrorists and those convicted of treason who die in custody. While there were a few abstentions, the majority of the parties voted in favor, except Castillo’s Perú Libre, which voted against. The President had fifteen days to sign the bill into law or send it back to Congress, but in the end, perhaps eager to move on from an uncomfortable topic and attend to the pressing concerns of the living, Castillo wasted little time pondering the decision. By Friday afternoon, the bill was signed. There are still exams and DNA tests pending, and Iparraguire, Guzmán’s widow, has filed a habeas corpus in a bid to delay the cremation, accusing the state of murdering her husband. According to the new law, when this is all cleared up, the Ministry of Justice will have twenty-four hours to cremate Guzmán’s body, dispersing his ashes as it sees fit.


MAKE PREDICTIONS

Predictive models forecast what will happen in the future. These models work because natural events often follow pattern

To calculate the probability of a future outcome, most predictive models factor in historical data along with what we know about rules and relationships among the variables involved.

Because they deal with the future, which hasn’t happened yet, all predictive models have a degree of uncertainty. So most predictive models include some way to communicate the nature of that uncertainty.Sources of Uncertainty in Predictive Models

  • Human error in data collection
  • Accuracy of measuring equipment
  • Precision of data collection device
  • Historical conditions no longer apply
  • Random behavior of the system itself, no pattern
  • Important variables left out of the model
  • The predictive model itself influences the outcome
Uncertainty in Prediction Models

Weather Forecasts: A Familiar Predictive Model

NASA Satellite

When you check the weather forecast, you are relying on a predictive model—a model that has come a long way since the days when we relied on grandma’s trick knee.

Modern weather forecasting uses a staggering amount of technology. Weather stations and satellites work around the clock to collect climate data. Powerful supercomputers plug this data into mathematical equations that make up complex computer simulations.

Because earth’s atmosphere is chaotic and highly variable, supercomputers can’t just run one simulation and call it a day. They have to run many, many thousands of simulations, plugging in different values within a range for things like temperature and air pressure.

This method, called Monte Carlo Analysis, helps account for uncertainty. Thanks to robust computer modeling, the prediction accuracy of weather events, like the path a hurricane will take, has increased threefold since the 1980s.

The Wisdom of Crowds

Many modern prediction methods use ensemble forecasting, a type of Monte Carlo analysis that combines the results of multiple independent forecasts. These forecasts come from groups of scientists around the world who have all developed their own models, each using a slightly different approach to predict outcomes.

By combining the collective opinions of a group of experts, we get a better forecast. This broader view helps account for variability, and it makes trends more visible. But in order for it to work, each individual must be independent, and the group must represent diverse perspectives and ideologies.

NASA Forecast
Ensemble Example

Predictive Models and Risk

Because they lay out the possible consequences of the choices we make, models can inform decisions and policies.

Risk is the chance you might lose something of value. Predictive models that forecast risk often go hand in hand with policy decisions.

Auto insurance companies use predictive models to decide how much to charge you for a policy. If the models predict you are high risk, you have to pay more.

Health care systems use predictive models to forecast patient disease risk. By knowing ahead of time the likely populations that will be affected by particular diseases, they can better target interventions for those who need them most.

Sea Rise

BOB DYLAN, ‘DON’T FALL APART ON ME TONIGHT (VERSION 2)’ ~ NYT

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“Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight (Version 2)” from the latest deep dive into the Bob Dylan archives comes with a video capturing him in the studio. Credit…Vevo

“Don’t Fall Apart on Me Tonight (Version 2)” is from the latest deep dive into the Bob Dylan archives, the five-CD “Springtime in New York: The Bootleg Series Vol. 16 1980-1985.” The track is similar in feel — though full of Dylan’s improvisatory variations — to the take that appeared on “Infidels” in 1983, with a new mix that dials back the unfortunate 1980s drum sound. Dylan had a superb studio band, with the Jamaican team of Sly (Dunbar) and Robbie (Skakespeare) on drums and bass, and a conversational interplay between Mick Taylor (formerly of the Rolling Stones) on slide guitar and Mark Knopfler (of Dire Straits) on electric guitar. It’s not the most radical discovery in the set — which also includes rarities like “Enough Is Enough” and “Yes Sir, No Sir” — but it arrives with live footage of the sessions, a rare glimpse of Dylan in motion in the studio.

JON PARELES

Bob Dylan Has a Lot on His MindJune 12, 2020

What made Wolfman Jack great? ~ May 1st, the anniversary of Robert Weston Smith, Wolfman Jack’s death. ~ Thanks to Mateo Wells ~ BBC

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The pirate radio stations of the 1960s are part of British pop folklore, but America had its equivalents broadcasting from the border with Mexico. And its most celebrated star DJ was the near-mythical Wolfman Jack.
Every DJ has their “radio persona” – a larger than life personality created to reach across the ether and plant itself in the imagination of the listening faithful.

Immortalised in George Lucas’ breakthrough movie American Graffiti, the Wolfman derived from an era when radio’s disembodied voice could be almost mesmeric.

His influence on radio today can still be heard… you just need to know what to listen for.
Of course, Wolfman Jack wasn’t born with that name. He was born Bob Smith and he grew up in the tough New York neighbourhood of Brooklyn. Neglected by his parents he sought succour and inspiration from the voices he heard on the radio at night beaming up from the Mexican border.

When you heard him you knew you’d unlocked the door to a really secret world.
In his 20s he landed a number of DJ jobs on local radio stations where he experimented with a variety of bizarre and eccentric DJ personas.

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Finally in the late 1950s, determined to take on border radio – the American-equivalent of Britain’s off-shore pirate radio stations – he made his way down to Mexico to the great “border station” XERF and bought himself a show.

Amongst Bob Smith’s heros were disc jockey Alan Freed, aka Moondog, and blues singer Howlin’ Wolf, whose names formed the inspiration for his own alias, Wolfman, a name which debuted as early as the first show.

“There was nothing as exotic, as mysterious and as forbidden as when I first stumbled across Wolfman Jack broadcasting from the border,” says Nic Patowski, a teenager when he first tuned into station XERF. “He was unlike anything I’d ever heard before.

“You had no idea who he was or what he was but you knew whatever he was doing it was probably wrong. When you heard him you knew you’d unlocked the door to a really secret world.”

“When I first heard him… I was thinking of old recordings of the blues singer Howlin’ Wolf. He had this incredible confidence.”

~~~ CONTINUE ~~~