The Undermining of Peru’s Democracy by the Shining Path Insurgency, from 1980 to 2000 (Part 5)

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.

 

Works Cited

“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.

The Undermining of Peru’s Democracy by the Shining Path Insurgency, from 1980 to 2000 (Part 4)

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 4)

 

As time passed, the ideology of the Shining Path changed a bit under the control of Guzmán, and it continued to fight against Peru’s largest guerrilla and defense groups. The very radical ideology of the Path was described in “Sobre las Dos Colinas.” It has been translated here:

We start by not ascribing to either the Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Costa Rica [Convention of Human Rights], but we have used their legal devices to unmask and denounce the old Peruvian state… For us, human rights are contradictory to the rights of the people, because we base rights in man as a social product, not man as an abstract with innate rights. “Human rights” do not exist except for the bourgeois man, a position that was at the forefront of feudalism, like liberty, equality, and fraternity were advanced for the bourgeoisie of the past. But today, since the appearance of the proletariat as an organized class in the Communist Party, with the experience of triumphant revolutions, with the construction of socialism, new democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat, it has been proven that human rights serve the oppressor class and the exploiters who run the imperialist and landowner-bureaucratic states. Bourgeois states in general… Our position is very clear. We reject and condemn human rights because they are bourgeois, reactionary, counterrevolutionary rights, and are today a weapon of revisionists and imperialists, principally Yankee imperialists (Sobre las dos Colinas, 1991).

Based on the statement above, it is clear that the Shining Path’s agenda was one that so opposed the privileged man. Deeply rooted in the Path’s ideology was the notion that Peru’s government was the ultimate oppressor, as it was filled with people who did not truly understand the plights of the mass Peruvian population. Thus, the Path sought to radically change this.

Unfortunately for the Shining Path, its member base was not as strong as it could have been, as many Peruvians disapproved of the brutality and aggressiveness with which the Path attempted to push its agenda. With peasants in particular, the Shining Path was especially unpopular. For many Peruvian peasants, a steady income depended upon trading in markets, and since the Path rejected capitalism, it ordered many market closures and other restrictions, effectively ruining the means of income for the poorer people of Peru (Larsen 1992, 41).

The Undermining of Peru’s Democracy by the Shining Path Insurgency, from 1980 to 2000 (Part 3)

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 3)

 

The Peruvian government underestimated the power and influence of the Shining Path. The Path did not seem to have the support or manpower that it needed to actually cause political damage, so the government largely ignored it. However, in the year 1981, Peru’s government at last took action. Unfortunately, with its lack of knowledge and insight regarding the capabilities and reach of the Shining Path, the Peruvian government was unable to effectively control it. Labeling several Andean regions emergency zones, the government began questioning and detaining people who they believed to be Shining Path members or sympathizers (Pedahzur and Weinberg 2013, 119-21).

With physical aggression going on between the radical group and the Peruvian government, officials were scared, unable to differentiate between innocents and Shining Path members, and they began an almost equally horrific sweep of the affected regions. Even worse, “threats, intimidations, and selective assassinations encouraged the retreat of the representatives of the central government, as well as of elected local officials and other community leaders (Kent 1993, 442). The Shining Path effectively used scare tactics to clear out the most threatening opposition.

People were brutally beaten, raped, and tortured during interrogations by the government, and huge death tolls occurred because of conflict. As time passed, the conflicts expanded geographically, and at one point the Shining Path spent time terrorizing Lima and its citizens. In the early 1980s, members committed acts of arson and damaged amenities in Lima, at one point leaving bombs close to the government and justice palaces (Pedahzur and Weinberg 2013, 87-94).

To further their efforts, the Shining Path began targeting certain people from certain political or social groups, evening attempting to murder Domingo García Rada, who was the president of the Peruvian National Electoral Council at the time. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Shining Path largely controlled the geographical countryside of Peru, and even the edges of Lima fell under its power (Larsen 1992, 39).

The Undermining of Peru’s Democracy by the Shining Path Insurgency, from 1980 to 2000 (Part 2)

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 2)

 

After several years, the Shining Path’s ideologies lost popularity with university students, so its leadership decided to move on to more radical idea-spreading tactics. Essentially, the Shining Path evolved into a military-driven group that spread out into particular geographic areas in order to physically enforce its practices and ideas. To better carry this out, the Path created military schools where its members could learn physical tactics and the use of weaponry. This culminated into the scrutiny of some Shining Path leaders, but not of Guzmán. In fact, Guzmán was well liked overall and ultimately stood forward as the Shining Path’s commander (Taylor and Frances 2003, 105-8).

