What is the origin and history of terrorism and Sendero Luminoso in Peru?What is the origin and history of terrorism and Sendero Luminoso in Peru?


What is the origin and history of terrorism and Sendero Luminoso in Peru?

The era of terrorism is one of the darkest episodes in the history of Peru; the trauma of armed violence, between the late 1970s and the 2000s, still marks consciences in a very real way.  

First of all, it is necessary to quickly situate the context of the country in order to understand the emergence of this movement. At the end of the 1970s, we are in a fundamentally feudal country. The social structures correspond to the colonial order of the Viceroyalty of Peru (the haciendas, these large land properties owned by the whites and employing an Indian workforce almost reduced to slavery, are abolished only in 1973). Lima concentrates absolutely all the powers and the inhabitants of the interior lands are forgotten, except when it comes to paying taxes. On the other hand, the international context of the Cold War saw the United States, great allies of the Lima regime and exploiters of Peru's natural resources, on the one hand, and the USSR, on the other hand, defending countries "poor and enslaved by capitalist and imperialist tyranny".  


Not surprisingly, the terrorist movement that emerged took on the characteristics of Maoism-Leninism. It clearly stated the goal of fighting against the colonial Peruvian state in order to install a Marxist-Leninist state corresponding to the needs of the most humble Peruvians from the interior. It was a professor of philosophy at the University of Ayacucho, Abimael Guzman, who took the lead in this nascent movement. He began to organize the guerrillas under the nickname "Presidente Gonzalo". The terrorists chose the name "Shining Path" in reference to a quotation from a great Peruvian author who wrote: "Marxism-Leninism will open the Shining Path until the Revolution". The goal is, obviously, a Cuban-style revolution. 

In the beginning, the attacks were only aimed at representatives of the state: an attack on a mayor, police officers, governors, etc., but in the end they were only aimed at the people. Little by little, the terrorist movement grew, relying on the frustrations and ignorance of the small peasants to instill in them their doctrine and turn them into new soldiers and activists for their cause. But the idea prevails that "either you are with us or you are against us". The terror of the guerrillas armed with guns and unfailing conviction reigned in many parts of the country; the fear of another attack petrified most of the inhabitants.  


Lima was not concerned about this loss of control over the Andean and Amazonian territories until a bomb was detonated in the heart of Miraflores, Lima's business district. And then, all of a sudden, it was national emotion, and these bloody executioners had to be eradicated at all costs.  

According to later works, more than 70,000 Peruvians died during this armed conflict, caught between two fires: that of the terrorists and that of the army sent to quell the guerrillas. Each demanded the total collaboration of the population, but this automatically meant being murdered by the other the next day for "treason to the Fatherland. It is estimated that 54% of the murders of civilians are due to the terrorist movement, and 46% to the national army. This conflict has also fueled a massive rural exodus to the city of Lima, which has seen its population grow by 300% in two decades, in a chaotic and disorganized manner, increasing social inequalities more than ever before.  


It was finally President Alberto Fujimori who succeeded in bringing the Shining Path to a close: during his two terms in office (1990 to 2000), he managed to capture the head and the highest ranks of the movement, leaving it bloodless and disorganized. Today, Abimael Guzman is calling for the renunciation of arms in order to return to politics, through a new party called MOVADEF (received with insults and general contempt from the media, and finally banned). The whole notion of the "political left" in Peru is almost systematically associated with Marxism-Leninism and terrorism. As for the movement as such, it has been inactive for almost 15 years; only a few remote regions in the Amazon are subject to the law of neo-terrorism associated with drug trafficking, but all this remains far from inhabited areas, and even more so from tourist regions.  

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