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Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)


This traditional Marxist-Leninist revolutionary movement formed in 1983. The MRTA originated in 1980 from the merging of the Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary Socialist Party and the militant faction of the Revolutionary Left Movement. The group's objective was to rid Peru of imperialism and establish Marxist regime. It suffered from defections and government counterterrorist successes in addition to infighting and loss of leftist support. MRTA (TARM) celebrates the anniversary of 4 November 1780, when Tupac Amaru II, a blood heir to the Inca throne, initiated a bloody and futile rebellion against the Spaniards.

The MRTA is a Marxist-Leninist organization determined to seize power to rid Peru of "imperialist" presence, specifically US influence. It first surfaced in November 1983, when it bombed the US Marine security guard residence in Lima.

In the 1990s the MRTA posed one of the most serious terrorist threats to US interests in Latin America — a threat that may extend beyond the borders of Peru as a result of the group’s ties with other Latin American terrorist groups. MRTA continued its terrorism campaign against US interests because purging Peru of foreign influence was central to the group’s political agenda.

MRTA had a Cuban-style command structure similar to other Marxist-Leninist insurgency and pre-insurgency groups in Latin America, such as the National Liberation Armies (ELN) in Colombia and Bolivia. The group is directed by a National Executive Committee, which controls the military forces in conjunction with a High Command. The High Command supervises military operations and is composed of five committees - Political, known as the Popular Democratic Union; Intelligence and Security; Support and Logistics; Communications; and Members work their way up from political activities to military operations as they are trained and prove their abilities. Security measures are well planned and strict, both within the cells and on an individual level.


Bombings, kidnappings, ambushes, and assassinations. Previously responsible for large number of anti-US attacks; recent activity has dropped off dramatically.

MRTA supported its activities largely through bank robberies, kidnappings, and extortion. MRTA carried out several bank robberies in 1990, and its kidnapping and extortion activities subsequently stepped up. Directors of the Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant chain in Lima received “almost daily" demands from the MRTA during January and February 1991 for "war taxes", and one director has left the country to avoid being kidnapped. The MRTA usually demanded between $50,000 and $100,000 from businesses in extortion schemes.

Like most Latin American Marxist-Leninist subversive groups, the MRTA is strongly opposed to US official and commercial presence in the region. Since it began terrorist operations in 1983, by 1992 the organization had hit US targets over 100 times. US official facilities and personnel, Mormon churches, and US commercial establishments and their customers — both Peruvian and foreign - have been attacked most frequently.

The MRTA declared 'war' on the United States in mid-January 1991 and labeled all US installations, personnel, and economic enterprises in Peru as legitimate targets. Since the beginning of the year, the MRTA has mentioned some aspect of the Middle East crisis in nearly every claim it has made for attacks against US interests. It carried out at least 25 attacks against US interests between 23 January and 15 March, causing 5 Peruvian deaths and over 20 injuries.

In 1992, twelve years after the beginning of the armed conflict, the main leaders of the Shining Path (SP) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (TARM) were captured by the police and their military forces were almost completely dismantled. Since then, the leaders of both groups had been in prison and military actions almost disappeared.

In December 1996, 14 MRTA members took over the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima during a diplomatic reception, capturing hundreds of hostages. Government forces stormed the residence in April 1996, rescuing all but one of the remaining hostages.

The MRTA has not conducted a significant terrorist attack since the attack on the Japanese Embassy. It appeared that the MRTA was most concerned with achieving the release of imprisoned MRTA members, some of whom are held in Bolivia.


Believed to have roughly 100 remaining members. Most members have been jailed.

As of 1990 MRTA was estimated to have about 1,000 hard-core members, with another several thousand supporters and sympathizers. Many MRTA members were full-time professional combatants who receive a salary from the organization; some participated in the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) insurgency in El Salvador and the National Liberation Army in Colombia.

The group was highly trained, well armed, employed sophisticated and disciplined tactics and methods, and specialized in urban terrorism. Its well-educated leaders came largely from the middle and upper-middle classes. Members include students, professors and other intellectuals, labor leaders, lawyers, and reporters. The rural columns of MRTA also recruited from the peasantry for their military units.

Location/Area of Operation


External Aid

The MRTA received help from Cuba and Libya. Havana provided training, a small supply of arms, and some funding to the group in the past, but its assistance to the group appeared to be at a low ebb because of Cuba's decision to back the legal Marxist United Left Coalition in Peru.

American activist Lori Berenson was convicted of "collaborating with terrorism" for assisting the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement as it prepared in 1995 to seize congress and take lawmakers hostage. Berenson was originally sentenced to life in prison by a military tribunal in 1995. After U.S. pressure and a legal defense aided by former US Attorney General Ramsey Clark, Berenson was retried in a public trial in a civilian court in 2001. Berenson was sentenced to 20 years in prison for collaborating in an MRTA plan to attack Peru’s Congress. A retrial of several members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) on constitutional grounds began in December 2004. She was acquitted of being an active member of the rebel group, but was convicted of helping the guerrillas, and was sentenced to 20 years in prison. In November 2004, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in Costa Rica upheld the conviction of the US citizen.

Berenson lived quietly in Lima with her 6-year-old son since her 2010 parole because she was barred from leaving the country until her 20-year sentence lapsed. On November 30, 2015 Berenson finally headed home to New York, two decades after being found guilty of aiding leftist rebels in Peru.

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