When it was time for the presidential election in Peru in 1980, the Shining Path adamantly refused to participate. Its initial goal had been to undermine the process of democracy and to create a dictatorship in which its ideology would reign. So, with the vulnerability of an election, the Shining Path began a guerrilla war around the Ayacucho Region of Peru, burning ballot boxes and creating a small havoc. This incident was minor, however, and while it was significant in displaying the growing power and radicalism of the Shining Path, it was not enough to cause major worry in the political spectrum of the country (Taylor and Frances 2003, 61-5).

From the United States’ Committee on Foreign Affairs, witnesses testified to the relentlessness of the Shining Path’s aggressive tactics as well as the “military intervention and civil unrest that resulted from the Shining Path insurgency in Peru (U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs 1992). Nonetheless, this radical group was only paving the way for expansion and further power. As does that of any successful organization, the Shining Path’s membership increased, and as such, it was able to accrue more territory, continuing to use physical aggression to push its cause. As I mentioned above, many poor and isolated groups in Peru were out of reach of the government, and because of this, their loyalties were free for the taking. The Shining Path provided them an outlet in which to pledge their loyalty, and many did (U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs 1992).

The Undermining of Peru’s Democracy by the Shining Path Insurgency, from 1980 to 2000 (Part 1)

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 1)

 

According to government professor Ami Pedahzur and attorney Leonard Weinberg, “there are a number of different circumstances which may lead political parties to terrorist violence. Without claiming to be exhaustive, the most important conditions are: (1) a crisis of national integration; (2) a crisis of disintegration; (3) coups d’état and military interventions; (4) a crisis of legitimacy; (5) electoral systems and elections; and (6) polarized multiparty systems” (Pedahzur and Leonard 2013, 17). In the late 1970s, Peru met most if not all of these conditions and thus, the Shining Path Insurgency was born. A terrifying, unpredictable, and tumultuous time for the state of Peru, especially from 1980 to 2000, the insurgency crippled the state and struck deep fear within its people. Peruvian citizens became suspicious of one another; alliances were constantly changing and creating immense tension between friends and families. Worse, the need for power by the Path’s main leader, Abimael Guzmán, fed the maliciousness that led members of the Path to commit heinous crimes. This paper will explain the origins of the Communist Party of Peru, analyze the ways in which it gained power and influence, and determine how it undermined democracy in Peru from 1980 to 2000. Further, it will decide if this communist party was a major cause of Peru’s political instability during the twenty-year time frame delineated above.

First of all, it is necessary to discuss why this is important. Most educated people understand or could deduce that in the mid-twentieth century, Peru was unstable within political realms. Its geography and the diversity (language, heritage, culture, and location) of its peoples left the state of Peru in disorder. Many groups of indigenous people were (and still are) isolated and therefore unable to be governed. The Andes Mountains and the Amazon Rainforest created nearly impenetrable boundaries that separated people and therefore government structures, and the general lack of integrity and accountability among political figures made for an abysmal lack of trust between the state and the people of Peru. These problems existed for decades, but they were made unimaginably worse by the inception of the Communist Party of Peru in the 1960s.

The Shining Path “was founded in 1970 in a multiple split in the Communist Party of Peru,” and its name comes from “the maxim of the founder of Peru’s first communist party, José Carlos Mariátegui: ‘El Marxismo-Leninismo abrirá el sendero luminoso hacia la revolución’ (‘Marxism-Leninism will open the shining path to revolution’)” (Encyclopedia Britannica). The Communist Party of Peru began as an organization trying to replace bourgeois democracy with “New Democracy,” and through its brutal and heavily disruptive methods, it caused incredible instability in the state of Peru. Leader Abimael Guzmán was a philosophy professor at a university in Ayacucho called San Cristóbal of Huamanga. Prior to the emergence of Guzmán’s Shining Path, the university closed its doors for roughly 50 years, and upon reopening them, many students found themselves interested in the radical teachings of the Shining Path. Through word of mouth and general interest, the Shining Path picked up followers, and its ideology spread around different universities in Peru, infiltrating student organizations and largely taking over as the accepted way of thinking (Taylor and Frances 2003, 37-9).

