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).