Peruvian Civil W ar
The Peruvian Civil War was centered not in the capital city of Lima, where roughly twenty-five percent of Peru’s people live, but in the small province of Ayacucho. The province is located in the Andes Mountains in the south of Peru, isolated from the large cities on the coast by its mountainous terrain. Not only is Ayacucho physically isolated from the rest of Peru, but it has typically been economically excluded as well, as can be seen by the fact that almost all of Ayacucho’s citizens earn below minimum wage. Many Ayacuchans are indigen-ous in heritage and speak Quechua2, the principle language of the late Incan Empire, as their mother tongue (Paredes, 2007).
The Shining Path was conceived in this setting in the mid-1970s by a university professor of psychology and self-professed communist named Abimael Guz-man. Guzman dreamed of revolution in Peru and preached to his students at the National University of San Cristobal of Huamanga that the Peruvian gov-ernment must be overthrown if justice is to be achieved for the people of Peru (McClintock, 1989).
Guzman not only spread his philosophical ideas of revolution to his students, but was, in addition, a prominent figure in Ayacucho’s regional committee of the Communist Party of Peru. Together, Guzman and the committee began to in-spire a revolution among the people of Ayacucho, preparing an uprising mod-eled on the ideas of Mao Zedong’s communist China (Smith, 2010). On May 17th 1980, Peru held its first presidential elections since its government had been overtaken by a military coup in 1968. Without being provoked, Sende-ro Luminoso launched its earliest public attack on the Peruvian government in Ayacucho by burning voting stands and hanging dead dogs from street lights, methods of terrorizing citizens that the organization continued to use throughout its insurgency. This first attack showed the true colors of the group, as voting in Peru is compulsory, and SL thereby threatened the entire country through this single act. For the first time in over a decade, the national government had been attempting to reinstill democracy into the country, and what had been intended to signal the beginning of a new democratic turnover for Peru instead came to The Shining Path Katherine Aguero mark the dawn of the bloodiest war in the country since the coonquest of the In-cas in the 16th centuryy.
However, due to Ayacucho’s remote location in the mountaiins, the Peruvian government virtually ignored the first phases of the Shining Path’s growth, al-lowing for its expansioon into neighboring regions into the northhern and western provinces of the Andes before establishing a counterinsurgency campaign to combat the guerilla foorces. The province of Ayacucho served as the group’s base from which it reccruited the majority of its soldiers. The conflict was to be characterized by guerilla militants organizing and concealing themselves in iso-lated locations in the mountains and jungles of Peru in the hopes of destroying the Peruvian government and its institutions from the outside-inn (Switzer, 2007).
T argets of the Shining Path
Sendero Luminoso believed that the New Democratic Republic could only be achieved by a military and political struggle it termed the “Popular War”, charac-terized by a military of citizen soldiers fighting to destroy current society. The group, therefore, concentrated heavily on the recruitment of its guerilla army, as the group believed it to be its greatest weapon in the creation of its future uto-pian state (Tarazona-Sevillano, 1990).
The brunt of these recruitment efforts was concentrated on the underclasses of Peruvian society, targeting in particular the historically marginalized indigenous and Quechua speaking people of Peru, who are primarily categorized alongside the campesinos (translating to “peasants” or “poor farmers”) as most campesi-nos are also indigenous in heritage. The campesino and indigenous populations mostly live in rural communities in the highlands and jungles of the country, more often than not making less money than their city-dwelling fellow compa-triots, primarily through agricultural work.
Sendero Luminoso enforced its ideology of campesino and Indian empower-ment throughout these rural communities so as to better enlist those popula-tions to its cause (Schmid, 2005). To add fuel to the fire, the over-all standards of living throughout Peru plummeted in the in the early 1980’s, hitting especially hard in the rural areas of the country which only proved to add further to the at-tractiveness of SL for the peasant communities of those regions (McClintock, 1989).
Other Indian populations that the Shining Path targeted were the mestizo and especially the cholo people of urban Peru. Bolstered by the promise of a better life and pride in their heritage, many cholos and mestizos eagerly joined the ranks of Sendero Luminoso’s army (Portugal, 2008). However, Andrea Porttugal (2008), an Oxford researcher with considerable field experience in Peru, maintains that these peasants and peopple of indigenous heritage, although thee primary target audience, were not the only groups tar-geted by the Shining Path. Portugal (2008), attests that younng, educated uni-versity students were also strategically sought-after by the terrrorist organization due to the idealistic naature of the young and educated.
Both urban and rural Peruvian students were attracted to the idea of social jus-tice for the people of Peru and tended to be recruited into thee middle ranks of the SL army. Even thee Indian and peasant communities targeted by the Shining Path, which represented the lower echelons of the SL army, seeem to have been younger (Portugal, 2008). This is depicted in Figure 4 (below), which shows the ages of Sendero Luminoso militants at the time of their capture by the govern-ment as noted by Hoffman (2006). Portugal (2008) attributes thhis to his assump-tion that the young aree more idealistic and energetic in generaal, traits which the group seems to have used to its advantage.
A H istory of Discrimination
In the year 1531, a conquistador named Francisco Pizarro set sail from Spain and journeyed to South America with the purpose of conquering the largest and wealthiest empire of pre-Columbian America, the Incan Empire, which at its height covered almost the entire Andes mountain range from modern-day Co-lombia to Southern Chile. The Spanish had had their hearts set on the abun-dance of the Inca’s land, natural resources and control over the surrounding tri-bes of the area since they first learned the existence of the civilization at begin-ning of the 16th century. After the successful conquests of de Balboa and Cortez in modern-day Mexico and Colombia, the Spanish crown sent Pizarro further south to continue their overthrow of the Americas into the lands of the Inca (To-dorov, 2003).