 

 

The Coast of Peru

My last post encompassed the general happenings of my plane ride and first night in Peru, but there is so much to say and discuss about the trip in its entirety. Our group spent time in the three regions of Peru: the coast, the mountains, and the jungle, so I’ll discuss each region in a separate post.

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THE COAST

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For the first seven days of the trip, we stayed with host families in a wealthy district of Lima called Miraflores. The climate of Lima was relatively dry and cool, it was always cloudy (at least, it was when we were there), and there were hardly any bugs. For me, this was the most pleasant climate of the three regions, and I truly enjoyed every day in Miraflores. But after finishing the trip, I’ve realized that it’s almost silly to say that I enjoyed Miraflores. It’s almost like saying that I enjoy being safe and comfortable and having a full belly… who doesn’t? Miraflores is very safe, well-maintained, and much more politically, economically, and socially stable than much of the rest of the country, so it’s hard not to love it. I was not forced to adapt to anything strenuous or radically different.

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Miraflores sits right against the coast of the beautiful Pacific Ocean, so while the district itself is beautiful and bustling, there is also much to do at the ocean (swimming, surfing, or paragliding, for instance). It’s a gorgeous place, and I felt very secure and tranquil there, but as I said, it’s hard not to. My roommate (Hoai) and I had a generous host family that took good care of us, fed us well, and made sure that we could find our way around Lima with the help of taxis.

Each day, we’d wake up around 7:00 to eat breakfast and hail a taxi for our 9:00 class, and at breakfast I immediately noticed how fresh and delicious all of the food was, specifically the fruit, but that was no surprise to me. Interestingly, I always felt refreshed and clear-headed when I awoke, even if I’d only slept for a few hours. Perhaps this was due to the nice weather?

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This was our host family! Pictured from left to right are Andrea (host sister), Esther (host sister), Hoai (my roommate), me, María-Esther (host mom), and Alfredo (María-Esther’s novio). They were absolutely wonderful and so generous to us. This photo was taken after they invited us to a good-bye dinner.

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This was a typical breakfast with our host family. Pictured is oatmeal with apple slices and coconut shavings, herbal tea, and fresh papaya juice.

This was a typical breakfast with our host family. Pictured is oatmeal with apple slices and coconut shavings, herbal tea, and fresh papaya juice.

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When we didn’t have a group activity, we spent a lot of time exploring Lima, trying interesting desserts, and asking Peruvians for help with directions (we got to practice our basic Spanish skills!) Generally, people dressed nicely in Lima. Women often wore heels and dress pants or skirts, and men wore button-down shirts and nice shoes. The atmosphere was one of dignity and pride, and I appreciated it.

Because we were on the coast, seafood dishes were especially popular, and I made sure to try as many as I could. We don’t eat a lot of raw fish in Oklahoma (besides sushi rolls, which are delicious), so I wanted to indulge as much as I could. Below is an extremely popular seafood dish called ‘ceviche.’

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Ceviche is typically made with raw fish cured in citrus juices, corn, sweet potato, onions, and a little garnish (lettuce, in this case). I absolutely loved it and ended up ordering it several times in Miraflores.

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This is a beautiful sundae that I got at Pastelería San Antonio, a very popular eatery in Lima.

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The district of Miraflores was absolutely beautiful. The climate, the buildings, the activities, the restaurants, and the people were all incredible, and I loved being there. It was easy to find fun things to do, like searching for cool stones along the beach or exploring the bustling districts nearby. The problem was that Miraflores is very comparable to Los Angeles, so I didn’t feel as “out of the country” as I could have.

This feeling changed, however, when we boarded a bus and traveled the three or so hours to Canto Grande.

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I took this photo at the top of a hill in Canto Grande.

I took this photo at the top of a hill in Canto Grande.

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We arrived in a district of Lima called San Juan de Lurigancho. Within that district, there are several poor, urban areas, one of which is called Canto Grande. Marginalized and more neglected by the Peruvian government, Canto Grande struggles to maintain public sanitation, political and social stability, and the general functions of a healthy community. Transitioning from Miraflores to Canto Grande was the most sobering experience that I have ever had.

We boarded a bus in Miraflores, and I remember that as the hours ticked by and the bus passed houses, businesses, and restaurants, the quality of what I was seeing diminished. Little by little, the roads dissolved from hard and well-paved to gravelly and dirty. The buildings that were once gated and well-groomed became smaller, shabbier, and less guarded. The traffic (mostly buses) was congested, the vehicles worn down and outdated.

