Shining Path Terrorist Group in Peru Term Paper

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Shining Path-Terrorist Group in Peru

In Peru, there are two main rebel groups operating in Peru: the Maoist Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru). Both groups are leftist organizations (Stern, 1998). This paper will discuss the Shining Path, including the history of the group and its focus.

The Shining Path terrorist group launched a series of attacks in Peru, terrorizing the country for decades before they were beaten back in a 1990's crackdown (CFR, 2003). However, in March 2002, a car bomb attack near the United States embassy in Lima made Peruvian citizens recall their fears of terrorism. While the Shining Path has remained low-key for several years, the national and state government still recognize it as a terrorist organization.


The Shining Path was created in the late 1960's by a former university professor, Abimael Guzman, in response to Peru's entrenched system of race- and class-based discrimination, which had deeply impoverished most of the nation's population, especially citizens of indigenous descent (CFR, 2003). The group's main goal is to destroy the existing Peruvian government and impose its own communist regimes (CFR, 2003).

The group took up arms in 1980, and its ranks once numbered in the thousands. "Ironically, the present cycle of armed political violence in Peru began with the elections held to reinstate democratic institutions. On May 9, 1980, a group affiliated with the Peruvian Communist Party (PCP) -also known as the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path)- took over the voter registration office in Chuschi, a town in the department of Ayacucho, where it burned the voter records. The group launched its activities under the slogan 'Elections no; People's war yes'. The goal was complete destruction of the 'old State' to build the 'new State', inspired by the philosophy of Marx, Lenin and Mao Tse Tung, tailored to Peru's circumstances."(IACHR, 1993, p. 3)

In the 1980s and early 1990s, terrorist attacks were common in Peru and occurred on a daily basis (CFR, 2003). Shining Path was well-known throughout the country for indiscriminate bombings, assassinations, brutal killings, kidnappings, bank robberies, and attacks on Western embassies and businesses. Many lives were lost as a result of their activities, and the economy suffered, as well. Human rights groups estimate that thousands of people have lost their lives since the rebels took up arms two decades ago.

Peru has made many efforts to fight terrorism over the years. Peru was socially and economically troubled when the group was created and armed (Sevillano, 1990). It response to the threat was political inaction, as the country lacked coherent counterinsurgency strategy and had no legal framework to support the political, intelligence, and military actions needed to defeat Shining Path. This inaction enabled the group to advance its political, military, and psychological goals, destroying and displacing Peru's state presence and carrying out several bombings in Lima. By the early 1990s, Peru seemed to be at the brink of total collapse. When Alberto Fujimori took office as president in 1990, Shining Path was preparing "strategic equilibrium." Knowing that without defeating the insurgents, the country could not develop, Fujimori used the intelligence service as a tool to root out the group (Bolivar, 2002).

Fujimori launched an aggressive and successful campaign against Shining Path (CFR, 2003). Fujimori seized near-dictatorial powers in April 1992, with military support, and rid the nation of its congress and courts, which he claimed kept him from cracking down on terrorism. Just a few years later, Fujimori had managed to capture most of the leaders of the rebel groups, and terrorism dropped enormously.

As a result of Fujimori's activities, thousands of Peruvians were convicted of terrorism-related charges and sentenced to life imprisonment by military courts (CFR, 2003). However, the government was criticized by many human rights organizations, who accused them of committing human rights abuses during the crackdown, including the imprisonment of thousands of innocent citizens.

Thegroup has stated that its goal is to destroy existing Peruvian institutions and replace them with a communist peasant revolutionary regime. The group calls itself the "Communist Party of Peru" and developed the name "Shining Path" to distinguish it from other communist groups (Stern, 1998). Guzman's teachings created the foundation of the group's militant Maoist doctrine. When Peru's military government allowed elections for the first time in a dozen years in 1980, Shining Path was one of the few groups that refused to take part, instead starting a guerrilla war by attacking election infrastructure in the center-south highlands province of Ayacucho.

