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|Internal conflict in Peru|
Areas where Shining Path was/is active in Peru
Libyan Arab Jamahiriya (until early 1990s)
|Commanders and leaders|
Néstor Cerpa Cartolini
|Casualties and losses|
|69,280 killed by the conflict (until 2002)|
Peru's internal conflict is an ongoing armed conflict which began on May 17, 1980 between the Government of Peru, the Communist Party of Peru (better known as Shining Path or "PCP-SL"), and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.
Estimates indicate that there have been nearly 70,000 deaths from the conflict in Peru, although death tolls have dropped significantly since 2000, leaving the conflict largely dormant. However, a low level resurgence of violence began in 2002 and in 2014, when conflict erupted between the Peruvian Army and guerrilla remmants in the VRAEM region.
Civilian death tolls were high across the country, as many different factions took deliberate actions to target and kill citizens, making the conflict the bloodiest war in Peruvian history since the European colonization of the country. The war lasted for over 38 years, making it the second longest internal conflict in the history of Latin America, after the Colombian armed conflict.
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Prior to the conflict, Peru had undergone a series of several coups, switching back and forth between different parties and ideologies. In 1968, General Juan Velasco Alvarado staged a military coup and became Peru's 58th president under the administration of the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces, a left-leaning military dictatorship. Velasco himself was overthrown by a military coup on August 29, 1975, following a period of widespread poverty and unemployment and was replaced by Francisco Morales Bermúdez as the new President of Peru.
Morales made an announcement that his rule would provide a "Second Phase" to the previous administration, which would bring great political and economic reform to the country. However, he was unsuccessful in delivering on his promises and in 1978, a Constitutional Assembly was created to replace Peru's 1933 Constitution. Morales then proclaimed that national elections would be held the following year.
Many affiliated with the Peru's Communist Party had opposed the creation of the new Constitution and as a result formed the extremist organization known as the "Shining Path". This ultimately led to the beginning of Peru's internal conflict, with the first attacks taking place only a day before the elections. Despite this, national elections continued and in 1979, Fernando Belaúnde Terry was elected as the 60th President of Peru. Terry had already served as the country's 57th president prior to Velasco's coup in 1968.
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During the governments of Velasco and Morales, Shining Path had been organized as a Maoist political group based at the San Cristóbal of Huamanga University in the Ayacucho Region. The group was led by Abimael Guzmán, a communist professor of philosophy at the San Cristóbal of Huamanga University. Guzmán had been inspired by the Cultural Revolution, which he had witnessed first-hand during a trip to China. Shining Path members engaged in street fights with members of other political groups and painted graffiti exhorting "armed struggle" against the Peruvian state.
When Peru's military government allowed elections for the first time in a dozen years in 1980, Shining Path was one of the few leftist political groups that declined to take part, instead opting to launch guerrilla warfare actions against the state in the highlands of the province of Ayacucho. On May 17, 1980, the eve of the presidential elections, they burned ballot boxes in the town of Chuschi, Ayacucho. It was the first "act of terrorism" by Shining Path. Nonetheless, the perpetrators were quickly caught and additional ballots were brought in to replace the burned ballots; the elections proceeded without any further incidents with the act receiving very little attention in the Peruvian press.
Shining Path opted to fight in the style taught by Mao Zedong. They would open up "guerrilla zones" in which their guerrillas could operate and drive government forces out of these zones to create "liberated zones." These zones would then be used to support new guerrilla zones until the entire country was essentially one big "liberated zone." Shining Path also adhered to Mao's teaching that guerrilla should be fought primarily in the countryside and gradually choke off the cities.
On December 3, 1982, the Shining Path officially formed a "People's Guerrilla Army", its armed wing.
In 1982, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) launched its own guerrilla against the Peruvian state. The group had been formed by remnants of the Movement of the Revolutionary Left in Peru and identified with Castroite guerrilla movements in other parts of Latin America. The MRTA used techniques that were more traditional to Latin American leftist organizations than those used by Shining Path. For example, the MRTA wore uniforms, claimed to be fighting for true democracy and complained of human rights abuses by the state, while Shining Path did not wear uniforms and had little regard for the democratic process and human rights.[additional citation(s) needed]
During the conflict, the MRTA and Shining Path engaged in combat with each other. The MRTA played a small part in the overall conflict, being declared by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to have been responsible for 1.5% of deaths accumulated throughout the conflict. At its height, the MRTA was believed to have consisted of only a few hundred members.
Gradually, the Shining Path committed more and more violent attacks on the National Police of Peru and the Lima-based government could no longer ignore the growing crisis in the Andes. In 1981, Fernando Belaúnde Terry declared a State of Emergency and ordered that the Peruvian Armed Forces fight the Shining Path. Constitutional rights were suspended for 60 days in Huamanga Province, Huanta Province, Cangallo Province, La Mar Province and Víctor Fajardo Province. Later, the Armed Forces created the Ayacucho Emergency Zone, in which military power was superior to civilian power, and many constitutional rights were suspended. The military committed many human rights violations in the area where it had political control, including the infamous Accomarca massacre. Scores of peasants were massacred by the armed forces. A special US-trained "counter terrorist" police battalion known as the "Sinchis" were particularly notorious in the '80s for their human rights violations.
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The reaction of the Shining Path to the Peruvian government's use of the military in the conflict was not to back down, but instead to ramp up the level of violence in the countryside. Shining Path attacked police officers, soldiers and civilians that it considered to be "class enemies", often using particularly gruesome methods of killing their victims. These killings, along with Shining Path's disrespect for the culture of indigenous peasants it claimed to represent, turned many people in the sierra away from the group.
