Red Aid Demands a Dignified Burial for Abimael Guzmán!

On September 11, 2021, Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, Peruvian political prisoner and chairman of the Communist Party of Peru, died alone in a cell below sea level at the Callao Naval Base. The Peruvian government is threatening to cremate Guzman’s body and spread the ashes in the Pacific Ocean in order to prevent him from having a dignified burial. The state had him under its care for 30 years, and chose not to give him the medical attention he needed. We echo the demand from The Brazilian Center for Solidarity with the People (Cebraspo, Centro Brasileiro de Solidariedade aos Povos) that Abimael Guzmán receive a proper burial.

Guzmán was one of the most-guarded political prisoners in the world. He was held in solitary confinement for 29 years. He inspired many in Peru suffering under imperialism to fight for a better world. Guzmán led the the Communist Party of Peru, which initiated armed struggle in 1980. Backed by US imperialism, the Peruvian state captured him in 1992.

Guzmán was suffering from skin cancer, which is easily diagnosed and treatable at an early stage. Despite pressure from many organizations around the world, Peru refused to administer adequate medical treatment. Guzmán, at 86 years old was finally transferred to a military hospital on July 20. A little less than two months later on September 11, they blamed his death on “natural causes.”

Even with almost 3 decades in prison the Peruvian state, backed by the US, Abimael Guzmán serves as inspiration to political prisoners around the world. We will enthusiastically continue to organize the defense of political prisoners in the US and worldwide.

The following is an unofficial translation of Cebraspo’s full statement, “Pelo direito ao sepultamento digno do Professor Abimael Guzman Reynoso.”

For the Right to a Dignified Burial for Professor Abimael Guzmán Reynoso

By the Brazilian Center for Solidarity with the People (Cebraspo)

Professor Abimael Guzmán Reynoso (Chairman Gonzalo), prisoner of war of the Peruvian State and chairman of the Communist Party of Peru, who had been imprisoned for 29 years in a cell below sea level in the naval base of Callao, died on the morning of September 11.

As we denounced in a recent note, everything points to the Peruvian State being responsible for having left the teacher without adequate treatment, which is murder by negligence. Abimael Guzmán did not get the right to spend his last hours in the company of any family member or friend. And to further aggravate the range of rights violated since the teacher’s arrest, the Peruvian State, in the person of the Minister of Justice of a self-declared progressive government, wants to deny the right to burial of his body.

The right to a dignified burial is a fundamental human right, included in the Geneva Conventions dealing with situations of war and armed conflict. It is part of the basic tenets of all current monotheistic religions and of Christianity, which is dominant in the Western world. This right is deeply rooted in the Western cultural matrix and not by chance is at the core of Sophocles’ much-debated tragedy, when Antigone challenges the Theban state to perform the funeral rites for her brother Polynices.

The violence of the State that subjects Professor Abimael Guzmán to inhuman and degrading treatment and also insidiously dedicates itself to erasing him, in its eagerness to make not only his body disappear but also to eliminate the memory of what he represents, leads to the State subsisting by annihilating its own moral substance, engendering its own ruin, just as Sophocles said.   

The Brazilian State has already been penalized by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for the disappearance of the bodies of combatants from the Araguaia guerrilla movement. Is the current ruler Castillo, who recently won elections in Peru with “democratic” banners against the daughter of the genocidal and fascist Fujimori, going to match the Brazilian fascist military regime in the concealment of corpses, and in the denial of the just right to burial?

What is the Peruvian government afraid of, since it declares that there has been a supposed pacification of an armed conflict where it is comfortable to blame one of the parties—the guerrillas—for all the deaths, while it is a proven fact that the government of the fascist Fujimori went beyond any democratic right of the population, implementing a dirty war? Do you fear because the economic and social factors underlying the Peruvian reality are still present and you have no solutions to address them? How many deaths from COVID have occurred from the lack of public health policy? 190,000 deaths, the highest rate of deaths in the world from COVID relative to its population.

No death can be attributed to Professor Guzmán, either by murder or by the spread of infectious disease. Nevertheless, he was held incommunicado and his right to a dignified burial is being questioned. Will the official genocides of the people by COVID be treated in the same way?

The same history that points to the existence of a terrifying repetition of genocides reminds us that those who are dead from systematic state violence cannot be silenced. The unacceptable attempt to annul, to conceal, and to make names and bodies disappear, killing a second time to try to erase certain subjects from the collective memory, can only have one path: the irrevocable return of those whom the State has tried to blot out into insignificance.