I felt very strange while I watched this gradual evolution in scenery, almost as though I was sinking into despair along with my surroundings. This was the kind of place that the government had largely turned its back on. The streets (purely dirt) were littered with garbage, emaciated and sickly dogs slept in alleyways and in front of stores, and everything looked like it was about to fall apart.

I didn’t take pictures of these things, because it seemed inappropriate. There I was, comfortable and safe, taking a little vacation into this community to gawk at the relative poverty before returning home to more materialistic comforts. I didn’t like that.

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This is the monastery where we stayed for three days. It was completely enclosed with a brick wall and barbed wire.

This is the monastery where we stayed for three days. It was completely enclosed with a brick wall and barbed wire.

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We stayed in a monastery where we ate meals together, played sports together (soccer, volleyball, and basketball), and essentially lived as a mini community. We did service projects, which included spending time with children at a school called Fe y Alegría, helping at a disabled children’s school, working at a medical clinic, and constructing/painting small houses for families in the area. I worked with the disabled children and helped with the home construction, both of which were incredibly eye-opening and fulfilling. As for my feelings, there were many. I was pleased to see a community that was trying to improve itself. People ran their own businesses, there were many vendors on the sidewalks (this is true for most areas of Peru), and after visiting the schools, I understood the pride that the people of Canto Grande had. They did not wish to be seen as marginalized and poor, rather, they were hardworking Peruvian citizens who were fighting for visibility and rights from their government.

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The monastery was built into a hill, and this is a photo that I took overlooking the basketball/soccer field as well as the rest of the monastery and the hills beyond. This was my favorite spot to visit early in the morning, as it was very quiet and peaceful, and I felt overwhelmed with thought and emotion at the time.

The monastery was built into a hill, and this is a photo that I took overlooking the basketball/soccer field as well as the rest of the monastery and the hills beyond. This was my favorite spot to visit early in the morning, as it was very quiet and peaceful, allowing my mind to overflow with thought and emotion.

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I said this already, but being in Canto Grande was the most life-changing experience that I had ever had. Up until then, I was quick to believe that I understood the world and its socioeconomic tiers. I thought that browsing Google Images, reading a short article from The Economist, and discussing other parts of the world was sufficient, but I was so wrong.

Being in Canto Grande, physically and emotionally, humbled me and altered my perspectives completely. Amidst all of my thoughts and feelings surrounding this particular place, one idea stood out several times. It was the idea that I should use my privileges (my ability to get an education, my connections to people, my health, and my future career) to do good things wherever I go. I realized that I must endeavor to be informed, kind, and helpful, and that I must do my best to be an informed global citizen.

Experiencing Lima, Peru, was personally transformative, and the lessons that I learned will never be lost on me.

the first day in peru

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After a seven-hour plane ride and then hours on a bus, all nineteen of us made it to our host homes at approximately 2:00 in the morning. I was excited to finally be in Peru, and I remember feeling both anxious and thrilled upon arrival, as I had never been outside of the United States before. The bus ride was surprisingly calming, as it was early in the morning (1:00 A.M. or so) when we began, and I kept my forehead pressed against the window to look out at Peru’s bustling capital city, Lima. My first, most notable observations were the buses, restaurants, and other businesses whose signs and advertisements were completely in Spanish.
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An hour or so later at about 2:00 A.M., my roommate and I walked up to the tall, wooden gate that surrounded the front of our new home. We were greeted by our host sister, Esther, and as it was so late, and we were overly tired, we didn’t observe a lot inside our house at first. Instead, we allowed ourselves to be led up a winding metal staircase to our living quarters, and I was shocked at first to feel no difference between the temperature outside and that inside the house. The stairs began in the kitchen, and when we reached the top, we were on a sort of rooftop patio, so the house was open to the outside. At first, I worried that we would have to worry about insects (mosquitos in particular), but there are hardly any bugs in Lima because of the climate. Even better, the temperature in Lima is typically in the 60s, and it is always cloudy, so there’s no need to ever wear sunscreen or sunglasses. I loved it.
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Our room and bathroom were disconnected, so we would walk outside to get to each one, and the first night, I remember opening the door to our room and looking up into the sky. The night was completely silent. Even though Lima is a busy city, nighttime at our house was deafeningly quiet, the sky was lightly grey, and it was so peaceful. I felt tranquil and calm even though I was overwhelmed at being in another country without anyone familiar to me. In that moment, I was so grateful for the opportunity to be in Peru, and I could not imagine what experiences were yet to come.
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