Insurgency In Peru: The Shining Path
SUBJECT AREA General
WAR IN THE MODERN ERA SEMINAR
Insurgency in Peru: The Shining Path
Major James V. Huston, USMC
11 May 1988
Marine Corps Command and Staff College
Marine Corps Combat Development Center
Quantico, Virginia 22134
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Table of Contents ii
Chapter I: The Nature of Society 4
Chapter II: The Nature of the Insurgency 25
Chapter III: The Nature of Government 66
Chapter IV: Conclusions 97
Appendix A: Key Chronological Events 112
Appendix B: Key Characters and Groups 114
Appendix C: Article from Los Angeles Times,
April 30, 1988 116
Political Boundaries and Terrain Elevation 6
Economic and Agricultural Features 13
INSURGENCY IN PERU: THE SHINING PATH
by Major James V. Huston, United States Marine Corps,
May 11, 1988.
The Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path insurgency
in Peru is an attempt by a dedicated and fanatical group
using particularly violent means to overthrow the existing
government and substitute its own peculiar form of
Maoist/Incan revolutionary comunity in its place.
This study will identify the seriousness of the
problem, give a brief overview of the historical,
political, and social setting in which it takes place, and
analyze the insurgency utilizing current U.S.
counterinsurgency doctrine as a framework.
Sources for this study include published studies
of the insurgency and articles from both U.S. and Peruvian
newspapers and magazines. State and Defense Department
personnel provided valuable assistance, and a great deal
of information was obtained from Peruvian military
personnel at Quantico and in the Washington D.C. area.
Although the Peruvian Security Forces are
containing the insurgency militarily, combined with
political and economic woes currently besetting the
country, it poses a serious threat to the stability of the
government. It will take much time and effort to
eradicate the insurgency and it remains to be seen if the
Peruvian government possesses the will and resources to do
"Todo empez como jugando," "Everything started as
if playing" go the words of a popular Peruvian song. That
description seemed to aptly characterize the beginnings of
the armed insurgency of the Partido Communista del Peru
Sendero Luminoso, or Communist Party of Peru, Shining
Path. The burning of some ballot boxes, dead dogs hanging
from electrical poles, a few bombs here and there, gave no
clue to the geometrical growth and dimensions that the
actions of this group would reach. From the remote
highland department of Ayacucho, the assassinations,
bombings, and attacks on representatives and symbols of
established authority here spread to a national level and
gained worldwide fame, or infamy, for the name of Sendero
The study of Sendero Luminoso is a "hot" topic
today in the media, academia, and defense studies, because
it has proved to be a resilient, dedicated threat to the
Peruvian government for over eight years. Opinions of
"experts" on the insurgency are in demand because Sendero,
which appears to be unconcerned about world opinion, is a
very secretive organization. Unlike many other
revolutionary movements, they have not opened themselves
up to journalists, and have printed only a few pamphlets
primarily aimed at reinforcing the morale and ideological
dedication of their own members and supporters. The
majority of what has been published on the origins,
ideology, and organization of the group leans heavily on
studies of its leaders before they went underground.
There is, of course, a plethora of news articles on their
almost daily acts of violence, and many speculative
articles and editorials in the Peruvian news media.1
Information on counterinsurgency efforts is equally hard
to come by. The armed forces are generally closed-mouth
about their tactics due to their desire not to give away
information to the insurgents and to their sensitivity to
charges of human rights violations. Journalists are
generally not allowed into areas of conflict against the
This study of Sendero has the same limitations; a
heavy reliance on an examination of the ideology and
actions of the leaders before they went underground,
articles and news reports of U.S. journalists and
academicians who have visited the country since the
beginning of the insurgency, access to a limited number of
Peruvian news magazines, and interviews with U.S. State
and Defense Department officials. There is little
detailed information of an unclassified nature published
on the tactics of the insurgents and the counterinsurgency
efforts. I did have the good fortune to interview some
members of the Peruvian armed forces who have been
involved in the counterinsurgency campaign. Because of
the sensitive nature of some of the information, these
sources must remain nameless.
I have used the framework for analysis of an
insurgency provided in U.S. Army Field Circular 100-20,
the most current U.S. doctrine for low intensity conflict.
The regional context and root causes of the insurgency are
examined in the nature of society, followed by an
examination of the nature of the insurgency, the nature of
the government and its response, and finally, some
conclusions on the threat the insurgency poses to the
stability of the government.
THE NATURE OF SOCIETY
The Republic of Peru, on South America's Pacific
coast, is a country of strong contrasts that are both
societal and physical. Great extremes in geography and
climate are mirrored in societal gaps between a relatively
small elite with power, education, and wealth, and the
great majority beset by poverty, isolation, and disease.
The rugged mountains and dense jungles which have given so
much information to scientists and delighted tourists have
proved a barrier to economic development and have isolated
much of Peru's population from the capitol, Lima, and the
government which has its seat there.
Peru is the fourth largest country in Latin
America, ranking after Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico; it
has an area of about a half-million square miles. The
nation has three distinct regions; the coast, the
highlands, and the Amazon region, referred to as the
Costa, the Sierra and the Montana by the Peruvians. The
Costa constitutes only 11% of the country's territory, but
has about half the population of 20 million mainly
concentrated around Lima, the capitol city. It contains
the most productive agricultural lands and the bulk of the
industry, also mainly centered around Lima.
The Sierra is the rugged, mountainous central
portion of Peru, part of the Andes mountain range, and has
about 40% of the population. Although only a small
percentage of the land is arable, the people gain their
livelihood mainly from agriculture and livestock. There
are large deposits of copper, lead, zinc, silver, and
other minerals which are mined, but the rugged terrain
makes their exploitation difficult. The construction of
roads and railroads is laborious and expensive and once
built they are often blocked by avalanches or washouts.
The high altitudes (some peaks surpass 21,000 feet and
most of the passes are over 14,000) make life difficult
for unacclimatized persons, and the primary system of
transportation to and from the coast is by air.* The
southern highlands, particularly around the department of
Ayacucho where the insurgency had its origins, will be the
subject of further discussion later.
The Montana constitutes two-thirds of Peru's land
surface and lies east of the Andes in the Amazon basin.
The region has only about 10% of the country's population,
being isolated by the Andes mountains and the dense jungle
which covers most of it. Its main contribution to the
country's economy has been the discovery of oil in the
*See map on following page.
Click here to view image
north, which has also been difficult to exploit due to the
Peru has a population of around twenty million
people. The society is divided into three principal
ethnic groups, white, mestizo, and Indian, which
correspond roughly to the elite, middle, and lower
classes, and are more sociocultural than racial. The
whites are the elites of the Peruvian society and comprise
about 10 to 15% of the population. Although many whites
trace their descent from early Spanish settlers in Peru,
as in most of Latin America, "money whitens." Mestizos
and Indians who comprise the rest of the population
(except for blacks and orientals who make up less than one
per cent) cannot be differentiated by appearance alone. In
general, mestizos are persons of varying degrees of indian
ancestry who are accepted as middle class participants in
the Hispanic culture of the nation. Indians are generally
considered to be aboriginal people not assimilated into
national life -- they wear different clothes and speak
little or no spanish.
The last census which measured the population by
ethnic group was in 1940, which showed 53% to be white or
mestizo and 46% to be Indian.2 The population of Peru has
increased radically since then, however, and there is
considerable ambiguity about who is Indian. There is no
doubt, however, that in the minds of most Peruvians to be
an Indian is to be inferior, and the term Indian is often
used pejoratively. Indians who adopt western dress, learn
Spanish, and assume middle class jobs are often called
cholos, which also has some pejorative connotations. Most
"Indians" in Peru live in the central and southern Sierra
and speak Quechua or Aynara, the languages of the Incas.
A small percentage consists of tropical forest tribal
groups which inhabit the Amazon basin region.
Peru's population has been changing rapidly over
the past thirty years. Literacy levels have gone from
below 50% to over 75%. Gross national product per capita
jumped from $526 in 1960 to $1,294 in 1981. Total
population increased from 9.9 million to 17.7 million
between the 1961 and 1981 censuses.3 Barriers to voting,
including sex and literacy, have been abolished. The
major effect of these changes has been to bring into the
national system a much larger percentage of the total
population. Thus, the vast majority of Peru's citizens
are in a position to make demands on the government, and a
government's staying power has been increasingly dependent
on its ability to respond to the concerns of Peruvian
An explosive issue to Peruvians now and throughout
their history has been land. Although Peru has a great
territorial expanse and relatively few inhabitants, it is
badly overcrowded. Almost 40% of the population gains its
livelihood from agriculture, but only about 3% of the
nation's surface is suitable for cultivation, and until
the 1960's that land was distributed very inequitably.
Four-tenths of one percent of the families owned more than
three-quarters of the land, which included well over half
of the country's best soil.* The greatest disparity
existed in the Sierrra, where the vast majority of the
farmers lived. More than four-fifths of the land was held
in large haciendas of over 11,000 acres by a few wealthy
families. Many of the rest of the farmers either worked
for the landowners in exchange for the use of a small
parcel of marginal land, or owned very small farms as
freeholders or part of an indigenous community. Farmers
living in the Costa fared somewhat better than those of
the Sierra. Although here, too, the majority of the land
was in the hands of few families or foreign families which
owned large plantations. Many farmers were unionized
wage-workers. Wages and working conditions overall were
superior to those in the Sierra.
The uneven distribution of land conformed to the
*Peru is divided into departments which correspond
to states in the U.S., and provinces which correspond to
general pattern of inequity that divided Peru into two
sectors. One was modern, urban, and prosperous, the other
rural, backward, and desperately poor. Nowhere is this
more evident than in comparison between the capitol city
and the southern highlands. Modern Peru is concentrated
in the urbanized department of Lima and the adjacent
province of Callao. Rural, backward Peru is typified by
the southern highland department of Ayacucho.4 Although
Peru has a territory larger than Washington, Oregon,
California and Nevada combined, over 6,000,000 live in
Lima.* Three-quarters of the country's doctors are in
Lima, 76% of the telephones, 80% of the banking offices,
and 90% of the private investment. In Lima, 60% of
families have clean water, sewage systems, and
electricity. In Ayacucho, only 1 out of 43 has indoor
plumbing. While the nation's infant mortality rate is 127
per 1,000, the rate in Lima is 56 per 1,000. 5 Government
is Peru's largest employer and the government's employees
are concentrated in Lima. Of 25,000 in the Ministry of
Agriculture, more than half work in the capitol! In the
City of Ayacucho, the capitol of the department, there are
only 1,000 telephones in a population of over 100,000.
*I have been given estimates by Peruvians that the
population of Lima has swollen to about 10 million due to
refugees fleeing from the fighting in the highlands.
Water and electricity are rationed, and although there are
seven television channels in Lima, only the government
station reaches Ayacucho with any clarity. In the entire
department of Ayacucho, there are only 50 miles of paved
To understand the dichotomy which makes up modern
Peru and is to a large extent the root cause of the
insurgency, one must trace back through history to the
pre-Incan period, and the common threads that run through
Peruvian history of authoritarianism and a feeling that
Peru is special and unique. Peru was the site of the
center of a vast Incan empire with its capitol at Cusco,
which means "naval of the universe" in Quechua. After the
Spanish conquest the seat of colonial power for most of
South America was established in the more favorable
coastal climate of Lima, which the Spaniards called the
"city of kings" and endowed with beautiful churches,
imposing buildings, and works of art.
The Incas acquired their vast empire through a
combination of military might and skillful diplomacy. The
advanced civilization which the Spanish conquerors
encountered had been developing for thousands of years
under separate tribes and kingdoms. The Incans unified
the Andean tribes and kingdoms in the 15th century, making
them more efficient through their organizational and
administrative skills.* However, the basic
characteristics of Andean society existed long before the
Incan conquest. The ayllu was the basic social unit,
beyond the family. This was a localized group or village
that possessed a territory held in common by all the
married men. The villages were governed by a headman, and
in time of war all able-bodied males formed a village
militia. This form of community has been idealized and
touted as a pure form of communism by many, including
Sendero Luminoso. Political, economic and social
organization was much more complex than this, though, in
the Incan empire and the kingdoms that preceded it. They
were anything but democratic, being governed by small
elites with absolute authority vested in the ruler. The
Incan emperor was the state, with the elite appropriating
the surplus production of the economy while the ordinary
people became poorer. Many of the people of the Incan
empire welcomed the Spaniards as deliverers, only to find
that they had exchanged one oppressor for another.
Francisco Pizarro landed in Peru with about 180
followers in 1532. In a year, with superior tactics,
steel swords and horses, clever diplomacy and the help of
discontented tribes, Pizarro brought down the mighty Incan
*See map on following page.
Click here to view image
empire. The despoilation and exploitation of the Indiana
and their lands which ensued have shaped the structure of
Peruvian society until today. The principle device which
Spain used to reward the conquistadores and consolidate
the empire was the encomienda, which gave individuals
religious and civil authority over Indians in certain
areas and the right to extract tribute from them.
Although this did not include rights to the native's
lands, the encomenderos used their wealth, political
influence and control over the Indians to usurp their
lands. Other lands belonging to rebellious Incan nobles
were simply taken over and distributed to deserving
servants of the Spanish crown. The church also acquired
huge tracts, as did the crown itself and various municipal
governments. The Indians suffered severely from the
usurpation of their land, the tribute system, and a system
of forced draft labor, called the mita, under which all
male Indians were to spend a portion of their time engaged
in labor beneficial to the king. This took place in a
variety of industries, the most dreaded of which was
mining, where many Indians died from the miserable working
conditions and exposure to mercury or carbon monoxide
poisoning. The encomienda, other land grants, and the
subjugation and exploitation of the Indian served as the
basis for the unequal distribution of land and the ethnic
distinctions that have characterized Peruvian society
since that time.
The Indian people were, of course, unhappy with
their lot under colonial rule, but had little success in
gaining redress of their grievances through the courts or
peaceful petitions. In 1780 a series of uprisings
culminated in a massive rebellion led by an Indian headman
named Jose Gabriel Condorcanqui, who adopted the name
Tupac Amaru II, after the last of the Incan monarchs.
After two years and much bloodshed the rebellion was
suppressed. Some historians have described this as a
precursor of Peruvian independence from Spain, and many
revolutionary groups, as well as governments attempting to
legitimize their programs, have used the name Tupac Amaru.
As the bastion of Spanish colonial rule and
military power in South America, Peru was the last country
to gain its independence. There were many aristocrats in
Peru who were concerned that independence might lead to
another uprising among the Indians and furthermore, reduce
Peru's privileged colonial status to being one among many
other nations (this did indeed occur) . Independence was
more or less thrust upon Peru by circumstances and
outsiders who would not tolerate the existence of this
royalist stronghold. The armies of the Argentine Colonel
Jose de San Martin and the Venezuelan General Simon
Bolivar united in Peru to defeat the royalist forces. The
climactic battle took place on December 9, 1824, on a
plain where the City of Ayacucho is now located, where the
forces under General Antonio Jose de Sucre defeated the
last royalist army in South America.
The history of Peru as a republic has been a
convulsive one, and too complex to examine in any detail
in this study. It has been typified by the rule of
Caudillos, or strongmen, both military and civilian, with
effective power vested in a small segment of society --
wealthy agrarian and commercial interests, and the
military. Of great significance to the way Peru currently
postures its military forces were two wars it fought with
its neighbors: the War of the Pacific against Chile in
the 1880's and one with Ecuador in 1941. The war with
Chile was particularly bitter for Peru, as Chilean forced
defeated the poorly prepared and badly outnumbered
Peruvians, and Peru was forced to pay dearly in the loss
of territory and heavy indemnities paid to Chile.
