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Shining Path

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The Communist Party of Peru-Shining Path (Partido Comunista del Peru-Sendero Luminoso, sometimes referred to as simply Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path), is a Maoist guerrilla group in Peru famed for their use of violent and terrorist tactics. Its stated 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"; the name "Shining Path" was created to distinguish it from other groups using the same name.

Shining Path was founded by former university professor Abimael Guzman[?] (a.k.a. President Gonzalo) in the late 1960s, and his teachings created the foundation of its 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 insurrectionary groups which declined to take part, instead launching a guerrilla war by attacking election infrastructure in the highlands of the province of Ayacucho[?].

Throughout the 1980s, Shining Path grew in both territory it controlled and the number of militants in its organization. By 1991, it had control of much 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 executed terrorist attacks against the city's infrastucture and residents. During this era, Shining Path acquired a reputation as one of the most ruthless terrorist groups in the Western Hemisphere, using tactics that included conscription of children, forced labor, executions by stoning and throat-slitting (ostensibly to save bullets), destruction of the electricity infrastructure, indiscrimate bombings, and targeted assassinations of political opponents.

However, in fighting Shining Path, the Peruvian armed forces also committed many atrocities. It destroyed villages and massacred campesinos it suspected of being supporters of Shining Path. Many of these abuses are now slowly coming to light.

On September 12, 1992 Guzman was captured by Peruvian special forces; shortly thereafter the rest of Shining Path's leadership fell as well. At the same time, Shining Path suffered embarrassing military defeats to peasant self-defense organizations -- supposedly its social base -- and the organization fractured into splinter groups.

Although Shining Path has virtually disappeared, Peruvian armed forces still sporadically arrest active Shining Path members, including, in April, 2000, commander Jose Arcela Chiroque[?], a.k.a. Ormeno. Counterterrorist operations targeted pockets of terrorist activity in the Upper Huallaga River Valley and the Apurimac/Ene River Valley, where small Shining Path cells continued to operate. It is estimated that there are only 100 to 200 armed militants left in Shining Path's, its strength being vastly diminished by arrests and desertions.

In addition to fighting the Peruvian government, Shining Path also had armed conflicts with another Peruvian guerrilla group, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), peasant self-defense groups organized by the Peruvian armed forces, and legally-recognized parties of the Peruvian Left.


Sources

  • Terrorist Group Profiles, Dudley Knox Library, Naval Postgraduate School
  • Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980-1995, ed. Steve Stern, Duke University Press: Durham and London, 1998 (ISBN 082232217X)

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