This is a paper I wrote for one of the two courses taken during the Journey to Peru program of summer 2016.
The Undermining of Peru’s Democracy by the Shining Path Insurgency, from 1980 to 2000 (Part 5)
In response to much of the Shining Path’s destruction, the president of Peru at the time, Alberto Fujimori, created a defense army called “Comités de auto defensa“ or “Committees of Self Defense.” This group was armed and trained with help from the Peruvian Army, and it was often sent into areas where the Shining Path was most prevalent and powerful. This proved disastrous, as “local discontent led to bloody confrontations between the populace and insurgents” (Kent 1993, 444). Many times, the armies dispatched by Fujimori were unable to effectively detain Shining Path members. With the ambiguity of membership and the prevalence of fear and deception among the people, many innocents were brutalized in the armies’ efforts. As a result, many people in Peru felt that the Shining Path was actually less of a threat than the armies of the state, and this only caused further turmoil (Kent 1993, 441-54).
After years of unrest, Peru’s police force captured Abimael Guzmán and a few of his co-conspirators in an apartment building in Lima. Along with this, many campesino groups took it upon themselves to fight against the remaining parts of the Shining Path, effectively weakening them. Later, the second leader Óscar Ramírez was captured by police, and after these major hits to the Path’s unity, it largely diminished.
It is clear that Peru’s Shining Path Insurgency caused severe damage to democracy in the country. Its members were radical, aggressive, brutal, and unrelenting as they undermined what little political structure that Peru had created for itself. The deep mistrust and suspiciousness between groups of people left almost no room for peace of mind, and if the Peruvian government had struggled before with stabilizing itself, the Shining Path ruined that stability during its nearly two decades of terror. I sought to research the origins of the Communist Party of Peru, the ways in which it gained power and influence, and how it undermined democracy in Peru from 1980 to 2000. Ultimately, I wanted to decide if this communist party was a major cause of Peru’s political instability between 1980 and 2000, and I believe that it was.
I feel overwhelmed with what I have read and written, because I can never fully understand what so many Peruvians experienced, however horrific. The thought that came to my mind several times while writing this paper was that people will find ways to change their environments if they are not satisfied with them. Further, if a group of people can grow large enough, it may become a formidable one. It is for these reasons that governments must do all that they can to be just and providing to their people. If they do not, their people will seek to overpower them, and as evidenced by the remnants of the Shining Path Insurgency, the resulting political turmoil may be devastating for the country.
“Cedema.org – Viendo: Sobre Las Dos Colinas (Documento De
Estudio Para El Balance De La III Campaa).” Cedema.org – Viendo: Sobre Las Dos Colinas (Documento De Estudio Para El Balance De La III Campaa). N.p., n.d. Web. 20 July 2016.
The Editors of Encyclopædia Britannica. “Shining Path.”
Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 22 July 2016.
Kent, Robert B. “Geographical Dimensions of the Shining Path
Insurgency in Peru.” Geographical Review 83, no. 4 (1993): 441-54.
Larsen, Stephanie. “Peru: Things Fall Apart. (political and
Economic Chaos).” Christianity and Crisis 52, no. 2 (1992): 39.
Pedahzur, Ami and Weinberg, Leonard. Political Parties & Terror.
Extremism and Democracy. P. Hoboken: Taylor and Francis, 2013.
United States. Congress. House. Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs. The Threat of the Shining Path to Democracy in Peru Hearings before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of the Committee on Foreign Affairs, House of Representatives, One Hundred Second Congress, Second Session, March 11 and 12, 1992. Washington: U.S. G.P.O., 1992.