Peruvians are still reminded of the anniversary of each
each battle fought in this war. In the war with Ecuador,
which broke out over boundary disputes, Peru won quick and
decisive victories. A peace treaty was signed as a part
of the Rio Protocol of 1942, the terms of which were
highly favorable to Peru. Ecuador has since repudiated
those terms. Enmities still exist from both these wars
and have a considerable effect on the structure and
disposition of the Peruvian military forces which are
strategically oriented toward defending their borders and
sea lines of communication from Chile and Ecuador.
In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Peruvian
thinkers began to openly and systematically criticize
their society, seek causes for recurring economic and
political chaos, and search for reasons for the
humiliating defeat at the hands of Chile. Manuel Gonzalez
Prada was a principal early spokesman for the critics who
found the answers in the social structure -- the jealous
monopoly over power and wealth held by a small
military-civil oligarchy and the isolation of the Indian
from the national life. He was followed by men such as
Jose Carlos Mariatequi, considered by many to be the
founder of the communist party in Peru in 1928, and Victor
Raul Hoya de la Torre, the founder of Alvanza Popular
Revolucionaria Americana, or APRA (American Popular
Revolutionaryu Alliance) in 1924. APRA is a political
organization that has profoundly influenced 20th century
Peruvian life and is currently in power. In its
formation, it was radical (not communist);
anti-imperialist, anti-capitalist, and anti-U.S. It
proclaimed the need for Latin American Indians to rise up
against oligarchic oppression that was allied with United
States economic interests. APRA has moderated its views
considerably over the years to the center-left positions
it holds today, but has a history of confrontations and
bitter conflict with the military. In 1932 the party led
a revolt in which approximately 60 officers and government
officials were executed and mutilated. The consequent
military suppression and reprisals involved the execution
of any known or suspected Apristas. Distrust and hatred
between the two has not entirely disappeared to this day. 6
In 1963 Fernando Belaunde Terry, who has since been
a major force in Peruvian politics, was elected to the
presidency. His platform and that of his party, Accion
Popular, was the full incorporation of the Indian into
national life, agrarian reform, and the opening up of the
interior through an extensive road network.
Unfortunately, financial constraints and political
opposition in the congress frustrated most of his goals.
Adding to his woes was the uprising in the highlands of
two foco-type armed insurrections which drew inspiration
and aid from Cuba. Swift action by the government and the
military, and lack of support among the peasants, brought
a rapid end to these. 7
The impact on the military was significant,
however. They had to mobilize over 5,000 police and
soldiers to put down an insurgency consisting of a handful
of guerrillas. It also left them deeply concerned about
what would have happened had the guerrillas had wide
support among the highland peasants, or campesinos. The
military concluded that large segments of Peruvian society
were in a state of latent insurgency that could be
eliminated only by attacking its root causes -- lack of
adequate land reform, government inefficiency, resistence
to change by the oligarchy, and government aloofness to
the problems of the Indians.8 The failure of the Belaunde
government to adequately address these issues was one of
the major causes of its downfall.
In 1968, in response to growing political chaos and
the perception that the government was losing control, a
military coup occurred under which the Chairman of the
Joint Command, Division General Juan Velasco Alvarado,
assumed the presidency of the Revolutionary Government of
the Armed Forces. This military government was unique
among military regimes in Latin America. It was neither
socialistic or capitalistic, although it incorporated
elements of both. It instituted the most dramatic changes
of any Latin American government in the period between
Castro's revolution and that of the Nicaraguan
Sandinistas. This was the start of an intent by the
military to completely restructure Peruvian society. It
included nationalization on a grand scale of private
enterprise, establishment of closer relationships with
eastern block countries, and one of the most sweeping
agrarian reform movements in the history of Latin America.
In order to prevent a violent revolution from the
bottom, their intent was to impose a "controlled
revolution" from the top. Their aim was to do this by
breaking the power of the oligarchy; broadening reform
programs; breaking Peru's economic dependency on foreign
nations, lenders, and multinational corporations; and
increasing the state's role in every aspect of Peruvian
life. In spite of its good intentions, the "Peruvian
model" was a failure in many, if not all, of its
objectives. The failures arose from imposing reforms
without consideration of larger consequences, economic
factors out of control of the military government, and the
isolation that illness imposed on its leader, General
Velasco, who died in 1977. The limitations imposed on
land reform in order to keep it from completely disrupting
the agricultural economy resulted in the great majority of
the most destitute farm families emerging empty-handed.
The increasing state participation in the economy resulted
in a marked decrease in private investment, leading the
government to seek capitol in foriegn loans, greatly
increasing the foreign debt burden. And a worldwide
recession resulted in lower prices for Peruvian goods,
bringing about soaring inflation and devaluation of
Peruvian currency. Simple mismanagement by military
officers not equipped to deal with political and economic
decisions further hampered the Velasco regime.
In 1975 another military coup replaced Velasco with
the Prime Minister, General Morales Bermudez. Although it
was considered as the "consolidation" of the military
revolution, it was more of a withdrawal in terms of
reform. The majority of the reformist officers were
forced to retire and their replacements were more
conservative. The administration of General Morales had
to impose stern solutions to the deteriorating state of
the economy and the mounting foreign debt problem.
Austere IMF-approved fiscal and monetary restraints
depressed the living standards of most Peruvians. Wages
fell, prices rose, the Peruvian currency was severely
devalued, and public spending and food subsidies were
curtailed. Strikes and mounting violent opposition
brought the return to civilian government.
In May of 1980, after winning the presidential
election, Belaunde and his Accion Popular party once again
returned to power. The revolutionary military government
had made some significant changes in Peruvian society:
the power of the oligarchy was broken, control of the
economy was shifted to the state, and Peru became a
spokesman for third world nations. However, the standard
of living of the average Peruvian had not increased,
income distribution had not significantly changed to favor
the poor, and dependency on foreign loans still existed. 9
The benefits of the land reform programs were
minimal in the Department of Ayacucho. There were gains:
additional pasture lands, more secure land titles, and for
some peasant communities, membership in new agricultural
enterprises. But the average value of property
transferred to peasant communities was only about $50 per
The people who mainly benefited from the reforms
were the workers on the large estates, who comprised only
a small percentage of the population. These estates were
simply transferred whole to the workers as cooperative
enterprises in order to preventthe economic chaos which
would have followed the breaking up of the country's most
productive agricultural enterprises. By 1980 the
situation of the local peasantry was actually
deteriorating due to the termination of rural development
programs under government austerity measures, and the
general ineffectiveness of agrarian reform. Adding to the
problem has been a rapidly increasing population density
in an area where the land is not even suited to
agriculture. Only a small portion of the mountainous
region is arable. Most of the terrain is dry, rocky, and
windy, with altitudes over 12,000 feet. What land is
available has suffered from erosion. So, while the
expectations of the people were raised considerably by
promises of land and a better life, these were not
fulfilled. Already one of the two poorest departments
the country, Ayacucho was becoming a fourth world region
in a third world country.
At the same time that their living conditions were
worsening, the people of Ayacucho were be coming more
politicized and likely to blame their troubles on the
government. Prior to land reform, the staffs of the
large haciendas had monitored political activities in the
area and kept out would-be organizers. With these gone,
no new political institutions replaced them. The
government attempted to establish a political mobilization
agency called SINAMOS, but this failed due to poor
organization and lack of funding. Other socialist and
Marxist workers organizations then became active in
recruiting people to vote for leftist candidates and
causes, but these also failed to benefit them in any
significant way. Thus, what the majority of the people
were seeing was unfulfilled promises, both by the
government and by opposition parties and organizations,
making them promises in return for their votes and
support. This led to rising but unfulfilled expectations.
Hence, many of the peasants were thus ready to listen to
the appeals of someone like Sendero Luminoso.
THE NATURE OF THE INSURGENCY
The insurgent group known as Sendero Luminoso, or
simply Sendero, began in the City of Ayacucho, capitol of
the department of the same name, in the National
University of San Cristobal de Huamanga, founded in 1677,
closed in 1855, then reopened in 1959. Ayacucho, famous
for its 33 colonial churches and its celebration of Holy
Week, was up until that time a bastion of conservative
ideology. The university turned that around. Viewed as
an historic opportunity to revitalize the area, it was to
serve as an agent for change by educating local young
people in subjects and at levels appropriate for the area
and provide assistance for the many problems the region
confronted. There was to be no law or medical school, but
concentration instead on programs relating to local
problems, like nursing, education, applied anthropology
and rural engineering. Extension programs which spread
out through the department were essential parts of the
various schools. In its commitment to change, however,
the university went well beyond the objectives of its
founders, and many of the faculty and students came to
believe that social change was possible only in the
context of political change in tune with Marxist
In 1962, Abimael Guzman Reynoso was invited to
teach at the University of Huamanga. Born illegitmately
on December 3, 1934 in a small town in southern Peru, he
received most of his primary and secondary schooling at a
Jesuit school in the City of Arequipa.* He graduated
with honors from the University of San Agustin with
degrees in law and philosophy, defending dissertations on
The Theory of Space in Kant and The Democratic Bourgeois
State. Those who knew him as a student and as a teacher
describe him as "brilliant and lucid in his thought and
his dissertations. "1 His speeches and lectures were much
sought after by students, other professors, and
representatives of the community. He is characterized as
a highly disciplined person who didn't smoke, was never
seen drunk, and had no known vices; in sum, a highly
At Huamanga, Guzman became involved in radical
politics immediately. He was named to head the youth
movement of the local Communist Party. He frequently
invited students to his home, leading them in discussions
on politics and philosophy, and began organizing trips to
Cuba for some of the most talented. In 1964, following
*Other Latin American figures of note educated by
Jesuits include Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega.
the Sino-Soviet split, he as well as many other
pro-Chinese Communist Party members broke away to form the
Communist Party of Peru -- Bandera Roja (Red Flag). In
the 1968 university elections, in the wake of steep cuts
in the university budget, members of Bandera Roja gained
control of the university council.* Guzman had been put
in charge of producing the newspaper of the party and was
developing many followers through his fiery speeches and
editorials urging the preparation for armed revolution.
In 1969 he was named Head of Academics for the Department
of Humanities, Head of the Education Department, and
Director of Academic, Administrative, and Service
Personnel of the University. He was thus in a position to
control not only a large portion of the University's
curriculum, but the hiring and firing of its personnel.
In 1970, Guzman and his followers split from Bandera Roja,
forming the party known today as Sendero Luminoso. The
name of the party comes from its origins in a student
group known as Frente Estudiantil por el Sendero Luminoso
*By 1968, under the liberal policies of the
military government toward education, the University of
Huyamanga had become a highly politicized institution. It
had open admissions and up to 15,000 students in a
physical plant that could only handle one-fifth that
number. There was constant political turmoil and frequent
strikes, both by students and faculty. The distiictive
extension services became yet one more instrument by which
radical political goals could be accomplished.
de Mariategui (Revolutionary Student Front for the Shining
Path of Mariategui).
Sendero Luminoso members, committed to armed
revolution, began intensive efforts to build support among
peasant communities. Sendero militants fanned out from
Ayacucho to the surrounding villages, working as teachers,
performing odd jobs in their native villages, and becoming
social workers. In contrast to most Peruvian
revolutionaries from middle-class backgrounds, the
Senderistas were prepared to live austerely for many years
in remote, bleak places. They learned the Indian
language, Quechua, if they did not already know it, and
they often married into the communities. Sendero wad also
unique among Peruvian Marxist groups in its openness to
young provincial militants as leaders. At its inception,
Sendero included a substantial number of white,
cosmopolitan intellectuals from large cities, but, by
1980, with a few exceptions, it was largely an
Ayacucho-born leadership. 2
From 1970 to 1977 Sendero concentrated on the
development of a party apparatus. Though regional
committees and cells were formed throughout the country,
they were mostly concentrated in Ayacucho and neighboring
highland departments. This was also a time when they were
concentrating on formulating and refining their ideology,
dedicated to "retomar a Mariategui", or resurrecting the
political thought of Mariategui which had been lost in the
ideological struggles within the Communist Party.
In constructing its ideology, Sendero synthesized
Maoist tenets of a long rural struggle with the views of
Peruvian society expressed by Jose Carl as Mariategui in
the 1930's. Mariategui was concerned with racial and
cultural pluralism, and the problem of how to organize a
fragmented society so that economic growth could occur.
His view was that the problems of the country could be
solved only by the establishment of a legitimate political
order based on the desires of the Indian and mestizo
masses, and not the white European minority. He claimed
that political legitimacy as defined by a truly
representative government had not existed in Peru since
the destruction of the Incan Empire. His ideology of
new revolution consisted of four major elements: (1) , a
commitment to obtain a better moral and material way of
life for the masses through fundamental changes in the
social system; (2) , a willingness to adopt non-Hispanic,
non-Peruvian ideas to explain existing social and
political conditions and to use Marxist explanations to
justify changing those conditions; (3) , an attempt to
create a new national identity through the synthesis of
these ideas; and (4) , a commitment to obtain the material
benefits of a modern, secular, industrial society while
retaining the moral and spiritual purpose of traditional
Peruvian society. These were expounded in his central
ideologioal work, Siete ensayos de la realidad peruana.
(Seven Essays of Interpretation of Peruvian Reality.)3
From the perspective of his followers, Guzman
succeeded during this period in reconciling the bitter
dispute which had divided the Maoist left in the 1960's
over the application of Mao on the one hand, and the
proper interpretation of Mariategui on the other. During
the `70's, Sendero became more and more isolated from the
rest of the Peruvian left due to its increasing
radicalism. It viewed them to a large extent as being
contaminated by their cooperation with the reformist
military government which it characterized as fascist.
They came to view themselves as the only repositories of
true revolutionary Peruvian thought and their leader,
Guzman, who is referred to as "Comrade Gonzalo" and his
"Guiding Thought" as the "fourth sword of Marxism," with
Marx, Lenin, and Mao being the other three.
A detailed analysis of Sendero's ideology is
difficult, simply because they have revealed little of it.
What is known is garnered from those who had association
with the leaders before they went underground and the few
exhortative pamphlets which they have published.4 The
principal aspect is Marxism, with its concept of class
struggle between the dominating classes and the dominated,
in this case the Indian rural poor. Sendero makes a
direct comparison of modern Peru with prerevolutionary
China and embraces the Maoist concept of a protracted
revolutionary war beginning in the rural areas and growing
to encircle and isolate the cities.
This seems to have been a logical vision to promote
in the underdeveloped regions of the southern highlands
for three reasons: (1), it provided a clear explanation
of the environment of the peasants in line with their
limited social and political horizons, and filled a void
caused by the absence of a varied, democratic party system
practiced by diverse social groups. (2) , development
actions carried out by attempted reforms raised the
consciousness of the people but failed in their
expectations, leaving them susceptile to alternatives to
better their situation. And (3) , the ideology aligns
itself with a history of Andean messianism in which
promises made for a return of Indian power mesh well with
a historic vision of an Incan Golden Age prior to the
arrival of the Spanish conquistadores. This vision still
remains strong among rural peasants and urban mestizos.
