Latin America & Caribbean

Peruvian ballet dancer who hid Shining Path rebel is freed

Maritza Garrido Lecca, a ballet dancer who hid Abimael Guzman, former leader of Shining Path in her apartment in the 1990s, is freed from prison in Lima, Peru, September 11, 2017. Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Maritza Garrido Lecca smiled as she was released after 25 years in jail

A ballet dancer jailed for hiding Peru's most-wanted man in her flat has been released after 25 years in jail.

Maritza Garrido Lecca, 52, was sentenced in 1992 after the leader of the Shining Path rebel group, Abimael Guzmán, was found in her apartment.

The Maoist guerrilla group was largely dismantled after the capture of Guzmán.

Garrido's story inspired John Malkovich's 2002 film The Dancer Upstairs, starring Javier Bardem as the policeman who tracks down Guzmán.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Garrido was arrested in 1992 after the leader of the Shining Path was found in a flat above her ballet school

How the 27-year-old classical dancer from a well-off family came to be linked to the Maoist rebel group and to shelter its leader in her apartment has long intrigued Peruvians.

Garrido is believed to have come into contact with the Shining Path through her aunt, Nelly Marión Evans Risco.

The aunt, a former nun, had been recruited by the rebel group while she was a teacher at a school in Lima.

Evans was arrested in 1991 in an apartment full of Shining Path propaganda material.

Shining Path

Image copyright Getty Images
  • Militant group founded in the late 1960s by former university philosophy professor Abimael Guzmán
  • Becomes a guerrilla group in the 1980s and wages a bloody insurgency against the Peruvian government
  • Almost brings the Peruvian state to its knees in the 1980s with its estimated membership of 10,000
  • Almost 70,000 people die or disappear in more than a decade of internal conflict
  • Guzmán and his partner, Elena Iparraguirre, are arrested in 1992 and sentenced to life in prison by a secret military court
  • Their arrest is a heavy blow to the group, whose numbers dwindle to a few hundred in Peru's coca-producing region

The detectives searching for Abimael Guzmán were convinced the rebel leader had been hiding at the aunt's flat but had managed to move to another safe house before they could raid the property.

Ballet school and guerrilla HQ

In 1992, they tracked him to a property in an upscale neighbourhood of the capital, Lima.

It had been rented by Garrido's boyfriend, Carlos Incháustegui, and Garrido had turned the ground floor into a dance school.

Unbeknown to the parents dropping off their daughters at the dance school, Peru's most wanted man, Abimael Guzmán and his partner and fellow Maoist rebel, Elena Iparraguirre, were hiding on the second floor.

Both Incháustegui and Garrido were arrested and sentenced to 25 years in jail for terrorism.

Garrido said she had sublet the second floor to a woman calling herself Rayda Oscate and that she had no idea the woman was Iparraguirre, the girlfriend of Peru's most-wanted man.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Elena Iparraguirre and Abimael Guzmán have remained defiant throughout their sentence

But the fact that she had shouted Shining Path slogans when paraded before journalists shortly after her arrest meant that few believed her when she denied having links to the guerrilla group.

Her release, after 25 years in prison, has triggered a debate in Peru with some arguing she should not have been freed because she has never expressed remorse and others arguing she has served her time.

David Pineki activist mother was killed by the Shining Path in 1992.

Referring to the release of Shining Path rebels who have come to the end of their sentences, he said it was "sad to see murderers who committed atrocities go free".

Peruvian media said Garrido would be staying with her elderly mother in the capital, Lima.

Her mother lives in the same building as former Peruvian Prime Minister Pablo Cateriano.

Mr Cateriano said that "while it's not pleasant to have Garrido Lecca as a neighbour, that's how rule of law works".

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