The son of Peru’s Courage Mother: “Shining Path killed her in front of us”

Vanesa Vallecillo

María Elena Moyano’s son tells esRadio how Shining Path persecuted him after brutally murdering his mother

María Elena Moyano had everything ready to travel to Spain. Neither she nor her family could take any more of Shining Path‘s harassment. However, she did not have time. A commando shot her at point-blank range during a public event, dynamited her body and, days later, her grave. She was 33 years old and had two children, aged 10 and 8, who were there at the time of the brutal murder.

“It was an ambush”, her youngest son, David Pineki, told esRadio. “She was already out of politics because we were travelling to Spain in a few days, but she was invited to an event and as she didn’t know how to say no, she ended up going”.

“It is something I will never forget. They killed our mother in front of us and everything happened very quickly. We became persecuted. They took us to a convent where we were hidden for days and the next thing I remember is appearing on the runway of an airport, getting on a plane and landing in Spain”.

Grandparents, cousins and aunts and uncles remained in Peru. One of them, Martha Moyano, continues her sister’s legacy as a congresswoman. She is, in opposition, the scourge of the Castillo regime and of Shining Path, the terrorist group that marked her family’s life and the childhood of her nephews and nieces.

Front page of La República the day after María's murder

Front page of La República the day after María’s murder

“As a leftist, she stood up to Sendero”

“I didn’t understand that I could only see my mother once a month, the hustle and bustle of always being away from home, in hiding, always with a lot of bodyguards”, recalls David. And the fact is that “being a leftist”, reveals the prosecutor of the anti-corruption chamber at the time, Marco Ibazeta, “having been deputy mayor with Michel Azcueta, María Elena confronted Sendero about their methods. And Sendero had no mercy”.

She had been deputy mayor in 1989 in Villa El Salvador and her defence of women’s rights and her ideas ahead of her time earned her the nickname “Mother Courage” in Peru. Her figure became strong and her shadow was unbroken. For this reason, David, despite having received invitations to return to the country to continue his mother’s legacy, feels that it is “too big for him”.

Especially because the memories of his family’s harassment are still very much fresh in his mind.My mother had received death threats for two years. We received threats and visits from people at home”. So much so that María Elena had already organised a life in Spain for herself, her husband and children. “She had everything ready. Even a house that some friends had helped her to get”.

Today, from our country, David has seen in recent days the collusion of the government with these regimes. “We have not been educated in hatred, but it is neither forgiven nor forgotten. Obviously, one is left with a repudiation of this ideology and I don’t want to hear about Podemos or left-wing parties”.

“Shining Path has killed more than 20 people this year alone”

Their murderers did not pay for their crime and the terrorist group that perpetrated it now holds power in Peru under Castillo’s hat. Outside the institutions, Shining Path continues to carry out attacks and kidnappings. The Niños del Tambo association works to free women and children held captive by the guerrillas.

Its president, Ernesto García Lechuga, revealed a few months ago in an interview on esRadio that “this year, Sendero has already killed twenty people” and, in 2017 alone, “they freed 54 children”. The way of exercising terror is the same as that of the FARC: “They kidnap children to make them guerrilla fighters and, on the other hand, they kidnapped women to rape them and father children who were going to be guerrilla fighters because they were born in the jungle”.

Without going any further, a fortnight ago, part of the arsenal that has not been returned was found in a grave. A discovery that coincided with the visit to the country of Podemos’ Antón Gómez Reino and with the approval in the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Congress of a non-legislative proposal to legitimise the Castillo regime.


This post was translated from:

Vallecillo, V. (2021) ‘El hijo de la madre coraje de Perú: “Sendero Luminoso la mató delante de nosotros”’, Libertad Digital, Madrid, 21 December. Available at: (Accessed: 21 December 2021).

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