In a 1981 document, Sendero calls upon the
peasantry to join the revolution as a continuation of the
historical experience of its existence. In "Let Us
Develop the Guerrilla War" it states:
And what is currently the situation of the
people? A peasantry with a fundamental
demand going back centuries, "Land for those
who work it," which in spite of an unfalter-
ing struggle has still not managed to achieve
it; a peasantry which during the past twenty
years they (the government) have tried to
deceive with three purported agrarian reform
laws, which after being introduced with high
sounding demagogy have left the peasant with
the same old unsatisfied hunger for land.5
The same pamphlet goes on to say:
The violence of the revolution is, then
the same essence as our historical process
and if the emancipation of the republic was
won with arms on the field of battle, it is
easy to understand that the development and
triumph of the Peruvian revolution, of our
democratic revolution for the emancipation
of the people and of the classes, will be
gained only by means of the largest revolu-
tionary war of our people, raising she
masses by means of the popular war.6
The specific ideology of Sendero, the code by which its
members live and die, and which outlines the strategy
which for them is the guarantee of success, is contained
in what is known as the Pensamiento Gonzalo, or "Guiding
Thought of Comrade Gonzalo." The content of this is
unknown, since it is taught only to members in oral form.
It seems to be one way they have of showing contempt for
their enemies, by denying them access to it. It is also a
way by which the members, in teaching this to others,
affirm their loyalty to the "Guiding Thought", swear that
the revolution it espouses is that for which they are
fighting and will die.7 The members of Sendero feel that
they are unique and special, the originators and spokesmen
for a new world, the country of "President Gonzalo." His
Guiding Thought embodies the totality of their revolution
and gives them the certainty of final victory. For the
Guiding Thought to live, it is necessary to destroy all
that which opposes it, seeking spaces which the Guiding
Thought may enter until they reach the essential
objective, which they call the "Great Subjective Myth." A
captured Senderoist was quoted in an interview with the
press as declaring:
We are dedicated to the Guiding Thought
of our leadership, the main policy, which is
to fight to reach victory with the mission
of dying to invent the Great Subjective
The conditions which will create the "Great
Subjective Myth" are unknown as is the exact nature of the
society that Sendero Luminoso envisions it will create
following the victory of its revolution. Because of the
Andean origin of many of its leaders, most believe that
they envision a communal agrarian type of society based on
the Indian ayllu discussed previously. Some have likened
them to the Khmer Rouge of Cambodia, and indeed in some
captured documents they have expressed an affinity with
that revolution. 9 What is clear is that conventional
notions of right or wrong mean nothing to them; all
reality is interpreted by means of the Guiding Thought.
Charges of sectarianism, fanaticism and insanity mean
nothing to them. Public opinion is not important to them.
They embody the Guiding Thought and fight for it to the
utmost of their abilities. This explains their extreme
vertical discipline and the unquestioned obedience to the
orders of superiors, even if they make no sense, because
they believe that everything has its place in the giant
puzzle which is the strategy of the Guiding Thought.*
Sendero is organized into a many leveled body with
a tightly controlled cellular structure which makes it
easy for the few people at the top to control and
virtually impossible to penetrate. There are three main
divisions: the Party, which constitutes the leadership;
the Popular Guerrilla Army, which carries out the military
actions; and the Popular Front, which carries out support
The Sendero leadership is structured around a
national conference of constituent members. All decision
are made by a Central Committee which comprises leaders
from five strategic regions. The country is divided up
into five regions which are the southern, central, south-
*See Appendix C.
western, northern and Lima regions. A committee composed
of province and district representatives exists in each of
the regions. The provinces are in turn divided into
zonal, subzonal, and local areas, each with its cellular
The military arm relies on a highly vertical cell
structure to carry out the military missions decreed by
the political sector. Each cell consists of less than ten
members, with five being the usual number. One commander
directs the militant actions and answers to the next
highest level of authority. With the exception of large
offensives there is generally no inter-cell contact
between members. Each cell normally contains two
explosives specialists, one political idealogue, and one
person responsible for maintaining physical fitness and
instruction in unarmed combat techniques. The cell
commander is responsible for weapons concealment and
maintenance, with weapons being handed out just prior to
every action and collected immediately afterward. All
members are trained in basic first aid, with one member
usually possessing more advanced medical skills. The
military organization is headed by a unified command and
separated vertically into companies, detachments,
platoons, militias, and cells. It is composed of three
main bodies. The Main Force is mobile and in constant
movement. This is complemented by local forces installed
in each town which remain there permanently. Finally,
there is a militia integrated among the inhabitants of the
The Popular Front is composed of all the members of
Sendero who are not in the Party or Popular Guerrilla
Army. They are organized into various groups whose
missions are to support the military arm and to carry out
political, social, and psychological operations. Some of
these groups were created in the 70's and have since gone
underground, but are still viable. They include:
The Poor Peasants Movement This is a group in charge
of recruiting and organizing the rural peasantry.
The Working Class Movement: In charge of organizing
workers in urban areas and infiltrating the unions.
The Neighborhood Class Movement: In charge of
recruiting and organizing in the "pueblos jovenes"
slums of Lima and other poor urban areas.
The Popular Youth Movement: In charge of recruiting
and organizing in the secondary schools and
The Popular Women's Movement: In charge of recruiting
and organizing women throughout the country.
The Mariatequi Centers for Intellectual Work:
Recruits and organize; intellectuals throughout the
Theater and Folklore Music Groups: Musical and
Theatric groups which spread Sendero's ideology and
propaganda by means of the arts.
Popular Support: This is an umbrella group, for a
number of organizations which provide help for
imprisoned members and their families, and for
families of dead members. They provide legal and
financial assistance, and organize the families into
support groups. They are in charge of subversion of
the judiciary by assassination, intimidation, or
bribery. They act as distributors of propaganda to
the various Human Rights organizations, and finally,
act as a go-between for urban terrorists in Lima and
the rural guerrilla forces. 12
Sendero is highly selective in the recruitment of
new members. It principally targets those under twenty
years of age. It does this for two reasons. They believe
that adults already have a lifestyle and an established
concept of the world, and are contaminated by the system.
Young people can more readily absorb new ideologies and
are less likely to feel pain or pity. They can be
indoctrinated to ignore any feelings of remorse, and
taught that acts are justified only by the test of whether
or not it will help to "liberate" the people from
capitalism and feudalism as perceived by the movement in
the misery of the poor and social injustices. The second
reason is that penetration of the organization would be
that much more difficult because an agent of the
counterinsurgency forces would have to be seventeen or
eighteen years old, at a maximum.
Anyone wishing to join Sendero must be recommended
by two members. Sendero investigates the recruiting
process as one way of avoiding infiltration. After
selection, the initiate will spend one year participating
in propaganda actions such as painting walls, distributing
pamphlets, and other such acts. During this phase the
initiate is not allowed to participate in military actions
or to come into contact with the military arm. Emphasis
is placed on political indoctrination and instruction in
guerilla theory. Usually, the initiate will begin to
participate in low-risk military actions, such as the
destruction of bridges and electrical towers between the
first and second year of training. His expertise in
firearms, explosives, guerilla strategy, and physical
fitness is emphasized. A decision regarding final
admittance is made after this stage and, if admitted, the
person will swear an oath of allegiance in front of four
hooded Sendero representatives. The training may be
stopped at any time and the member assigned to a cell with
little personal knowledge of the structural hierarchy and
other members. Sendero is not sexually discriminatory, as
many of its members are women and there are several women
among its top leaders. A Sendero leader, when asked why
there were so many women in its ranks, was quoted as
Not just any woman can be involved in the
revolution. They have to be young, because as
long as women remain unmarried and have no children,
they are much more insensitive and colder than men
and are thus willing to do anything.13
Some of the elements of Sendero's strategy can be
discerned from their writings. One of the rare published
Sendero documents was circulated in Spain in 1984. It was
titled "The Truth About the People's War in Peru" and was
primarily written as a revolutionary handbook utilizing
Peru as a case study. It identified five stages of the
revolution as follows:
(1) Agitation and armed propaganda. First actions
and training of the combatants in attacks with limited
objectives. This lasted from May 1980 until the end
(2) Systematic sabotage and initiation of the first
regular guerrilla actions destined to destroy the
power of the bourgeois landowner in the zones chosen
to be bases of support. This lasted all of 1982.
(3) Generalization of the guerrilla war and the
beginning of the creation of support bases, behind the
expulsion of the reactionary authorities. This
extended throughout the entire year of 1983 and had to
face the intervention of the Army.
(4) Conquest of the bases of support, establishing
in them the power of the Popular Committees and
strengthening the militias and popular army.
Expansion of the popular army to new zones (including
the city as an auxiliary activity) to obtain the
dispersion of the enemy forces. Reorganization of the
productive process to place it at the service of the
popular army. This fourth stage is long and complex
and the PCP (Peruvian Communist Party) has divided it
into numerous substages each with specific tactical
objectives. In the final substages the war will
probably evolve into movements of large combatant
(5) Generalized civil war. The popular army will
depart the liberated zones to surround the cities. It
is probable that during this stage imperialist forces
will directly intervene. Insurrection in the cities
will complement the external siege. Complete
destruction of the reactionaries, and the installation
throughout Peru of the Popular Republic of New
Democracy as the concrete form of the first stage of
the dictatorship of the proletariat.14
Sendero has learned a great deal from the failure
of the foco style insurgencies of the 60's and appears not
to be willing to commit the same errors.* By adhering to
a long term strategy, they have avoided the poor
organization and preparation that marked their earlier
counterparts. Tbe coastal urban composition of the
foquista leadership and superficial knowledge cf the
Andean conditions have been replaced by recruitment of
militant peasants native to the highlands who are familiar
*Foco style insurgencies are those based on the
Cuban revolution wherein a small group of armed insurgents
serve as a catalyst or focus for a disaffected population
to rise up against an unpopular existing regime.
with the language, geography, and customs of the region.
Sendero has also criticized the previous guerrillas for
not selecting the proper historical moment. They chose to
undertake the revolution when the revolutionary
correlation of forces had not yet reached maturity. The
foquista insurgents were open in meeting with the press in
an effort to publicize their cause, while Sendero has been
extremely reclusive, choosing only to publish a few slim
pamphlets and abjuring interviews with the press.
Having decided that the time was right, Sendero
chose to commence its actions with the return of
democratic government in 1980. Their first action was the
burning of ballot boxes in the village of Chuschi in the
Department of Ayacucho during the voting for a new
president. Most Peruvians first heard of Sendero Luminoso
when the citizens of Lima were confronted by the sight of
dead dogs hanging from utility poles along the principal
boulevard of the city. The carcasses were decorated with
placards denouncing the "fascist dog of Deng Xiaoping" and
praising the Chinese Gang of Four. This was repeated soon
afterward in the City of Ayacucho, where most people could
only guess as to its significance. 15
The initial actions of Sendero covered a wide
spectrum of operations executed mostly in the southern
highlands region in and around the department of Ayacucho.
They dealt largely with some type of armed propaganda,
such as attacks on government officials, destruction of
electrical towers and bridges, and assaults on isolated
police posts and centers of public administration.
Destruction and burnings were particularly targeted at
buildings where debt records were held. These early
operations served as a training ground for teaching their
militants the use of weapons on easily achievable tactical
objectives. They were able to take advantage of the lack
of a governmental and society infrastructure to implement
their strategy nearly unopposed by the local police
forces. Their weapons were unsophisticated, consisting of
weapons seized during attacks on police stations and
dynamite stolen from the many mines in the area.
Sometimes, dynamite was wrapped in balls of mud and slung
from a huaraco, or traditional Inca llama-skin sling.
Grenades were made from beverage cans filled with gasoline
end topped with makeshift fuzes. Sendero was the
originator of the "donkey-bomb", in which a donkey would
be loaded with dynamite and driven toward a police station
or government building.
The general tactic used during this phase was
surpise, with Sendero units going on the offensive at
night. Following the attack, the militants would take
refuge in the towns or return to their daily occupations,
making detection and capture difficult by a security force
handicapped by the lack of an effective intelligence
capability. The Senderistas were able to remain mobile
and use the geography and difficult terrain to their
advantage. They were aided in the rural zones by the
clandestine help of local citizens and the lack of police
forces to pursue them.
Sendero also utilizes methods other than violence
to further their cause. They would bold regular meetings
in the countryside at which guerrillas would lead
indoctrination sessions, distribute food, and establish a
system of "popular justice". They would arrive at a
settlement during the night and round up all of the
citizens to the town square to accuse and punish the
"enemies of the people". Among these would be alleged
child molesters, petty criminals, wealthy merchants, money
lenders, and cattle theives. They would mete out
sentences to those deemed guilty which included floggings,
humiliating haircuts, and executions.* Property would be
distributed and debts owed by the peasants voided. Many
peasants regarded these actions as the first public
services they had ever received. 16
These strategies were mainly employed in the lower
*See Appendix C.
elevations of the highlands The Indian peasants in the
more remote villages of the higher and less hospitable
terrain had less contact with the Senderistas except when
the guerrillas transited the mountain passes to the lower
valleys. The isolation, harshness of the climate and
terrain, dispersion of the villages and primitivism of the
people did not lend itself to their indoctrination and the
building of support bases. The high zones were generally
used as transit corridors where the guerrillas could
disappear after carrying out armed actions in the
In 1982 a new phase in Sendero strategy was ushered
in. On March 2, in a well coordinated military offensive
three columns of guerrillas numbering 300 in all, attacked
and held the maximum security prison of Ayacucho. A total
of 247 prisoners were set free, including over 100
In a national party conference between March and
May 1982, the initial goals of the revolution were
acknowledged as having been accomplished. They proclaimed
to the nation that a revolutionary group had taken up
arms, they claimed that two companies of the People's Army
had been formed, and that the conditions had been created
for the establishment of bases of support. Actions were
now to be taken to occupy those areas of the countryside
not yet under Sendero control, and to rid it of the
representatives of the state and of capitalism.18 These
consisted of government authorities (mayors, governors,
police), peasant authority figures (community presidents,
traditional authority figures) and small businessmen and
bureaucrats. The goal was to eliminate them completely,
either by causing them to leave or by execution. This
process of ridding the countryside of what they called
their "natural enemies" was called "sweeping the
countryside" or "killing the weeds."19 This signified a
greater use of political executions and terror tactics.
In the months following the prison raid, several
attacks on major police barracks occurred. On August 12,
guerrillas simultaneously dynamited four electric pylons,
darkening all of Lima. Less dramatic but more vicious
outrages occurred on an almost daily basis. Crowded
theaters were bombed and many banks robbed in which police
guards were invariably killed.
In the final months of 1982, Sendero stepped up its
campaign of assassinations in the highlands. The mayor
and deputy mayor of Ayacucho were killed, but most of the
rest of the victims were more humble citizens: local
leaders of political parties, labor unions and peasant
organizations, many of whom were anti-Sendero Marxists.
"People's trials" resulted in the barbaric executions of
squealers. Indian community leaders were whipped and
paraded naked through their villages. A girl witnessed a
band of Sendero militants conducting a "people's trial" in
her village and offered this:
They stood the boy in the plaza, calling
him a traitor and a coward. Then, in front of
everyone, they cut off his head with a knife.
There was nothing we could do to save him. Five
minutes later one of them yelled, `Whoever does
the same thing will receive the same punishment.
Then they left shouting allegiance to Comrade
Frightened local officials in the highlands resigned en
masse and teachers, parish priests, and others whose names
appeared on Sendero death lists fled the region.
