At last the government of President Alberto Fujimori in Peru has done something right. The efficient capture of Abimael Guzman Reynoso, the leader of Shining Path, along with top lieutenants, gives the Peruvian state a chance to survive. Since the government will try him for treason in a military tribunal -- with execution not legal but hinted at by the president -- the challenge is to keep him behind bars against the inevitable rescue attempts.
Peru was going down. Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path is part Communist Party, part mystic hero worship, part murder cult. Just as teen-agers in American slums are lured into drug retailing, counterparts in Andes villages were made to come of age by killing victims. The estimate is 26,000 since 1980 but the true toll cannot be known. A Shining Path state would be a killing field. This is the Khmer Rouge of the Americas.
Originally a Communist disciple of the teaching of Mao Zedong, Guzman was a left-wing scholar in the 1970s building a following among poor Indians and urban ideologues dedicated to the destruction of the Peruvian state to bring a decent society. But as his movement took to action, the means became the ends. The assassination victims are not exploiters but social workers, not plutocrats but Indian community leaders, not oppressors but potential liberators. The drug cartels are seen by Shining Path not as enemies of the people but as lucrative buyers of Shining Path protection services.