Faced with a hostile population, the Shining Path's guerrilla began to falter. In some areas, some fearful, well-off peasants formed anti-Shining Path patrols, called rondas. They were generally poorly equipped, despite donations of guns from the armed forces. Nevertheless, Shining Path guerrillas were militarily attacked by the rondas. The first such reported attack was in January 1983 near Huata, where some rondas killed 13 guerrillas; in February in Sacsamarca, rondas stabbed and killed the Shining Path commanders of that area. In March 1983, rondas brutally killed Olegario Curitomay, one of the commanders of the town of Lucanamarca. They took him to the town square, stoned him, stabbed him, set him on fire and finally, shot him. As a response, in April, Shining Path entered the province of Huancasancos and the towns of Yanaccollpa, Ataccara, Llacchua, Muylacruz and Lucanamarca and killed 69 people, many of whom were children, including one who was only six months old. Also killed were several women, some of them pregnant. Most of them died by machete hacks and some were shot at close range in the head. This was the first massacre committed by Shining Path against the peasant community. Other incidents followed, such as the one in Hauyllo, Tambo District, La Mar Provinceand Ayacucho Department. In that community, Shining Path killed 47 peasants, including 14 children aged four to fifteen.
The Shining Path, like the government, filled its ranks by conscription. The Shining Path also kidnapped children and forced them to fight as child soldiers in their actions.
Under the administration of Alberto Fujimori the state started its widespread use of intelligence agencies in its fight against Shining Path. Some atrocities were allegedly committed by the National Intelligence Service, notably the La Cantuta massacre, the Barrios Altos massacre and the Santa massacre.
On April 5, 1992, Fujimori dissolved the Congress of Peru and abolished the Constitution, initiating the Peruvian Constitutional Crisis of 1992. The reason for these actions was that the Congress was slow to pass anti-terrorism legislation. Fujimori set up military courts to try suspected members of the Shining Path and MRTA, and ordered that an "iron fist" approach be used. Fujimori also announced that Peru would no longer be under the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights.
As Shining Path began to lose ground in the Andes to the Peruvian state and the rondas, it decided to speed up its overall strategic plan. Shining Path declared that it had reached "strategic equilibrium" and was ready to begin its final assault on the cities of Peru. In 1992, Shining Path set off a powerful bomb in the Miraflores District of Lima in what became known as the Tarata bombing. This was part of a larger bombing campaign to follow suit in Lima.
On September 12, 1992, Peruvian police captured Guzmán and several Shining Path leaders in an apartment above a dance studio in the Surquillo district of Lima. The police had been monitoring the apartment, as a number of suspected Shining Path militants had visited it. An inspection of the garbage of the apartment produced empty tubes of a skin cream used to treat psoriasis, a condition that Guzmán was known to have. Shortly after the raid that captured Guzmán, most of the remaining Shining Path leadership fell as well. At the same time, Shining Path suffered embarrassing military defeats to peasant self-defense organizations – supposedly its social base – and the organization fractured into splinter groups.
Guzmán's role as the leader of Shining Path was taken over by Óscar Ramírez, who himself was captured by Peruvian authorities in 1999. After Ramírez's capture, the group splintered, guerrilla activity diminished sharply and previous conditions returned to the areas where the Shining Path had been active. Some Shining Path and MRTA remnants managed to stage minor scale attacks, such as the January 1993 wave of attacks and political assassinations that occurred in the run-up to the municipal elections, which also targeted US interests; these included the bombing of two Coca-Cola plants on January 22 (by Shining Path); the RPG attack against the USIS Binational Center on January 16; the bombing of a KFC restaurant on January 21 (both by the MRTA) and the car-bombing of the Peruvian headquarters of IBM on January 28 (by Shining Path).:2-3 On July 27, 1993, Shining Path militants drove a car bomb into the US Embassy in Lima, which left extensive damage on the complex (worth some USD$250.000) and nearby buildings.:7-9
Shining Path confined to their former headquarters in the Peruvian jungle and continued smaller attacks against the military, like the one that occurred on October 2, 1999, when a Peruvian Army helicopter was shot down by SP guerrillas near Satipo (killing 5) and stealing a PKM machine gun which was reportedly used in another attack against an Mi-17 in July 2003.
Alberto Fujimori resigned the Presidency in 2000, but Congress declared him "morally unfit", installing the opposite congress member Valentín Paniagua into office. He rescinded Fujimori's announcement that Peru would leave the Inter-American Court of Human Rights and established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) to investigate the conflict. The commission was headed by the President of Catholic University Salomón Lerner Febres. The Commission found in its 2003 Final Report that 69,280 people died or disappeared between 1980 and 2000 as a result of the armed conflict. A statistical analysis of the available data led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to estimate that the Shining Path was responsible for the death or disappearance of 31,331 people, 45% of the total deaths and disappearances. According to a summary of the report by Human Rights Watch, "Shining Path... killed about half the victims, and roughly one-third died at the hands of government security forces... The commission attributed some of the other slayings to a smaller guerrilla group and local militias. The rest remain unattributed." According to its final report, 75% of the people who were either killed or disappeared spoke Quechua as their native language, despite the fact that the 1993 census found that only 20% of Peruvians speak Quechua or another indigenous language as their native language.
Nevertheless, the final report of the CVR was surrounded by controversy. It was criticized by almost all political parties (including former Presidents Fujimori, García and Paniagua), the military and the Catholic Church, which claimed that many of the Commission members were former members of extreme leftists movements and that the final report wrongfully portrayed Shining Path and the MRTA as "political parties" rather than as terrorist organizations, even though, for example, Shining Path has been clearly designated as a terrorist organization by the United States, the European Union, and Canada.
This section is in a list format that may be better presented using prose. (May 2015)
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