Sendero also began to take actions which conflicted
with the economic survival of the peasantry. The
guerrillas attempted to coerce the villages into
self-sufficiency and eradicate the cash economy by
restricting food production. Only enough crops were to be
grown to meet the needs of each village. They also closed
down the traditional local markets where the Indians sold
their meager surpluses to buy goods not available to them
by other means. This was also aligned with Sendero's
strategy of "encircling the cities" by strangling them
through starvation. Although there was a small shortage
in the cities of potatoes and some cereals, this was
certainly not catastrophic since 80% of cities' food needs
are supplied by farms on the coast.
In 1981, in response to the growing insurgent
threat, a battalion of civil guard counterinsurgency
specialists were dispatched to Ayacucho. They turned out
to be poorly trained, unfamiliar with the terrain, and
lacked knowledge of the local Quechua language. They were
inadequate for their assigned purpose and many abuses of
authority were reported, resulting in the deaths of
innocent people. The administration had rejected early
calls to use the army, fearing that the struggle might
turn into a "dirty war" like that of Argentina during the
1970's, when thousands of people simply disappeared.
Having just returnd to democracy after a long period of
military government, there was also the fear of further
military intervention in the government. However, in the
mounting violence and evidence that the normal state
apparatus was unable to deal with the military threat, the
government took the fateful step it had resisted. On
December 29, 1982, President Belaunde proclaimed a new
state of emergency in Ayacucho and deployed 1500 soldiers
and Marines to the area.
At the end of their second year of insurgency,
Sendero was enjoying its most widespread support among the
highland peasants. It had succeeded in convincing a large
segment of the population that it represented an
alternative to the existing regime. It did this by
discrediting the state apparatus while legitimizing its
own claim to power by "protecting" and providing social
services to a heretofore ignored social stratum Evidence
of this support was demonstrated in 1982 by the massive
turnout of up to 30,000 people in Ayacucho for the funeral
of Edith Lagos, a young guerrilla commander killed by the
police. Sendero was also able to build a sizeable arsenal
of weapons seized from security forces while training its
members in strategy and tactics
With the introduction of the military into the
zone, the struggle became even more savage. During the
first two months of 1983, 243 guerrillas, 56 civilians,
and 5 security personnel were reported killed. By June,
the death toll for that year had reached 1000 and many
wore than that had been arrested.21 The use of terror by
the armed forces met with increased terror by Sendero,
which began to undermine the base it had achieved.
Tactics turned to being more destructive instead of
constructive. Although they were successful in achieving
the intervention of the military to demonstrate the
weakness of the government, this placed the population in
a crossfire between two diametrically opposed
institutions. In line with its strategy of attacking
their perceived symbols of the bourgeois state and
capitalist dependency, Sendero was also destroying such
institutions as the agricultural experimental station of
the University of Huamanga, the Nestle Company stores and
factories, peasant cooperatives, and any and all
government or foreign aid program installations.22 This
began to erode some of the base of support they had
labored to achieve. Their withdrawal from some areas to
avoid confrontation with the military also caused them
some loss of support. As one sympathizer put it:
Why don't they take care of us? They have
put us into this problem and they don't take
care of us; they should defend us. Why have
they told us that they would lead the fight
and we would come behind? Where are they?
You don't see them around here. They stuck
us in this mess and they left -- it can't be!23
Sendero had foreseen the intervention of the armed
forces and had planned for it, to a certain extent. They
had worked hard on establishing support bases in the rural
highland areas. They controlled large areas where police
and government authorities dared not venture, and which
were administered by "popular committees". But they kept
their leaders and most valuable components under ground, so
that when the security forces moved into these areas, they
lost only the popular committees and some of the other
more overt members. The leaders were able to continue to
work underground to continue to build their forces and
inake their actions more selective.24
Although they began to suffer losses and setbacks
with the intervention of the military, Sendero had
accomplished some important objectives during the first
phases of its insurgency. They gained time by fixing the
attention of the government on the initial and few widely
scattered actions while they put the final touches on
their preparations for the armed struggle, and their
guerrilla wing gained valuable experience in a gradual
buildup of violence. They demonstrated the vulnerability
of the government and economic institutitons, and the
impotency of the police and armed forces to protect them.
They undermined the credibility of top government
officials who kept saying that there was no cause for
concern, since the situation was allegedly under control.
When the minister of interior under the Belaunde
government issued a declaration that the terrorists had
been defeated, they launched a wave of blackouts and
bombings in Lima and in the highlands. It was obvious
that they were only waiting for a declaration like this to
be made. They sought a slow but steady economic attrition
of the government and economic institutions, which they
were achieving, as the damages from their acts started to
reach the hundreds of millions of dollars. And they were
well prepared for the repressive tactics of the police and
military, which they in fact did their best to incite.
They mounted a well-coordinated and successful propaganda
campaign which portrayed the security forces as
bloodthirsty beasts who were more terrorist than the
However, the resistance of some of the highland
communities to Sendero was highlighted in an event which
shocked the nation. In January 1983, eight journalists
were murdered in the Andean village of Uchuraccy by
villagers who mistook them for Senderistas. A horrified
nation watched via live television coverage while the
corpses, which had been mutiliated in ritual Indian
fashion, were disinterred. An investigative commission,
headed by the noted Peruvian author, Mario Vargas Llosa,
placed the blame on the villagers and absolved government
forces in the matter.26 Some later called this a
"whitewash" and accused the armed forces of killing them
to prevent disclosure of a secret counterinsurgency
operation.27 Charges were brought against some of the
peasants, later withdrawn, and then reinstated. Two
defendants were eventually convicted of the murders. 28
In March 1983, Sendero convened a congress somewhere
in the jungle during which Abimael Guzman, along with
other leaders, was in attendence. Decisions were made to
deepen the war and carry it into its fourth stage of
conquering bases of support and strengthening the military
forces. Some previous failures were attributed to the
lack of training and quality of sufficient military
leaders, and deficient ideological indoctrination of the
militants. This had resulted in deserters and traitors to
the cause, thus allowing the manipulation of the people by
the security forces. Resolutions were passed to retake
the zones occupied by the military and to extend the
radius of action to the neighboring departments of Lime,
Junin, Cuzco, and Apurimac. They also resolved to develop
more international contacts and addressed the need for an
improved communications system.29
During 1983 Sendero began to be more active in the
urban areas, stepping up attacks and bombings and
increasing the frequency of blackouts. In addition to the
operative cells, they established so-called "centers of
resistance", or secret militias, in factories,
universities and slums. 30 The inital urban Senderistas
were untrained platoons of city dwellers led by trained
insurgents from the countryside, but they became
increasingly organized and effective and carried out
Sendero also became increasingly effective at
conducting simultaneous attacks in different sections of
the county. This indicated an improvement in their
communications systems. It was thought that they may have
acquired a powerful radio transmitter which they used in
conjunction with equipment captured in raids against
As the military increased its effective control
over Ayacucho and the surrounding areas, Sendero carried
out its plans to spread their operations to other rural
regions. They concentrated on exploiting the poor living
conditions of the landless peasants in a strategy similar
to the one they carried out in Ayacucho. However, they
did not have the benefit of having carried out extensive
preparation and political work as they had there. This
led them to use more repressive rather than persuasive
tactics to garner the support of the local populace. They
used such tactics as attacks on peasant cooperatives,
which were the sites of the most productive land where
most of the families were landless. This was an attempt
to pit the impoverished highland peasants against those
with better land. All of the fronts were located in
neglected and impoverished areas with little infra-
structure to facilitate the effective deployment of
Sendero's activities in urban areas, particularly
Lima, increased significantly. There were 637 actions in
Lima in 1983, and 1,398 in 1985.31 Actions consist of
sabotage, propaganda, and bomb attacks against
representatives of the "establishment" and "foreign
imperialism" as well as assassination.
Blackouts are used frequently to emphasize or
celebrate certain events. The entire city of Lima was
blacked out at midnight of the New Year of 1983, leading
many Peruvians to comment that this was the first time in
the history of Peru that something happened exactly on
time! Blackouts were also used to mark the visits of the
Pope and the President of Argentina, and to celebrate the
birthday of Guzman. However, Sendero's use of propaganda
is not generally in creating spectacular news events.
They prefer to paint slogans on walls, distribute
leaflets, and occupy schools to harangue the students.
Sendero's campaign does include, however, attacks on
domestic and foreign "symbolic institutions". Attacks on
symbols of the establishment include government buildings,
police stations, the international airport, hotels,
Expensive restaurants, newspapers, "elitist" schools,
state-owned businesses, big department stores, banks, and
other objectives which represent power and privilege.
Attacks on symbols of foreign imperialism include
embassies: The U.S embassy nine times, the Chinese six
times, the Soviet three times. U.S.-Peru and USSR-Peru
cultural centers also have been targets as well as
foreign-owned businesses such as Holiday Inn,
Mercedes-Benz, Eastern Airlines, Fiat, Sears, Coca-Cola,
Aeroflot, and many others.
Assassinations are becoming more and more frequent.
They have included congressmen, APRA party leaders,
police, and members of the armed forces including an
admiral and a retired admiral.32 Recently, a Yugoslavian
manager was killed outside his factory, the first
foreigner to be killed in the capitol.33
One institution which Sendero has not attacked is
the Roman Catholic church. Many believe that the
sentiments of the people, particularly the rural peasants,
favor the Catholic church so strongly that Sendero would
lose support if it attacked the church. However, they
have used threats and other types of pressure to force
many priests to leave their rural parishes, not having yet
indulged in direct attacks on the institution.
It is possible that, since the church is a special
entity, it deserves special treatment which will take
place in a later phase of the revolution.34 But this does
not involve other churches. Sendero has attacked some
Evangelical Protestant churches run by foreign
missionaries, which they consider to be symbols of foreign
interference in Peru.
Then in June 1986 a spectacular event occurred.
That month Senderistas in Lima's three major prisons
staged uprisings in which they took control of the prisons
and took hostages. These prisons, which held the majority
of captured Senderistas, had been under the effective
control of Sendero for some time, and most of the
terrorism in Lima had been planned and controlled from
there. The civil authorities in charge of the prisons had
allowed the highly disciplined and organized Senderistas
to take over many of the internal functions of running the
prisons as "trustees". They had enjoyed virtual autonomy
in parts of the jails, conducting political classes and
engaging in military training, and had smuggled in
dynamite, small arms, and homemade weapons.
President Garcia gave the armed forces authority to
quell the revolts, transferring authority to them from the
civilian officials who ran the prisons. No significant e
effort to negotiate was made, and the suppression of the
revolts became a massacre. At Santa Barbara, the women's
prison, the revolt was quickly put down with minimum
casualties, but this was not repeated at the other two.
At Lurigaucho, on the outskirts of Lima, an anti-terrorist
unit of the Guarda Republicana stormed and took the
prison, then killed over a hundred prisoners after they
had surrendered. At El Fronton, an island prison, the
marines were given the job of retaking it. Attacking
against the well-entrenched prisoners armed with some
small arms and many homemade weapons, the Marines blasted
their way in with attack helicopters and direct fire
weapons, reducing the buildings to rubble. One hundred
and thirty-five prisoners were killed.
These events, as well as the President's promise to
punish those guilty of the massacres, were widely
publicized in the world news media. Sendero has profited
greatly from the resulting propaganda value, able to
portray the government and the military as beastly
violators of human rights. They have proclaimed the day
of the uprisings as the "Day of Heroism" and the dead
Senderistas as martyrs to their cause. 35 They promised
to commemorate the occasion annually with acts of
Much attention has been focused recently on the
operations of Sendero in the upper Huallaga River valley,
in the department of San Martin. This is the major coca
producing region in Peru, which is the world's largest
exporter of unrefined coca. * Sendero actually began
operating in this region as far back as 1980, when
Senderistas settled in the region and began to grow coca.
*Peru exports more raw coca than Colombia and
Bolivia combined. The leaves are boiled down into a paste
in Peru which is then transported to sites in Colombia
where it is refined into cocaine.
After a period of two years, they began to recruit and
organize the coca growers to present a unified front
against the police and the coca buyers, who were
principally from Colombian drug gangs. This was a popular
movement among the growers because it protected their
plants from being destroyed by the police and allowed them
to set their prices for the coca leaves. Sendero met with
considerable resistence from the buyers and from the MRTA,
another revolutionary group, and there were many violent
confrontations.* Sendero eventually came to dominate most
of the region through their superior organization,
ruthlessness, tactics, and firepower.
In the areas under their control, Sendero put an
end to the alcohol and vice engendered by the easy money
from the drug trade. Although they are involved in the
trade, they are determined not to let their members become
corrputed by it. They close discotheques and brothels,
kill homosexuals, and expel the prostitutes.
The presence of Sendero in the region became
increasingly evident to the government, especially so when
a police station was attacked by 200 armed men in May
1987.36 An emergency was declared in the zone and the
*The MRTA is a foquista-style revolutionary group
believed to be in Cuba. It specializes in sensational
acts of terrorism and porpaganda and is believed to have
police presence increased, supported by some military
operations. When the police or military forces intervene
the Senderistas mix with the local populace or withdraw
into less accessible areas. The local populace generally
resents these incursions because the security forces often
destroy the coca plants or otherwise interrupt the drug
trade on which the economy of the villages depends. The
end result is that they increasingly support Sendero.
The area is particularly important for Sendero
because it is estimated that over $600,000,000 a year
flows through the region as a result of coca sales. If
Sendero extracts a 5% cut, as they are believed to do,
they could be garnering over $30,000,000 per year, which
can purchase much support and many sophisticated weapons.
Sendero has been increasing its relations with
organizations external to Peru. Its main object appears
to be to influence world opinion in its favor, and against
the Peruvian government. It has some relations with the
International Revolutionary Movement headquartered in
London, a loose organization of radical leftist groups in
Western Europe and the Americas.37 They assist in
spreading Sendero and helped sponsor a Sendero radio
program in Paris. Sendero has support from groups of
university students in France, Spain, West Germany, Great
Britain, and Sweden. Abimael Guzman's father-in-law lives
in Sweden and uses it as a base for raising support for
Sendero. There are some support groups in Berkeley and
New York which assist in spreading Sendero pamphlets and
other propaganda. *
In Latin America, Sendero appears to have
established relations with various revolutionary groups
from other countries, primarily Colombia, Venezuela,
Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina.+ There have been reports
of meetings in Colombia and Bolivia with representatives
of those groups, with attendees also from Cuba and
Nicaragua. There are also reports of individuals from
Argentina, Italy, Chile, and Colombian M-19 insurgents
fighting alongside Senderistas in Peru.
There is no doubt that Sendero has international
aspirations. In their 1986 manifesto, Desarollar La
Guerra Popular Sirviendo a la Revolucion Mundial, (Develop
the Popular War Serving the World Revolution) they
instruct their members to restrain their "sectarianism and
*Organizations in the U.S. which have expressed
support for Sendero (according to Peruvian Intelligence)
include the Revolutionary Communist Party, and the
Committee for Support of the Peruvian Revolution, address
2483 Hearst Ave., No. 225, Berkeley, CA 94079.
+These include the Colombian M-l9, Argentine
Montoneros, Ecuadorian Alfaro Vive, Chilean MIR, El
Salvadorean Poor People's Guerrilla army.
dogmatism" and seek support from outsiders.38 According
to Peruvian sources, their objectives are to create an
"Andean community" which will unite Andean Indian groups
the length of Latin America and become the leaders of a
new "international guerrilla army" which will inflame the
whole of the hemisphere.39 It is unlikely, considering
their dogmatism, that they will ally themselves with any
mainstream communist countries or parties such as the
Soviet Union, China or Cuba, but it is apparent that they
are building relations with other revolutionary groups,
particularly in neighboring countries.
