In Pursuit of Guzmán

Nicholas Shakespeare

I arrived in Lima, having forgotten what a vile city it is.

I arrived in the middle of a police strike, and the streets were crowded with hooded officers. They were shooting guns in the air, and some had commandeered buses. They were protesting against a regulation requiring them to supply their own uniforms and practice ammunition. They held aloft their symbol, a worn-out boot.

That night I counted seventeen explosions – not from the police but from guerrillas. The next evening the restaurant around around the corner was machine-gunned and then blown up with dynamite. There was a curfew, and each morning I discovered new graffiti on the walls, slogans painted in red celebrating the guerrillas, Sendero Luminoso, the ‘Shining Path’. The slogans also celebrated the man who led Sendero. They called him Presidente Gonzalo, but his name was Abimael Guzmán. I had come to Lima to find Guzmán, although I knew I wouldn’t succeed. I didn’t. But that was the reason I was here.


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