In the 1980s, Shining Path had a strong reputation as one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere, launching brutal terrorist attacks, including murdering children, forced labor, executions by stoning and throat-slitting, destruction of the electricity infrastructure, indiscrimate bombings, and targetted assassinations of political opponents (Wikipedia, 2003).

The Shining Path's first attacks occurred in 1980 and continued throughout the decade. The terrorist and indiscriminate nature of their attacks mirrors the preference of its leaders for violence over politics and its ideology of 'total revolution', leading some observers to compare the movement to the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia. Soon, many of their initial supporters were alienated, especially with the introduction of attempts to institute collective farms, the forcible recruitment of young women and children, and 'popular trials' of local officials (CHR, 1996, pp. 16, 17)."

Throughout the 1980s, Shining Path controlled many areas of Peru and had an increasing number of militants in its organization (Wikipedia, 2003). By 1991, Shining Path controlled the majority of the countryside of the center and south of Peru and had a large presence in the outskirts of Lima, Peru's capital city, where they constantly launched terrorist attacks on the government and people. In 1992, Guzman was captured and imprisonedby Peruvian special forces. Soon after, most of the Shining Path leadership was captured, as well. At the same time, Shining Path experieneced a series of military defeats to peasant self-defense organizations and the organization broke up into splinter groups.

On July 14, 1999, Oscar Ramirez Durand, the successor of Abimael Guzman, known as "Comrade Feliciano," was captured. He has been considered mainly a military leader as opposed to Guzman who was known as an ideologue. Even if his capture was a hard blow to the Sendero Luminoso, it has been said that it will not mean the death of the organization (CNN, 1999)."

In 2000, government authorities continued to capture and punish active Shining Path members, including Jose Arcela Chiroque, one of the groups last leaders (Wikipedia, 2003). Counterterrorist operations monitored terrorist activity in the Upper Huallaga River Valley and the Apurimac/Ene River Valley, where Shining Path members continued to participate in terrorist attacks. At that time, the U.S. government stated that only about 100 to 200 armed militants were left in the group, and their strength was dying as the result of arrests and desertions.

Leadership and Structure

The Shining Path is a militant Maoist group that aims to install a peasant revolutionary authority in Peru. According to CFR (2003), "Experts consider it one of the world's most ruthless insurgencies; Shining Path often hacked its victims to death with machetes. The group, which now has only several hundred members remaining, operates mainly in jungle areas."

The Shining Path's ideology places violence at the center of its stated goal to destroy existing Peruvian institutions and replace them with a peasant revolutionary regime. According to the Peruvian government, the Shining Path is largely funded by taxes on cocaine trafficking. The group engages in extremely violent forms of terrorism, including the indiscriminate use of bombs and terrorist attacks in the capital. Nearly every institution in Peru has been a target of the group's violence. It has bombed diplomatic missions of several countries in Peru, including the U.S. Embassy.

The group was founded as a university-based party led by Abimael Guzman, and opposed military regime, calling it "fascist." The group originally sought to recover Jose Carlos Mariategui's legacy. The group emphasized the need for violent revolution. In the 1970's, it prepared for armed struggle, and took up arms in the 1980's. After the capture in 1992 of Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman, the organization regrouped under the leadership of Alberto Ramirez, and entered its most violent period.

The organizational and political structure of the party can best be described as (Sevillano, 1990):

Vertical and authoritarian;

cult: Gonzalo is seen as the ideologist, guide, founder, and incarnation of the nation's revolution;

Existing at the national, local and regional level;

Resistant to alliances with social movements, leftist parties, and socialist countries;

Communist; and party of "cadres," not of "masses."


In 1998, the Shining Path was delivered a major blow by the government when three of the organization's leaders were captured. Fujimori said that the arrest would destroy the group's military apparatus (Reuter's, 1998). In 1998, Pedro Domingo Quintero, the second-highest ranking Shining Path rebel, and the right-hand man of the organization's leader, was arrested. Quintero, a former teacher, had been the Shining Path's ideological leader since the early…[continue]

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