Although there are constant calls from the media
and politicians in the opposition party for negotiations
with Sendero, it is important to note that Sendero has no
intentions of entering into negotiations with the
government in any form. They pay no attention to such
calls and have never responded to the numerous offers put
forth in the media. They consider any dialogue with the
existing power structure "chocolate with poison inside, a
stupidity."40 Negotiations, for them, violates a
fundamental principal: never surrender, to be at the
mercy of the enemy and gamble at losing the destiny of the
people for which they struggle.
In the last eight years of its revolution, Sendero
has been highly successful in some ways while failing in
others. In contrast to the ill-fated revolutionaries of
the 60's, Sendero's preparation, organization,
impenetrability, and clandestine operation have
contributed to continued successes against a state
counterinsurgency campaign hampered by a lack of
organization and resources. Following their increased use
of terror and political violence, Sendero eroded some of
the support base which they had constructed during their
early years. The movement has not produced the
worker-peasant alliance prevalent in their ideological
rhetoric and has failed to achieve the polarization of the
society into two extremes. The vast majority of Peruvians
continue to support democratic alternatives to the
revolution. The campaign of sabotage has not severely
undermined the economy, although it has made some inroads.
On the other hand, Sendero has proven itself to be
tenacious and impossible to easily eradicate.
Sendero seems to consider the phase of establishing
the support bases complete and is moving into the phase of
developing and exploiting them. It is important to
consider that time in a calendar sense is not significant
to them, as they measure the progress of revolution by
events and do not have a timetable schedule. It doesn't
matter if a phase takes five years or fifty years to
complete. Victory, they believe, is inevitable.
They claim to have established support bases in all
departments of Peru, from the Ecuadorian to the Bolivian
borders. 41 Their aims are now to consolidate the popular
committees in the bases which will control them and serve
as a foundation for a future higher governmental
structure. Their further goals are:
Political - Build the party by recruitment.
- Build their presence in the urban
areas to tie down more security
Economic - Destroy the present economy.
- Create a new economy in the
support bases based on barter.
Social - Gain the support of the urban
masses, especially in the pueblos
Military - activate and deactivate guerrilla
actions in different zones to
spread the security forces more
- Militarize more of their support
groups, especially in Lima.
- Step up operations in the Upper
Huallaga and Apurimac (a line of
communications center). 42
They have progressed more rapidly than they had
thought, it seems, and may not be prepared for this new
phase of developing the support bases and moving out of
them to generalize the war. They have to recruit more
troops and gain the support of more people in the
countryside. However, it is one thing to support a
revolution in and around one's village and quite another
to sign up to attack the cities and fight for some
esoteric ideal. Moreover, most of the young men have
generally migrated from the countryside to the urban
areas, both to escape being drafted by Sendero or the
security forces into the conflict, and to find work. So
there are serious obstacles to them coming out of the
support bases. They will most likely put more emphasis on
urban terrorism, and recruitment and organization in the
cities. They are also likely to start becoming more open,
attempting to infiltrate or influence organizations such
as unions, trade and community organizations, and
competing with other political parties.
In the earlier stages of the insurgency, Sendero
doctine postulated that the countryside is the principle
arena and the city the complementary. Now they add but
necessary, which is a significant change in their
strategy. 43 Now, instead of "sweeping the countryside"
and "killing the bad weeds", they are more likely to try
persuasion as a means of gaining support. There will
likely be fewer blackouts and more propaganda.
A true revolutionary situation would exist in Peru
only if the majority of the society wanted a fundamental
change while an elite in power remained intransigent to
their demands. This is not the case, as the democratic
government, while having its problems, is responding to
the perceived desires of the people as best it can. In
this context, the chances for a successful revolution by
Sendero appear slim. However, given its tenacity and
fanatical dedication, the chances of its defeat in the
near future also appear slim. The amount of time it had
to build its support bases, the geography favorable to the
insurgents, and the great gaps in social conditijons which
still exist in Peru suggest that Sendero may be
inerradicable. When and how the government will be able
to accomplish that is a very large question remaining to
THE NATURE OF GOVERNMENT
On July 28, 1980 Peru inaugurated 68 year-old
President Fernando Belaunde Terry in a spirit of optimism.
Formerly President from 1963-1968, Belaunde was returned
to power after twelve years of military rule with an
impressive 45% of the vote. The legitimacy of the new
administration was bolstered by the fact that Peru's
illiterates, about one-fourth of the population, were
allowed to vote for the first time.1 The nation's ailing
economy was showing signs of recuperation and the morale
of Peru's 18 million citizens was buoyed by the
restoration of democracy after a long period of military
The economy left by the military regime was
emerging from one of the worst recessions in Peru's
history. A severe austerity program had eased the crisis
in Peru's external deficit and the economy was growing
again. But servicing the huge foreign debt still required
more than half of Peru's export earnings; annual inflation
rose to a rate of 61%, and less than half of the labor
force was fully employed. Real wages were one-third lower
than in 1973. This translated into widespread
malnutrition and dramatic increases in disease and the
rate of infant mortality.
Belaunde promised massive public works and
development projects to create a million new jobs while
greatly increasing expenditures for education, health, and
other social programs. The economic program that was to
permit this would be based on a greater emphasis on
private enterprise and free market forces. This strategy
had recently produced a highly acclaimed "economic
miracle" in Chile.
Unfortunately, everything that could go wrong, did.
The success of the open economy program depended too much
on the vagaries of nature and the international market,
and neither cooperated. The favorable markets for Peru's
exports, which pulled the country out of recession in
1979, disappeared in 1981 as the world's developed
economies slumped. A three year drought in the north was
followed by another in the south in 1981. In 1983, the
warm El Nino current invaded Peru's cold coastal waters
wreaking havoc on the important fishing industry and
bringing torrential rains which ravaged the normally dry
coast. Floods destroyed houses, crops, washed away
irrigation systems and roads, and severely damaged the oil
industry. Inflation climbed more than 70% in 1981 and
1982 and was galloping at an annual rate of 150% by 1983.
The government began to run large deficits, and turned to
foreign bankers to obtain more loans to cover their
Along with economic crisis came increasing
political problems. The soaring cost of living,
reductions in subsidies, and other unpopular cost-cutting
policies resulted in waves of strikes and other
demonstrations. The nation's mass media, returned to
private hands in one of the President's first official
acts, attacked the regime from both the right and the
Another factor that added to the Belaunde regime's
woes: a sudden rash of terrorist acts marking the
commencement of Sendero Luminoso's armed revolution. The
early operations of Sendero -- raids on mining camps to
steal dynamite and minor acts of sabotage, primarily in
Ayacucho -- caused little concern in Lima. Some leftists
attributed the bombings to right-wing groups who wanted to
provoke the suppression of government critics, for Sendero
often does not claim credit for individual incidents. The
administration discounted the guerrilla threat and
rejected early calls to use the army against Sendero.
Belaunde feared that the struggle might degenerate into a
"dirty war" like the war in Argentina in the 1970's when
thousands of victims "disappeared". The government
insisted that the insurgency could be eliminated by the
Civil Guard, Peru's national police.
But what are Peru's security forces and what was
their condition in 1981? The police are divided into
three services that have traditionally been distinct and
institutionally competitive. The main component is the
Guardia Civil, which is responsible for crime control,
traffic control, and maintaining public order. The
Guardia Republicana has the primary duty of security for
public institutions and prisons. The Peruvian
Investigative Police (PIP) is a plainclothes organization
responsible for criminal investigation and intelligence
gathering, similar to the FBI. Each of the services have
elite units which are designed to combat subversion. The
Guardia Civil has the Sinchi Battalion, the Guardia
Republicana has the Llapan Atic (Quechua for all-powerful)
squad, and the PIP has its Directorate of Counterterrorism
The police services are characterized by internal
rivalries, professional jealousy, and contradictions in
their organization. They are inadequately trained, badly
equipped, under-paid, and profoundly corrupt. The
population has little or no confidence in them, and they
are one of the worst police organizations in Latin
America.3 They have shown themselves basically incapable
of dealing with the growing wave of crime in Lima, and
have had little to no success in combatting Sendero
One reason for the poor state of the police was
their treatment under the 12 years of military rule. The
military kept the police at a poorly paid and equipped
level to prevent the rise of a potential rival authority.
The military is conscious of this error and are now
supporting the government's attempts to reorganize and
improve the police. One example of their sad state
illustrates this: In l985 the police in Lima possessed
only 22 patrol cars to service the metropolitan area of
over six million!4
In contrast to the police, the military forces are
among the most modern, well-equipped and well-trained in
Latin America. They are configured, however, to fight a
conventional war, as they view the primary threat to
national security as coming from Chile and Ecuador. They
view these countries as their natural foes, as memories of
wars fought with both of them are still strong.
The army is the senior service, with about 85,000
personnel, and is equipped with a large amount of Soviet
tanks, artillery, and helicopters. These were purchased by
the military government in the 1970's, when the United
States was reluctant to sell arms to a country with a
military government. In contrast to armies in many other
Latin American countries, the Peruvian army officer corps
does not have strong ties to commercial interests or to
the traditional governing classes. The majority of the
officers, especially the younger ones, come from the
middle or lower classes. This is one explanation for the
moral conscience of the Velasco military government which
instituted reforms breaking the power of the oligarchy and
attempted to reduce some of the great social disparities
in Peru. Although a more conservative faction took
control of the army after the failure of most of the
reforms, this conscience still exists in many officers.
In their solutions to the social conditions which they
strive to implement in combatting Sendero, they turn to
the ideas of the Velasco government.5
The navy has about 27,000 personnel, which includes
3,600 marines. The Naval Service is considered an
"exclusive career" for the sons of the upper classes, and
its officers are almost exclusively white. It has always
been the most conservative service and the most tied to
the traditional ruling classes. Naval forces did not
participate in the counterinsurgency campaigns of the
1960's, but are an integral part of the one against
Sendero. They have had some difficulty adjusting to the
unconventional warfare required, and, in some cases, the
painful social realities of the Peruvian highlands.
The air force is one of the best equipped and
trained in Latin America, with a mix of U.S., Soviet, and
French aircraft. It is basically an apolitical service;
it does not participate in the counterinsurgency war,
other than providing logistical support.
The Peruvian military is nationalistic in the
extreme, and considers themseves to be the depository and
custodian of the national conscience. They have one of
the most comprehensive military training systems in all of
Latin America. It's apex is the Center for Higher
Military Studies, where the economic potential and social
welfare of the country are stressed as well as defense
from external sources. Largely due to this, the military
has come to see themselves as the defenders of all the
people instead of just the ruling classes as has sometimes
been the case in the past.
In the army about 22% of the enlisted men are
volunteers, with the rest conscripts. A small number of
conscripts serve in the navy and the air force. The great
majority of conscripts are Indian, many of them illiterate
who speak only Quechua. Peru has universal conscription,
but many exemptions, most of which do not apply to the
poor, rural population. Many Indians benefit from their
two-year stint, learning to speak Spanish and read and
write. One characteristic of many Indian conscripts is
their aggressiveness. "They are hard to restrain" one
Peruvian officer said. "They are used to a hard life and
conflicts between their village and others, so they think
nothing of going into a strange village and abusing or
even killing the people there. This, undoubtedly has
led to some of the human rights auses by the military in
the counterinsurgency campaign.
In 1980, the capability of the police to maintain
order, even in times of relative calm, was questionable.
They were certainly not prepared to deal with the crisis
presented by a well-organized Sendero threat. The normal
Guardia Civil contingent in the Department of Ayacucho was
ineffective in dealing with the insurgents and allowed
them to occupy large areas which were simply abandoned by
government and police representatives.
After a few months of increasing Sendero activity,
the government began to see that the problem was more
serious than had been thought. President Belaunde began
to attribute the actions to an alliance between drug
traffickers and terrorists who received their ideology and
support from abroad. In January 1981, the Interior
Minister announced that a vast, anti-terrorism campaign
would be conducted by a coordinated police effort
supported logistically by the military. In March 1981
Decree 046, an anti-terrorist law, was passed in the
legislature. Anyone convicted of terrorism was subject to
a sentence of 25 years and a fine of up to $8,000. Police
were allowed to detain suspects for up to 15 days without
judicial interference. The legal definition of a
terrorist was left deliberately vague in order to give the
police broad discretion. A person could be considered a
terrorist if found guilty of:
1. Provoking fear or terror among the general
2. Destroying public or private buildings,
communication facilities, or pipelines.
3. Commiting acts that endanger life, health,
or possessions of other people.
4. Making, acquiring, or storing firearms,
explosives, or their ingredients.
5. Adversely affecting international relations
or the security of the state.
6. Forming part of a band of three or more people
who utilize terror to accomplish their
7. Using the news media to incite people to
8. Speaking out publicly in favor of an act of
terrorism or a terrorist.7
Throughout 1981 the battalion of about 1500 Sinchis
deployed to Ayacucho and began operating against the
insurgents. In October 1981, following a rash of Sendero
attacks, the President proclaimed a state of emergency in
five provinces of Ayacucho. This imposed a curfew and
suspended constitutional guarantees against arbitrary
search and seizure. Under the Peruvian constitution, a
state of emergency may only be declared for 60 days, but
constant renewal has maintained the area under this
condition, as well as expanding it to other areas.
Thousands of people were arrested in wide-sweeping dragnet
operations. PIP operatives fanned out posing as students,
peasants, and travellers attempting to gain intelligence.
None of those measures seemed effective, however,
as widespread abuses of human rights began to be reported
and the population became caught in a crossfire between
the police and Sendero. The situation worsened for the
security forces in 1982, as the police were forced to
abandon more of the countryside and retire to the cities,
leaving Sendero in control. The police were forced into a
defensive posture, attempting to protect strategic points
such as key electrical towers, microwave transmission
points and their own barracks. Sendero still seemed able
to attack anywhere at will, however. Two incidents in
1982 which highlight the ineffectiveness of the police
were the attack on the Ayacucho jail which freed all of
the prisoners and the attack and occupation of Huanta, a
city of 80,000 people, for 24 hours.
Fighting at a tremendous disadvantage, there were
increasing reports of police utilizing torture and other
atrocities against suspected Senderistas. In addition,
published accounts often accused police of being drunk in
public, using their weapons to threaten, rather than
protect the local citizenry, and soinetimes resorting to
outright robbery, extortion, and rape. * The Sinchis
became notorious for their brutality. As one Marine
officer told me:
The Sinchis were very bad. The people
hated them and were afraid of them. By
the time we arrived, they had become
completely ineffective. We were unlucky
to be wearing uniforms that looked a lot
like theirs, so when the people saw us,
they ran away or wouldn't have anything
to do with us. We later changed uniforms,
partly because of this.8
The inability of the police to deal with Sendero
forced a reluctant President Belaunde, in December
1982, as a last resort, to order the military into the
area. An expanded emergency zone of nine provinces was
*Various human rights organizations and
publications have printed many accusations of abuses by
the police and military of innocent civilians. The
Peruvian government claims that these accusations are
greatly exaggerated because the organizations are
infiltrated by Sendero sympathizers. It seems to me that
both are correct. Abuses have occurred, and they have
put under military rule, with a political-military command
headed by a general. The command coordinated the
counterinsurgency effort by integrating police, military,
and civilian irregular forces.