Soon after landing in what is now Ecuador, Pizarro headed south with approx-imately 200 conquistadors and, along the way, fortuitously learned that the In-can Empire was caught in the midst of a civil war, a situation which Pizarro de-cided to use to his advantage. The Sapa Inca (Inca king) had recently passed away, leaving behind a vast and prosperous empire and two ambitious sons fighting for the power to rule it, Huascar and Atahualpa (Prescott, 2007). Pizarro chose to settle in modern-day Northern Peru, and from there began to plan his next move.
By the time Pizarro met with the Incas in 1532, the civil war had significantly depleted the empire’s cohesiveness, military and economy, and Atahualpa had killed his brother Huascar and become the Sapa Inca. Pizarro met with Ata-hualpa and invited him back to his army camp with the apparent purpose of ne-gotiating a peace treaty. When the leader of the Incas arrived with his foot sol-diers the conquistador’s army and cavalry ambushed them from all sides, forc-ing them to submit to Spanish dominion. When Atahualpa refused, his men were massacred and he was imprisoned and used as a marionette to control the Inca people. Pizarro told the Incan ruler that if he agreed to his demands his life would be spared, however, once the Spanish succeeded in taking control of most of the empire through these ministrations, Atahualpa was duly executed (Prescott, 2007). Spain colonized all of the Incan Empire in this merciless way, forcing the Incas to acquiesce to the regimentation of the Spanish Empire and convert to Catholicism (Prescott, 2007).
After their conquest the Spanish made the Incas into slaves, stole all of their possessions and land, and regarded them as sub-human and heathens. This subjugation of the indigenous people of the Americas by the European powers of Portugal and Spain lead to a trend of discrimination which can still be felt in the 21st century and is an unfortunate factor of everyday life for many people throughout Latin America (Paredes, 2007).
Sendero’s Appeal and the Senderistas
The neglected economic conditions of the people in the sierra region of Peru advanced Sendero Luminoso’s objective of insurgency. By exploiting these conditions through the use of their ideological propaganda, SL was able to ef-fectively convince the vulnerable and traditionally marginalized Indian popula-tions of the region to join the group’s cause.
The Shining Path recruited the Indians and peasants of the sierra by emphasiz-ing the government’s neglect of their communities, mobilizing them with the or-ganization’s promise of a better life under the future New Democratic Republic conceived by the party. These people constituted the bulk of the Shining Path’s guerilla army, and were the organization’s most valuable asset throughout the internal conflict of Peru (Switzer, 2007).
The native speakers of Quechua and the rural communities in the sierra of Peru were affected the most by the internal conflict, as can be seen by Figure 6 (seen below –idioma materno, meaning “native language”; Castellano, meaning “Spanish”; otros meaning “others” and numero de victimas translating to “the number of victims”). Most of these victims were indigenous in ancestry, and as mentioned by the Truth and Reconciliation Committee of Peru, approximately three out of every four casualties during the internal conflict were peasants or people of indigenous origin (TRC, 2003). These numbers can be attributed to their representing the primary fighters of the Shining Path, and a demographic which largely inhabits the regions where the organization showed the majority of its violence (TRC, 2003).
No matter the race or origin of Sendero Luminoso’s target audiences, however, all followers that the group was able to bring to their cause were called Sende-ristas. Comparable to the communist term comrade, this name unified the Shin-ing Path’s followers and provided them with a false sense of equality despite the inequalities of rank and ethnicity within the organization itself (Tarazona-Sevillano, 1990).
The group grew increasingly violent, beginning with acts of simple protest, such as the burning of ballot boxes and the painting of propaganda slogans on build-ings (see Figure 3 above). These acts of protest soon escalated into physical violence in the early 1980s and continued to be a steady practice of the SL in-surgency throughout the war (Theidon, 2010).
Perhaps the cruelest forms of violence committed by the Senderistas in the name of Sendero Luminoso’s agenda were mock trials, which they conducted predominantly in the countryside. During these trials, anyone believed to be at all connected to the local or national government, bourgeoisie, schools, or even local trade unions might be judged by their “peers” – meaning Sendero Lumino-so militants. These victims were typically executed or tortured mercilessly An example of one such callous act performed by the group occured in May of 1991 in the mountainous sierra region of Peru. The Shining Path seized the small village of Huasahuasi and arrested two nuns and five priests, condemning them all to death because of the fact that they were helping the poor instead of encouraging them to join the SL’s revolution (Fitz-Simons, 1993). One of the nuns, an Australian woman named Irene McCormack, was charged with the ex-tra offense of spreading “American ideas” and food products throughout the re-gion. Despite the villagers’ protests that she was not American nor spreading Western ideas, the Senderistas took no notice, and Sister McCormack was the first to be executed.
Such brutal acts were common in the insurgency of Sendero Luminoso, and as the group gained its momentum, it began conducting ever larger military as-saults through guerilla warfare. The strategy of the insurgency enabled the group to gain control of Peru one village at a time (Switzer, 2007).
Table of contents :
1.3 Problem Discussion
1.5 Research Questions
1.6 Thesis Outline
2.1 Research approach
2.2 Validity and reliability
3 Paving the Path
3.1 Peruvian Civil War
3.1.1 Shining Ideology
3.2 Targets of the Shining Path
3.2.1 A History of Discrimination
3.2.2 Modern Diversity
3.2.3 Sendero’s Appeal and the Senderistas
3.3 Tactics and Psychology of Popular Warfare
3.3.1 Manipulation through Terror
4 Concluding Analysis