There are numerous reasons for the lack of police
success in combatting Sendero. There was little or no
counterinsurgency training given to the bulk of the Guarda
Civil, and they were severely hampered by the lack of
efficient communications and transport systems. They were
understaffed, and the government did not have the
resources or place enough priority on strengthening them.
They were victims of low salaries and poor morale. They
had no effective intelligence network in the area, having
concentrated their efforts on different groups organizing
strikes and creating urban unrest. Finally there is the
nature of the struggle and the dilemma of a counter-
insurgency program regulated by the rules of a democratic
constitution. This holds true for the entire campaign
from its start to the present. The security forces were
assigned immense amounts of very rugged territory to watch
over against an enemy without a defined front. The
guerrillas are able to hit and run, then disappear in the
midst of a population with which the security forces, due
to language and cultural barriers, have little or no
comunication. The security forces have had to choose
between paralysis under democratic law or combatting
subversion by at times violating that law. Survival many
times dictated the choice of the latter alternative.
But all efforts against Sendero were not failures.
A recently published article documents the successful
struggle of two communities to keep Sendero out of their
The towns of Huancasancos and Sacsamarca are
located two miles high in elevation in a narrow valley in
the Andes mountains about 40 miles south of the City of
Ayacucho. They are difficult to reach by narrow, twisting
dirt roads which wind around the sides of mountains. The
villagers are relatively wealthy by highland standards,
having a commitment to their community which has enabled
them to build schools and their own hydroelectric plant
nearby. It was this way of life that the people rose up
to defend against Sendero.
Sendero began operating in the area in late 1981,
beginning with meetings in the town square and then
gradually moving in and tightening their hold over the
villages. Their leader was Juan Lopez Liceras, who had
been a teacher at the high school for four years. Sendero
reorganized economic life. No one could own more than
five head of cattle and 50 sheep, the rest were given to
poorer families or slaughtered. The community cattle herd
was greatly reduced and, because farmers were prohibited
from working in the fields, food became scarce and
families were reduced to eating one meal a day. The
Senderistas told them that this was a time of war; because
the cities had to be starved out from lack of food, they
would have to make sacrifices. The climactic event
occurred, however, when a well-to-do businessman and
former mayor, highly respected in the community, was shot
in front of the entire town. His wife was later dragged
from a truck and stoned to death by Senderistas.
The villagers rose up against Sendero not long
after this. After several teachers and villagers opposed
to Sendero were also killed, some men entered a room where
two Sendero leaders were sleeping, beat them badly, and
threw them out the window to the street below where
accomplices finished them off. Sendero responded by
sending a patrol and capturing 22 men. Some of them were
tied up near a walk-in oven belonging to the village baker
where Senderistas intended to bake them alive. One
villager, however, had walked all night to the nearest
military outpost about 20 miles away, and a unit of
Sinchis was dispatched by helicopter from the headquarters
in Ayacucho. Several Senderistas (and other villagers)
were killed in a battle, and the remainder fled.
Within a week the villagers elected new leaders and
"pardoned" the young Senderistas who chose to return to
the community. Two weeks later, the Senderistas returned,
but the villagers fought them off. The leader, Liceras,
was shot in the stomach then dragged out into the street
by some women who pummelled him with rocks and stabbed him
with knitting needles until he died.
For the next several weeks the region was in a
civil war as supporters and opponents of Sendero fought in
the villages. In nearby Lucanamarca, Sendero publicly
executed two villagers. Three days later a military unit
arrived and killed a number of people. Then Sendero
invaded the town, killing at least 60 people. Some were
executed while others, including old men, women, and
children, were killed with axes and knives while huddling
in the church where they had sought sanctuary.
Finally, the climactic battle for the region was
fought between villagers reinforced by Sinchis and the
Senderistas. In May 1983 a man who had been seized by
Senderistas as they moved through the area escaped in the
night and made his way to the village to warn them that
the Senderistas were preparing an attack. About 60 or 70
villagers, accompanied by six Sinchis, crept up to the
Senderista camp. There were about 300 of them, but only
15 or 20 were armed with rifles. The Villagers and
Sinchis attacked them in a battle which lasted about 30
minutes, until the Senderistas fled in all directions.
Although there were later reprisal attacks by Sendero
against some villages, this was the turning point in the
struggle for control of the region.
The military' s strategy upon taking control of the
region was for the army to occupy pacified and neutral
territory while Sinchis and marines were given the
responsibility of zones that were under Sendero control.
The idea was to relieve the police forces of superfluous
duties so that they could more effectively pursue the
guerrillas. The military participated in a variety of
civic action programs, offering food, medical attention,
seeds, and protection to many rural villages. Before
long, though, army units began to patrol regularly with
police, and there was an upsurge of accusations about the
use of systematic terror accompained by secret detention
centers, disappearances, and executions.
An important aspect of the counterinsurgency effort
has been the formation of rondas campesinas, or peasant
patrols, which serve as indigenous community self-defense
forces. These patrols are largely involuntary in nature,
with community members who refuse to join regarded as
Sendero sympathizers. All male members between the ages
of 12 and 60 are inducted, and sometimes women join the
ranks. The members are generally not allowed to use
firearms but are armed with spears, clubs, knives,
hatchets, and slingshots. The patrols can consist of up
to 250 members and the leaders are appointed by the
security forces. They receive a short period of training
at camps which can accomodate several patrols at once.
The patrol's mission is to defend their villages
and act as guides for the security forces, but the
military encourages them to participate in actions at
considerable distance from their communities. They are
authorized to detain anyone suspected of guerilla
involvement. Some communities have used these patrols to
carry out raids against rival villages. Although the army
rewards villages with civil defense forces with food and
seed, the villagers also sometimes reward themselves with
booty seized in the raids. The patrols have
unfortunately, in many cases, added an additional element
of violence to an already turbulent situation.
The marines arrived in Ayacucho in 1983 with little
training and no experience in counterinsurgency warfare.10
Since they had not participated in the counterinsurgency
campaigns of the 1960's, the army felt that it was time
for them to do their share and gain some experience in
this type of conflict. A reinforced company of about 350
men in size, they were assigned the provinces of Huanta
and La Mar as their area of operations. These were areas
that were considered to be under the control of Sendero.
The adjustment to the terrain and the unconventional style
of warfare was difficult. As one officer stated:
We had a hard time at first. We didn't know
what we we're doing, and there was a lot of
confusion. We had to take some drastic
measures sometimes. The altitude was very
hard to get used to. We lived and operated
at altitudes above 10,000 feet all of the
time. I lost twelve kilo,s on my first
The marines established bases at the main line of
communication centers in the towns of San Jose, Huanta,
Huamangilla, and Tambo, and began patrolling aggressively.
They developed a reputation for ferocity in their actions
against Sendero and brutality in their treatment of
civilians. This was undeserved, though, according to the
marines I interviewed. They simply did not have the time
or personnel to devote to public relations and did not
grant interviews. Thus, there were many unjust
accusations printed about them in the press.
The marine commanders rapidly learned what tactics
worked the best in this new warfare. They included
medical personnel on all of their patrols, laden with
medicine and food to distribute to the villagers. Civil
defense units were formed in all of the villages in their
area and used as a source of intelligence, to check the
movements of all the villagers. The civil defense forces
were given weapons, trained in security procedures, and
helped construct defenses in and around their villages.
The marines used helicopters for aerial observation and to
leapfrog their units into areas to cut off and surround
known Sendero units. The use of helicopters had its own
hazards, as one marine commented:
We were using army Bell 212's which were not
designed to operate at those altitudes. The
pilots flew with all of the alarms on all of
the time, and there were several crashes.
The army later acquired Bell 214's, which performed
better at that altitude, but by then the Senderistas had
become wise to their use and kept their forces more
dispersed, hence harder to locate. The new helicopters
were an important means of resupplying units on patrol,
however, because of the prohibitive terrain. More
emphasis was placed on foot patrolling, especially at
night. Flack jackets were worn initially, but soon
discarded as too heavy in the high altitudes.
The company of marines deployed to the Emergency
Zone is made up of three platoons, which are replaced from
lowland bases every three months. This is necessary
because of the rigors of the terrain and altitude and the
stress of unconventional warfare. The platoons are put
together two months before their deployment to the
highlands and together undergo a six-week counter-
insurgency training course. While in the emergency zone,
the military personnel do not use their real names so as
to avoid reprisals on themselves and their families.
After two years the marines considered that they
had their assigned area under control and had the firm
support of the population. Then, in a reorganization of
the forces in the Emergency Zone, they were moved to an
area along the Apurimac River, along the border between
the Departments of Ayacucho and Cuzco. An indication of
the support they had gained from the local populace was
that a delegation of townspeople from Huanta travelled to
the military headquarters in Ayacucho to petition that the
marines be allowed to stay in their area.
Their location along the Apurimac River was
designed to interdict the movement of Senderistas between
Cuzco and Ayacucho. Since Cuzco was not included in the
Emergency Zone, the guerrillas used it as a sanctuary at
times. This was a more difficult area to operate in
because of the dense jungle which covered most of the
terrain. They were more successful than they realized at
first, however, because after a few months about 300
Senderistas who had been cut off from their supplies by
the move and were starving, surrendered.
The turning point in the conflict in Ayacucho, most of
the military leaders felt, occurred in 1984. A meeting of
Sendero's top leaders in the area was held in a town near
Cavitos, the army's principal base in Ayacucho. A
defector notified the army, who surrounded the town and
captured or killed them all. Sendero activities declined
substantially after this.*
In January 1984, General Adrian Huaman Centero took
command of the Emergency Zone. He was a native of the
highlands, spoke Quechua, and put an end to many abuses,
as well as putting together an ambitious and imaginative
development program. In short order he gained the popular
support of the local inhabitants and the loyalty of his
troops. Ayacucho recovered much of its previous
normality, there was a long period of calm, and Sendero
was practically dislocated from the city. However, Huaman
made himself unpopular with the higher military command
and with the government by sharply criticizing their
policies and not supporting his programs. In an interview
The solution for Ayacucho is not military,
but the reversal of 160 years of abandonment.
Here the solution is not military, because
if it were, if the issue were to kill everyone
in Ayacucho, I could solve it in half an
hour.... We are talking about human beings,
about forgotten people who have been making
*Most Peruvian officers I interviewed felt that
1984 was the year they began to gain control of the
majority of the Emergency Zone, and than this battle was
the beginning of that.
demands for 160 years without getting
anyone's attention, and now we are reaping
the results. 11
Shortly after this interview General Huaman was
relieved of command. The Belaunde government was so
economically constrained that allocation of all of the
funds he requested for Ayacucho was not feasible, and
Huaman was, in effect, admitting a governmental failure to
overcome the guerrillas.
1984 proved to be a bad year for the Belaunde
government and for Peru. The IMF austerity programs
instituted by his administration in order to gain new
loans prevented spending in the highlands to improve the
quality of life there. The national budget dedicated a
full one-third to service the foreign debt, 25% was
allocated to the military, while only a total of 15% was
allowed for all social services, including health,
education, and housing.12 The investment-starved Peruvian
economy was near collapse and the purchasing power of the
people fell to a level of the mid-1960's. Poor people
suffered painfully and the middle class suffered a painful
erosion of its standard of living. The IMF medicine had
almost killed the patient.
In 1985 Peruvians were ready for a change in political
leadership and national direction. Hence, in May Alan
Garcia, leader of tha APRA party, garnered 53% of the vote
to become, at age 36, the youngest chief executive in the
Western Hemisphere. In his inauguration, Garcia announced
a series of sweeping reforms that would bolster the
economy and aid in the struggle against Sendero. The
police forces would be purged and reorganized, the
military would be held fully accountable for any excesses
and abuses of authority, and a peace commission would be
established to explore alternative solutions to the
Sendero problem. There would be an increase in public
expenditures and development programs for the rural areas.
These would be financed by an economic program that
rejected orthodox austerity and would reactivate the
economy through increased consumer spending. Garcia
further announced that he would restrict payments on
foreign debts to no more than 10% of export earnings.
Although this was actually more than the Belaunde
government had paid the previous year, it was a
politically popular statement and had repercussions among
other Latin American debtor countries.
The President wasted little time in taking on the
military. Following the disclosure of a massacre of 40
civilians by military troops in a counterinsurgency
operation, Garcia dismissed the chairman of the Joint
Chiefs of Staff and the two top ranking officers in the
emergency zone. He went on to reduce the military budget,
reducing the order of 26 French Mirage 2000 aircraft to
12, which saved hundreds of millions of dollars.
He also took rapid action in reforming and
reorganizing the police forces. One of the first laws
passed by his government authorized the reorganization of
the police forces under the direction of a commision
headed by the interior minister. By February 1986, the
three national police forces were placed under one
director, and 1700 police had been fired, including 70
generals.* Police training was reorganized, and better
trained replacements upgraded the quality of the forces.
The Peace Commission created by the President was
less than successful. In seeking a dialogue with the
insurgents, they have been ineffective as Sendero
steadfastly refuses to participate in any talks and
denounces the Garcia government as a continuation of
previous oppressive governments. It has heightened its
attacks against political figures, killing more than 250
APRA party leaders and members during the first two years
of APRA administration
*The fired policemen presented another problem.
They were bitter and unemployed, and many still possessed
their weapons and badges. Lima saw a huge increase in
kidnappings for ransom, which many attributed to
In 1987, the Peruvian congress mandated a minimum
imprisonment of 18 years for persons convicted of
terrorism. 13 Few suspected terrorists have been brought
to trial, however, and if done so, have generally been
freed. Judicial authorities, lawyers, and witnesses all
fear reprisals by terrorists. The government has
authorized special tribunals, with secure courtrooms
inside prison walls, and judges and prosecutors promised
heavy police protection and double salaries. But there
has been no rush of volunteers for the new program.
But the reorganization and upgrading of the police
forces and better cooperation with the military has seen
some positive results. When Sendero stepped up its
actions in Peru in 1986 in the southernmost department
which borders on Bolivia, the security forces were ready
for them. During the first few months the armed forces
limited themselves to surveillance, and then decided to
try preemptive moves rather than react, which had been the
normal mode of operation. The military preferred, in this
case, not to participate at the operational level, chosing
to support operations at the intelligence and logistical
level. The operation was to be directed by the
Antisubversive Tactical Unit (UTA), created from all three
police forces in the police reorganization. Its command
gave priority to obtaining intelligence and remaining
highly mobile. It also stressed the principle that local
residents are allies, not enemies. The operational police
units carried light weapons and mixed uniformed with
The police commanders met with local
representatives of the church and trade organizations, the
National Agrarian Confederation and the Sole Agrarian
Organization. They also held meetings with the
authorities of the predominant political party in the
region. The rules of conduct were made clear and the
police gained the support and assistance of the people.
Within a few months the UTA determined the
boundaries of Sendero activities and the center of their
operations. Four Sendero columns numbering up to 200
guerrillas operated in the region supported by some groups
of peasants. Sendero had sat up rudimentary support bases
and divided the territory into "operation zones" and
"guerrilla zones". Using good intelligence, remaining
mobile, and moving quickly, the UTA was able to deploy its
men at any point which was identified as a center of
Sendero action or influence. In this way, by February
1987, Sendero saw its field of action narrowed to its
original starting point. In April, a Senderist column
assassinated the mayor of San Juan de Salinas. The local
residents strongly objected to this and the Senderists
were forced to retreat. The police tracked them, setting
up a cordon around the area they were in and cutting off
the rail service they were using as transport. On 18
April, after a three hour battle, the seven members of the
last Sendero column were killed. The police found
documents on them which enabled them to make arrests in
other Departments. Thus, police, military, and civil
organizations combined to produce a successful operation
which considerably weakened Sendero's "Regional Committee
of the South."14
Peru's economy has not had the same success. In
June of 1987 President Garcia nationalized the banks and
lending institutions to "stop the flight of capital from
the country." This provoked a storm of protest and has
promoted a resurgence of conservative political groups
which were discredited after the failures of the Belaunde
administration. Defaulting on IMF loans, Peru has cut
itself off from that agency's loans and branded itself a
pariah in the international financial community. A recent
article in The Economist characterized Peru's economy as
"one of the two worst in Latin America" because of its
insurmountable foreign debt proglems and its disastrous
policies. 15 Garcia has had to retreat from some of his
original sweeping policies and now promises "selective
growth" which involves reducing subsidies to all
industries except food, clothing, housing and exports.
In a January 1988 interview with the Lima newspaper
El Comercio, President Garcia outlined his views on the
insurgency and what it will take to defeat it.16 He begins
The tragic thing is that we Peruvians refuse
to accept that this is a war, that it will
last a long time, and that no matter how
many weapons we have, no one can put an end to
it right away.
He goes on to outline the measures that he believes Peru
We face a long hard struggle, but we must
constantly strive to grapple with the under-
lying problems that help explain subversion,
through vigorous support for communal
agriculture and the development of agriculture
-livestock and agroindustrial production,
through the expansion of social services for
health, education, and housing in the mountains
and in the slums, through steady growth in
income and employment for the poorest, through
the decentralization of the state, economic
development in the interior, and the
regionalization of the country.
If we want to combat subversion with the
participation of the people, then we must
expand and strengthen democratic institutions
and methods. Indeed, the development of social
and political democracy is the best tool for
confronting terrorism. But this entails social
changes that the privileged groups refuse to
accept. They do not realize that if profound
changes are not made, not only society and the
democratic system, but they themselves are in
I believe that we are advancing gradually
in the struggle against terrorism. The
intelligence services are carrying out
their activities with increasing efficacy.
The Armed Forces, on the other hand, in the
areas where they intervene, are becoming
more successful at ensuring adherence to
democratic and human standards in the
exercise of repression. I think we should
improve the legal norms that govern the
functions of judges and the protection of
these officials, while also clarifying the
norms governing the arrest, prosecution, and
punishment of terrorists. As I have said
before, I think that those responsibile for
the mass media have a decisive role to play
in this area, and I trust that they will
fulfill it autonomously but responsibly.
The armed forces also know that the principal
factors which have aided in the growth of the insurgency
are social, not political, and that the remedy is to
change those social conditions. They also are aware that
their conventional weapons will never completely defeat
the insurgents. As one senior military officer put it:
We can and are beating Sendero militarily,
but there is another aspect in which we are
not winning: the political and psychological
one. We are not getting the resources we
need to correct the causes of the war. It
is going to take very radical means to win
this war, a greater political cost than this
government is willing to pay. Some newspapers,
which actively support the terrorists, would
have to be closed. Some people may be hurt.
The ideology of the forces that fight the
terrorists must be as great as theirs. Our
ideology, out morale, is low because of the
lack of support from the government.17
In 1990 the next presidential election will occur.
President Garcia cannot run because the constitution
prohibits two consecutive terms. There is belief in some
circles that he will not relinquish power easily, that he
will attempt to hold on to the presidency through a
constitutional amendment or other means. There is some
evidence that APRA is building an armed security force of
its own, for purposes which are not clear. This, together
with severe economic problems Peru is facing, the
ever-present possibility of a military coup, and the
fanatical tenaciousness of Sendero Luminoso, present an
uncertain future for Democratic institutIons in Peru.
Although President Garcia has attempted to
rectify many of the problems that plagued his
predecessors, there seems to be little that attests to an
improved effectiveness of counterinsurgency operations
under his leadership. Although there are isolated success
stories like the one in the Department of Puno, the
security forces seem at best to be containing the
insurgency rather than eradicating it. The grim situation
in the highlands has been worsened by the flight of most
of the young population to Lima. Not only has this
reduced the available labor supply in a place where it is
desperately needed, but it has exacerbated an already
critical situation of urban migration.
The President has a bound notion and an optimistic
vision of the state of the counterinsurgency campaign.
Much depends, however, on his ability to get the economy
back on track and on the ability of APRA, the military,
and the police forces to overcome their historical
antipathy toward each other and work together, as they did
in Puno, to mount an effective counterinsurgency campaign.
The Sendero Luminoso rebellion is in many ways the
result of a historical process in Peru of periodic revolt
of the impoverished, but majority, periphery against the
group in power in the center. Indian groups opposed Incan
rule emanating from Cuzco before the Spanish Conquest, and
Incan and Quechua groups opposed Spanish rule centered in
Lima through a series of rebellions that sought to restore
Indian leadership. Attempts to redress, the grievances of
the periphery groups, have historically met with little
success. Ironically, Sendero rose at a time when
government was becoming more sensitized to the needs of
the lower classes, or periphery, and it was able to take
advantage of a more tolerant reformist attitude of the
Sendero is also unique in some ways. It is fighting
not merely to redress some grievances, but for the total
overthrow of the system. It is a full blown rural
rebellion guided by Communist principle which consciously
and quite proudly follows the principles and practices of
MAO, but depends largely on the guiding thought of its
fanatical leader. It's leadership was willing to take
the long view and work side by side with the Indians and
educate them for many years before beginning the violent
stage of the revolution.
Sendero is also unique in the circumstances of its
development, which are unlikely to be repeated easily. It
emerged in a period when social and economic circumstances
were worsening while expectations were rising. Its
leaders came from a local university dedicated to helping
its own region and people, and had the charismatic
presence of a teacher and leader in Abimael Guzman. The
region was relatively isolated culturally, geographically,
and politically from the governmental center.
It is unlikely that Sendero Luininoso could have had
such success without these special circumstances.
Peruvian governments were beginning to address the
grievances of the impoverished Indians, although they were
moving slowly due to economic difficulties. The irony is
that now the people for whom Sendero professes to be
fighting are caught in a seemingly endless cycle of
violence which will impede even further any attempts to
raise their standard of living.
Sendero is not presently a threat to the existence
of the Peruvian state, but can continue to be violently
disruptive. They are a serious threat to the existence of
a fragile democracy. It is also unlikely that the Sendero
Luminoso rebellion is transportable to other countries.
It is an essentially Peruvian phenomenon. Sendero's
fanaticism has located it on the far extreme of leftist
politics. It does, however, seem to be developing ties
with other revolutionary groups which should be watched
closely by Western intelligence agencies.
While Sendero has not been able to generalize the
war, they have certainly not been eradicated or are
anywhere close to defeat. They firmly believe that time
is on their side and that they will ultimately triumph.
Time will certainly be required to bring an end to this
insurgency, time and many more resources than are
dedicated to it now. The security forces have proven
capable of dealing with Sendero militarily, but they are
aware that this is not the solution. The principal
factors that led to the birth and growth of the insurgency
are social, and these must be addressed to achieve success
in a counterinsurgency program. The successes achieved in
Ayacucho under General Huaman and in the campaign in Puno
have generally not been repeated elsewhere, and
accusations of human rights violations continue. Much
depends on the future ability of the Peruvian government
to get its economy healthy again and address the needs of
1. One must take into account the political leanings of
Peruvian newspapers and news magazines when reading
their articles. Peru has complete freedom of the
press, and most publications have a definite political
bias in their writings. One Lima newspaper, El
Diario de Marca, publishes articles sympathetic to
Sendero and is widely believed to have connections to
II. THE NATURE OF SOCIETY
1. Richard F. Nyrop, Peru: A Country Study, ed. (American
University Foreign Area Studies, 1980), p. xiv.
3. David Scott Palmer, The Sendero Luminoso Rebellion in
Rural Peru, in Latin american Insurgencies, ed.
Georges Fauriol (Georgetown University Center for
Strategic and International Studies, 1985), p. 72.
4. David P. Werlich, Peru: Ashort History. (Southern
Ill. University Press, 1978), pp.16-17.
5. Raymond Bonner, "Peru's War", New Yorker, Vol. LXIII,
No. 46, January 4, 1988.
6. Werlich, pp. 197-198.
7. Richard Gott, Guerrilla Movements in Latin America,
(London, Nelson and Sons Ltd., 1970).
8. Nyrop, p. 37.
9. George D. Philip, The Rise and Fall of the Peruvian
Military Radicals, (Athlone press, London 1978).
Contains a detailed examination of the successes and
failures of the military government.
10. Cynthia McClintock, "Why Peasants Rebel: The Case of
Peru's Sendero Luminoso," World Politics, No. 37,
II. THE NATURE OF THE INSURGENCY
1. Manuel Jesus Granados, "El PCP Sendero Luminoso:
Aproximaciones a su Idealogia" Socialismo Y
Participacion, March 1987 p.3.
2. Carlos Ivan Degregori, Sendero Luminoso: Los Hondos y
Mortales Desencuentros, Document presented to the
seminar "Social Movements in Latin America". United
Nations University - Latin American Council of Social
Sciences, Lima, January, 1985.
3. John M. Baines, Revolution in Peru: Mariategui and
the Myth, (University of Alabama Press, 1972), p.13.
4. Through some Peruvian officers with whom I came in
contact I was able to obtain some declassified
Peruvian Naval Intelligence documents, which included
three pamphlets published by Sendero. These are:
Desarollamos La Guerra De Guerillas 1981
(Let Us Develop the Guerrilla War)
Viva La Dia De La Heroicidad 1986
(Long Live the Day of Heroism)
Desarollar La Guerra Popular Sirviendo A La
Revolucion Mundial, August 1986
(Develop the Popular War Serving the World
5. Desarollamos La Guerra De Guerillas, p.2 0.
6. Ibid., p.24.
7. Granados, p. 3.
8. Ibid., p.4.
9. Peruvian Naval Intelligence estimate, 1985.
10. Lewis Taylor "Maoism in the Andes: Sendero Luminoso
and the Contemporary Guerrilla Movement in Peru"
(working paper) Liverpool: Codeprint 1983 p.19.
11. Taylor, p.l2.
12. Caretas Feb 11, 1988 and Navy Intelligence estimates.
13. Quehacer, Sept-Oct, 1987 in FBIS 28 January 1988.
14. Raul Gonzales, "Especial Sobre Sendero" Quehacer
15. Ibid., p. 29.
16. Philip Bennett, "Corner of the Dead" Atlantic, May
17. James Anderson, Sendero Luminoso: Un Nuevo Modelo
Revolucionario, London Institute of Terrorism
Studies, London, 1987, p.26.
18. Granados, p.6.
19. Ibid., p.6.
20. Jeanne Dequine, "The Challenge of the Shining Path,"
The Nation, 239:610-13, 8 December 1984, p.6l3.
21. David P. Werlich, "Peru: The Shadow of the Shining
Path" Current History, 83:78-82, February 1984.
22. Ronald H. Berg, "Sendero Luminoso and the Peasantry of
Andahualayas",Journal of Interamerican Studies and
World Affairs. Spring, 1987, p.179.
23. DiGregori, p.42.
24. Granados, p.4.
25. Ibid., p.4.
26. Mario Vargas Llosa "Inquest in the Andes," New
Times Magazine, 31 July 1983.
27. "In Peru, A Loss of Human Rights," New York Times,
24 January 1985.
28. Interviews with Peruvian Officers at Quantico.
29. Julio C. Gaitan, "Congreso de Sendero: Abimael
Reaparece" Equis X, 11 April 1983.
30. Julio C. Gaitan, "Sendero Cerca Lima," Equis X,
28 May 1984.
31. Anderson, p.36.
32. Ibid., p. 37.
33. "Peruvian guerrillas Kill Yugoslav Factory Boss" The
Washington Times, 11 April 1988.
34. Granados, p.7.
35. Viva La Dia De La Heriocidad, 1986.
This document eulogizes the Senderistas killed in the
39. FBIS 28 January 1988.
40. Peruvian Naval Intelligence Estimates.
41. Desarollar... p.54.
42. Peruvian Naval Intelligence Estimate.
43. Granados, p.6.
44. Desarollar... p.13.
45. Peruvian Naval Intelligence Estimate.
46. Desarollar... p.13.
III. THE NATURE OF GOVERNMENT
1. David P. Werlich, "Peru: Shadow of the Shining Path"
Current History, 83:78-82 February 1984.
2. Nyrop, pp.237-239.
3. Anderson, p.29.
4. "Peru's Civilian Ruler Calls in Troops to Calm Lima,"
Washington Post, 24 February 1986.
5. Anderson, pp. 25-29.
6. Interviews with Peruvian officers in the U.S.
7. America's Watch, Abdicating Democratic Authority,
(Washington D.C. America's Watch Committee, 1984),
8. Interview with Peruvian Marine Officer at Quantico.
9. Raymond Bonner, "Peru's War" New Yorker, Vol. LXIII,
No. 46:31-58, 4 Jan 1988.
10. This account is based on interviews with Peruvian
Marine Officers at Quantico.
11. FBIS, 29 August 1984.
12. America's Watch, p.16.
13. David P. Werlich, "Peru: Garcia Loses His Charm"
Current History, 87:13-16, February, 1987.
14. FBIS, 24 February 1988.
15. "Argentina and Peru, Two Kinds of Trouble," The
Economist, March 26, 1988, pp. 61-62.
16. FBIS, 8 March 1988.
17. Interview with a senior Peruvian officer.
A. SPANISH/PERUVIAN SOURCES
Anderson, James. Sendero Luminoso: Un Nuevo Modelo
Revolucionario? London Institute of Terrorism
Studies, London, 1987. A brief study, in Spanish, of
the insurgency, the counterinsurgency campaign, and
the prospects for the future. It is a good source of
information on the urban terrorism carried out by
Sendero and the capabilities of the security forces to
Digregori, Carlos Ivan. Sendero Luminoso: Los Hondas y
_________. Sendero Luminoso: Lucha Armada y Utopia
Autoritaria. Documents presented to the seminar
"Social Movements in Latin America," United Nations
University -- Latin American Council of Social
Sciences, Lima. January 1985. These two papers are a
two-part study of Sendero's origins at the University
of Huamanga and the first three years of armed
conflict. The author, a Peruvian social
anthropologist, was a professor at the University of
Huamanga through most of the 1970's.
"El Socorro de Sendero." Caretas, January 11, 1988. This
article, in a popular weekly Peruvian news magazine,
describes the "Socorro Popular" or popular support
group which supports Sendero operations in Lima.
Gaitan, Julio C. "Congreso de Sendero: Abimael Reaparece."
Equis X, 11 April 1983. This article, in a Peruvian
news magazine, describes the congress of Sendero in
March, 1983, and the decisions which were made there.
This was the last known appearance of Guzman. The
author does not identify his sources.
________. "Sendero Cerca Lima," Equis X, 28 May 1984.
This article describes the increased emphasis on urban
terrorism carried out by Sendero, especially in Lima.
Gonzales, Raul. "Especial Sobre Sendero" Quebacer, August
1984. In a monthly Peruvian magazine, this is an
extensive article on the strategy and tactics of
Sendero. It references Sendero pamphlets, and
interviews with Sendero sympathizers.
Granados, Manuael Jesus. "El P.C. P. Sendero Luminoso:
Aprokimaciones a su Ideologia." Socialismo
Participacion, March 1987. This is an extensive
article on Sendero's ideology and strategy. The
author wrote his thesis on Sendero Luminoso at the
University of Huamanga in 1981, and knew some of the
Sendero leaders personally.
Peruvian Naval Intelligence Estimates. Author unknown.
Through some Peruvian Marine officers studying in the
Washington, D.C. area, I was able to obtain some
copies of three declassified Naval Intelligence
estimates on Sendero Luminoso. Although somewhat
dated, they provided valuable information on the
directions the insurgency is taking and Sendero's
relations with groups outside of Peru.
1981. This pamphlet, and the two following, are
propaganda pamphlets published by Sendero. They are
liberally sprinkled with quotations from MAO and other
Communist phraseology exhorting the Peruvian people to
rise up against the government. This particular one
concentrates on the validity of their cause and the
need for developing a guerrilla war.
_______. Viva La Dia de la Heroicidad, 1986. This
pamphlet eulogizes the "martyrs" killed in the prison
uprisings of June, 1986 and accuses the government of
_______. Desarollar La Guerra Popular Sirviendo A La
Revolucion Mundial. August 1986. This pamphlet goes
into great detail on the successes of Sendero and the
faults of the government. It also signals an
important change in Sendero's strategy by urging its
followers to be more open to other groups which have
the same goal of world revolution.
Interviews with Peruvian military officers.
Several Peruvian Naval and Marine officers in the
Washington, D.C. area were interviewed and were
invaluable sources of information. Some of the
information was rather sensitive in nature, and a few
of the officers were in the U.S. due to the current
threat to their lives in Peru. For these reasons the
officers are not identified by name. The general
attitude received from the officers was that they have
very capable forces which can handle the insurgents
militarily, but they lack adequate resources to deal
with the social and economic problems which are the
root causes. They are generally critical of the
Garcia government for not supporting them and
addressing the problems adequately. Another important
point they brought out was that fewer and fewer
Peruvian officers are training in the U.S. This is
due to lack of funds both from Peru and U.S. aid
programs. More and more, however, are receiving
training in the Soviet Union, which has a very liberal
aid program for Peru.
B. ENGLISH SOURCES
Baines, John M. Revolution in Peru: Mariatequi and the
Myth, University of Alabama Press, 1972. Baines
traces the development of the Peruvian Communist
Party, its origins in Mariategui's writings, and its
zenith in the aborted revolutions of the 1960's.
Bejar, Hector. Peru 1965: Notes on Guerilla Experience.
Monthly Review Press, London 1969. Written from
prison, this is a first-hand account of the attempted
revolution of the Ejercito de Liberacion Nacional
(National Liberation Army). This was a foco-style
Communist revolution led by Bejar in the 1960's.
Gott, Richard. Guerrilla Movements in Latin America.
London, Nelson and Sons, Ltd. 1970. This contains an
excellent section on the Peruvian Communist
revolutions of the 1960's. The author is sympathetic
to the rebels, claiming in the introduction that he
would have joined them if he weren't writing about
Nyrop, Richard F. Peru: A Country Study. American
University Foreign Area Studies, Washington, D.C.
U.S. Government Printing Office, 1981. An excellent
overview of Peru and its history, society, economy,
politics, and armed forces. Required reading for
anyone studying Peru.
Philip, George D.E. The Rise and Fall of the Peruvian
Military Radicals 1968-1976. University of London.
Athlone Press 1978. An examination of the
revolutionary military government headed by General
Velasco which came to power in a coup in 1968. The
author concludes that although it succeeded in its
aimes of destroying the oligarchy and creating a large
state sector, its economic failures, the health of its
leader, and divisions within the Peruvian Officer
Corps resulted in its downfall and the removal of the
radical element from the Peruvian military.
Werlich, David P. Peru: A Short History. Southern
Illinois University Press, 1978. An outstanding study
of Peruvian history, concentrating mostly on 20th
Century events. Dr. Werlich has also written a series
of articles used extensively in this study.
2. Periodicals and Publications
America's Watch. Abdicating Democratic Authority.
America's Watch Committee, Washington, D.C. 1984.
This publication details alleged human rights abuses
in Peru by the security forces and takes the position
that the government basically gave them license to do
whatever they pleased.
Amnesty International. Peru Briefing. London, Amnesty
International Publications, 1985. This is another
publication which strongly criticizes the Peruvian
government and security forces for human rights abuses
which include beatings, torture, rape, and
extrajudicial executions. It uses as sources peruvian
news articles and interviews with Peruvian citizens.
Bennet, Philip. "Corner of the Dead." The Atlantic.
253:28-30. May 1984. This provided some good
background material on Ayacucho.
Berg, Ronald H. "Sendero Luminoso and the Peasantry of
Andahualayas." Journal of Interamerican Studies and
World Affiars 51:165-197, Spring 1987. A good,
detailed examination of the effect of the insurgency
on the lives of Peruvians in the Department of
Andahualayas, next to Ayacucho.
Bonner, Raymond. "Peru's War." The New Yorker, Vol LXIII,
No. 46: 31-58, 4 January 1988. An excellent article
with good background information and detailed
interviews with Peruvians from Ayacucho peasants to
President Garcia. The author appears to take some
literary license to make it more readable, but it is a
good description of the insurgency and the
government's problems in dealing with it.
Candelaria, M. "Jose Carlos Mariategui: Forgotten
Forerunner of Liberation Theology" Christ Century,
104:885-7, 14 October 1987. Although not used in this
study, this is an intriguing view of the theories of
Mariategui and their application to Christianity.
Dequine, Jeanne. "The Challenge of the Shining Path."
The Nation, 239:610-13, 8 December 1984. Brings out
Sendero' s ruthlessness in its tactics.
"Embattled in Peru." World Press Review 34:39 May 1987.
Highlights the problems the government is having in
dealing with the economy and the insurgency.
"Excessive Force." Time 128:40 8 July 1986. An account of
the Sendero-inspired prison uprisings and their
Foreign Broadcast Information Service/Joint Publications
Research Service. These are U.S. Government publications
which reprint news articles and radio and television
broadcasts from foreign sources. FBIS reports are
published daily, and JPRS bi-monthly, and have had
numerous articles on Peru and the actions of Sendero.
The isues which were the most useful are listed.
JPRS 28 January 1988 from Quehacer Sep-Oct 1987.
Describes the relationship of Sendero with the coca
growers in the Upper Huallaga River Valley.
JPRS 24 February 1988 from Debate No. 47, November 1987.
Details the successful government campaign in Puno
which captured or killed a large number of
FBIS 8 March 1988 from El Comericio, 10 Jan 1988. Report
of an interview with President Garcia in which he
outlines his administration's achievements and plans.
Lager, K. "Caught in the Crossfire of a Deadly War"
Macleans 98:42, 25 February 1985.
McCormick, Gordon H. The Shining Path and Peruvian
Terrorism. The Rand Corporation, As 86 R28 no. 7297
January 1987. A good overview of the insurgency.
Concludes that Sendero has probably reached its
technical and tactical ceiling.
McLintock, Cynthia. "Sendero Luminoso: Peru's Maoist
Guerrillas" Problems of Communism, Vol. 32, No. 5,
_________. Why Peasants Rebel: The Case of Peru's Sendero
Luminoso." World Politics 37:48-84. October 1984.
The author is a recognized authority on Sendero,
having spent a great deal of time in Peru, and is
referenced by almost every other writer on the
subject. She contends that the reason the peasants
support the insurgency was a crisis of subsistence in
the southern highlands.
Palmer, David Scott. "Rebellion in Rural Peru: The
Origins and Evolution of Sendero Luminoso."
Comparative Politics, Vol. 18, No. 2, January 1986.
The author contends that Sendero emerged out of a very
special set of events and conditions which are not
easily comparable to other insurgencies.
"Peru's Angry Young President." World Press Review,
33:22-7, August 1986. An examination of President
Garcia's economic and political struggles.
"Peru's Bad Boy is Starting to Look Like a Desperate Man."
business Week. 87:55, 17 August 1987. A critique of
President Garcia"s nationalization of Peru's Banks.
"Peruvian guerrillas Kill Yougoslav Factory Boss." The
Washington Times, 11 April 1988. This is one of many
newspaper articles which have appeared over the past
few years on Sendero's actions. It is significant
because it is the first instance in which they have
killed a foreigner.
"Peru's Rebels Flame Out," Newsweek. 107:42, 30 June 1986.
An account of the Sendero prison riots.
Roett, R. "Peru: The Message From Garcia." Foreign
Affairs 64:274-86, Winter 1985/86. A discussion of
Peruvian economic policies, particularly President
Garcia's decision to limit foreign debt payments and
Taylor, Lewis. "Maoism in the Andes: Sendero Luminoso and
the Contemporary Guerilla Movement in Peru." Working
Paper, Liverpool, England: University of Liverpool
Center for Latin American Studies, 1983. An excellent
source on the ideology of Sendero Luminoso.
"Two Kinds of Trouble." The Economist. Vol 306, No. 7543,
26 March 1988. Characterizes Peru's and Argentina's
economies as the two worst in South America.
Vargas Llosa, Mario. "Inquest in the Andes" New York Times
Magazine, 31 July 1983. A report on the murder of 8
journalists in Peru by peasants who mistook them for
Senderistas. The author is a famous Peruvian writer
who was appointed to head the commission which
investigated the murders.
Werlich, David P. "Debt, Democracy and Terrorism in Peru."
Current History, 86:29-32, January 1987.
_______. "Peru: Garcia Loses His Charm." Current
History, 89:13-17, January 1988.
______. "Peru: Shadow of the Shining Path" Current
History, 83:78-82, February 1984. A series of
articles by a historian who has specialized in
Peruvian affairs. They give good insight into the
combination of political and economic problems and
struggles with the insurgency which have made life
difficult for Peruvian governments.
LtCol Pete Davis, U.S. Army -- U.S. Defense Department
Inter-America Office. February, 1988. Helpful
information on the Peruvian military and U.S. security
assistance to Peru, which has been eliminated due to
U.S. budget cuts and Peru's default on its debts.
Karen Hollis -- U. S. Defense Intelligence Agency. March
1988. Provided some valuable insights to Sendero's
links to drug trafficking and APRA'S clandestine
buildup of an arms arsenal.
Edward Vasquez -- U.S. State Department, Peru Desk.
February 1988. Had good insights into Peruvian
politics, and a very pessimistic view of the Peruvian
KEY CHRONOLOGICAL EVENTS
1430-1533 Height of Incan Empire
1533 Conquest of Incas by Pizarro
1780 Revolt of Tupac Amaru II
1824 Peruvian independence from Spain
1879-83 War of the Pacific with Chile
1924 Founding of APRA by Hoya del Torre
1928 Founding of Peruvian Communist
Party by Mariategui
1941-42 War with Ecuador
1962 Abimael Guzman joins faculty of
University of Huamanga
1964 Communist Party of Peru - Bandera
Roja splits from Peruvian Communist
1965 Revolution of National Liberation
1968 Revolutionary Government of the
Armed Forces, headed by Gen.
Velasco, takes power
1970 Guzman and followers split from
Bandera Roja, form Communist Party
of Peru -- Sendero Luminoso
1975 General Velasco replaced by General
May 18, 1980 Sendero Luminoso inltiates the
armed phase of its revolution
May 1980 Return to democratic government.
Fernando Belaunde Terry elected
1981 Sinchis deployed to Ayacucho
March 1981 Anti-terrorist law passed
October 1981 State of Emergency declared in
December 1982 State of Emergency expanded to
Apurimac and Huancavelica, military
forces deployed to zone
May 1985 Alan Garcia Perez elected President
February 1986 Police forces reorganized
June 1986 Sendero stages violent uprisings in
Lima prisons. Troops violently
KEY CHARACTERS AND GROUPS
Accion Popular (Popular Action). The conservative
political party of Fernando Belaunde Terry which won
the elections in 1980.
Alianza Popular Revolucionaria (American Popular
Revolutionary Alliance). The liberal political party
of Alan Garcia Perez, currently in power in Peru.
Belaunde Terry, Fernando. President of Peru from
1963-1968 and 1980-1985.
Bermudez, Morales. Army General who was leader of the
Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces from
1975-1980. He replaced General Velasco in a coup.
Bolivar, Simon. Venezuelan General who combined forces
with Sam Martin to defeat the royalist forces and win
Ejercito de Liberacion National. (National Liberation
Army). Castroite revolutionary group which attempted
a foco-type insurgency in Peru in 1965 which was
quickly suppressed by the armed forces.
Garcia Perez, Alan. Current President of Peru.
Guzman Reynoso, Abimael. Leader and idealogue of Sendero
Luminoso. It is unknown whether he is alive or dead.
Hoya de la Torre, Raul. Founder of APRA.
Huaman Centero Adrian. Army General who commanded the
Emergency Zone in 1984. He was considered to be the
most successful commander, but was relieved for
criticizing the government.
Mariatequi,Jose Carlos. The founder of the Peruvian
Communist Party. He adopted Marxist-Leninist doctrine
to Peruvian reality.
Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (Tupac Amaru
Revolutionary Movement). A small (300-400 members)
insurgent group in Peru today. They favor highly
visible, splashy propaganda and terrorist acts. They
have no ties to Sendero Luminoso.
Partido Communista de Peru - sendero Luminoso de
Mariategui (Peruvian Communist Party - Shining Path of
Mariategui) . The major insurgent group in Peru today
headed by Abimael Guzman Reynoso.
Pizarro, Francisco. Spanish conquistador whose forces
defeated the Incas and began Spanish colonial rule of
Prada, Manuel Gonzalez. Peruvian writer and philosopher
who addressed social inequality in Peru in the late
19th Century. His writings heavily influenced
San Martin, Jose de. Argentine whose forces liberated
much of South America from Spain and who joined with
Simon Bolivar to win Peru's independence.
Sucre, Antonio Jose de. General whose forces defeated the
last Spanish royalist army in South America in a
climactic battle on the plain of Ayacucho.
Tupac Amaru II. Peruvian Indian who led a massive
uprising against spanish rule in the 1780's.
Vargas Llosa, Mario. Noted Peruvian author who led the
commission which investigated the murder of 8
journalists in the southern highlands in 1983.
Velasco Alvarado, Juan. Army general who led the
Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces from
1968-1975. His attempts to reform Peruvian society
met with only partial success and he was replaced by
a coup in 1975.
The following article appeared in The Los Angeles Times,
April 30, 1988. It is a classic example of Sendero
Luminoso's fanatical ruthlessness.
Rebels Kill 3 Sisters for Aiding Peru Army.
Ayacucho, Peru - Maoist guerrillas hacked to
death three sisters whom they accused of helping
counterinsurgency forces in mountain hamlet 370 miles
from Lima, police said Friday.
Police said Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path)
rebels dragged the three out of their house Thursday
night in the village of Runguyoq in Ayacucho, south of
the capital, and in a brief "people's trial" before
the rest of the villagers, sentenced them to death for
helping the army.
The insurgents hung the women on a wall and
hacked them with knives and machetes before slitting
their throats, police said.
The guerrillas have stepped up their
eight-year-old war recently. Political violence has
claimed 71 lives this month.
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