Internal conflict in Peru
|Internal conflict in Peru|
Areas where Shining Path was/is active in Peru
|Commanders and leaders|
|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 nearly 70,000 casualties resulted from the conflict in Peru, though death tolls have significantly dropped since 2000, leaving the conflict largely dormant. However, a low level resurgence in violence began in 2002 and in 2014, conflict erupted between the Peruvian Army and guerrilla fighters in Peru proper.
Civilian death tolls were high across the country, as many different factions took deliberate action to target and kill citizens, making the conflict the bloodiest war in Peruvian history since the European colonization of the country. The war has lasted for over 38 years, making it the second longest internal conflict in the history of Latin America, after the Colombian armed conflict.
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. He was, however, 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 the rising conflicts however, national elections continued and in 1979, Fernando Belaúnde Terry was elected the 60th President of Peru. Belaúnde Terry had already served as the country's 57th president prior to Velasco's coup in 1968.
Rise of Shining Path
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 firsthand 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.
Outbreak of hostilities
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 a guerrilla war against the state in the highlands of the province of Ayacucho. On May 17, 1980, the eve of the presidential elections, it 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, additional ballots were brought in to replace the burned ballots, the elections proceeded without further any incidents, and the act received very little attention in the Peruvian press.
Shining Path opted to fight their war in the style taught by Mao Zedong. They would open up "guerrilla zones" in which their guerrillas could operate, 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 war should be fought primarily in the countryside and gradually choke off the cities.
On December 3, 1982, the Shining Path officially formed "People's Guerrilla Army", its armed wing.
Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement
In 1982, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) launched its own guerrilla war 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.
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 war. At its height the MRTA was believed to consist 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 "counterterrorist" police battalion known as the "Sinchis" were particularly notorious in the '80s for their human rights violations.
Escalation of the war
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The reaction of the Shining Path to the Peruvian government's use of the military in the war was not to back down, but instead to ramp up the level of violence in the countryside. Shining Path attacked police, military, 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 Shining Path.
Faced with a hostile population, the Shining Path's guerrilla war 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, when some rondas killed 13 senderistas; 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 by Shining Path of the peasant community. Other incidents followed, such as the one in Hauyllo, Tambo District, La Mar Province, 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 war.
Administration of Alberto Fujimori (1990–2000) and decline
Under the administration of Alberto Fujimori the state began the 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 accept 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, in Maoist terminology, 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 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 campesino 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 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 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.
Despite Shining Path being mostly defeated, more that 25% of Peru's national territory remained under a state of emergency until early-2000.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission
Alberto Fujimori resigned the Presidency in 2000, but Congress declared him "morally unfit", installing to oppositor congressmember 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 war. 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, 54% 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.
21st century reemergence (2002–present)
- 20 March 2002 – a car bomb exploded at "El Polo", a mall on an upper scale district of Lima near the US embassy.
- 9 June 2003 – a Shining Path group attacked a camp in Ayacucho, and took 68 employees of the Argentine company Techint and three police guards as hostages. They had been working in the Camisea gas pipeline project that would take natural gas from Cuzco to Lima. According to sources from Peru's Interior Ministry, the hostage-takers asked for a sizable ransom to free the hostages. Two days later, after a rapid military response, the hostage-takers abandoned the hostages. According to rumor, the company paid the ransom.
- 13 October 2006 – Guzmán was sentenced to life in prison for terrorism.
- 22 May 2007 – Peruvian police arrested 2 SP members in the town of Churcampa, Huancavelica province.
- 27 May 2007 the 27th anniversary of the Shining Path's first attack against the Peruvian state, a homemade bomb in a backpack was set off in a market in the southern Peruvian city of Juliaca, killing six and wounding 48. Because of the timing of the attack the Shining Path is suspected by the Peruvian authorities of holding responsibility.
- 20 September 2007 – police arrested 3 SP insurgents in the city of Huancayo, Junín province.
- 25 March 2008 – Shining Path rebels killed a police officer and wounded 11, while they were performing patrol duty.
- 15 October 2008 – Shining Path militants attacked an army patrol, killing 2 and wounding 5.
- 20 October 2008 – a group of 30 to 50 Shining Path insurgents entered a camp set up by the mining company Doe Run. After delivering a short Maoist propaganda speech, before leaving, the militants stole communications equipment and food.
- October 2008 – in Huancavelica province, the senderistas engaged a military and civil convoy with explosives and firearms, demonstrating their continued ability to strike and inflict casualties on easy targets. The clash resulted in the death of 12 soldiers and two to seven civilians.
- 9 April 2009 – Shining Path ambushed and killed 13 Peruvian soldiers in the Apurímac and Ene river valleys in Ayacucho, said Peruvian minister of Defense, Antero Flores-Aráoz.
- 26 August 2009 – two soldiers were killed in two separate incidents outside San Antonio de Carrizales, in the Huancayo Province.
- 31 August 2009 – 3 soldiers were wounded in an encounter with SL rebels, in the San Antonio de Carrizales, in the Huancayo Province.
- 2 September 2009 – Shining Path militants shot down a Peruvian Air Force MI-17 helicopter, later killing the two pilots with small arms fire.
- 12 February 2012 – Comrade Artemio was captured by a combined force of the Peruvian Army and the Police. President Ollanta Humala said that he would now step up the fight against the other remaining band of Shining Path rebels in the Ene-Apurímac valley.
- 14 April 2012 – a helicopter crashed after a SP sniper killed a police helicopter pilot during hostage rescue operation in the Peruvian Amazon, 4 soldiers were also wounded in the crash.The operation started when SP took up to 40 hostages, demanding a 10 million $ ransom, 1500 soldiers were deployed into the abduction area in order to participate in the operation
- 27 April 2012 – Senderista rebels killed 3 soldiers and wounded 2 others in the aftermath of an ambush.
- May 2012 – it was reported that, since 2008, 71 security forces personnel had been killed and 59 wounded by Shining Path ambushes in the VRAE region.
- 11 August 2013 – Peruvian army killed three Shining Path rebels, including senior commander Comrade Alipio.
- 8 November 2013 – general Cesar Diaz was removed from the position of chief of the Joint Command of Special Operations and the Intelligence Command in the VRAEM.The decision came in the aftermath of the 16 October aerial bombing of Mazangaro which killed one civilian and injured 4 others.
- February 2014 – the Shining Path were reported to have attacked a Transportadora de Gas del Peru natural gas work camp in Peru's Cusco region.
- 10 April 2014 – Peruvian authorities arrested 24 people on charges of SP affiliation.
- 18 June 2014 – security forces killed 3 and injured 1 Shining Path insurgents during an apartment raid in the Echarate region.
- 5 October 2014 – 2 policemen were killed and at least 5 injured when they were attacked by SP rebels in the VRAEM region.
- 14 October 2014 – one soldier was killed and 4 injured in the aftermath of an ambush conducted between Chalhuamayo and the town of San Francisco, VRAEM. A civilian was also injured in the attack.
- 17 December 2014 – the garrison of the Llochegua army base, in Huanta province successfully repelled a Shining Path attack, one soldier was wounded following the skirmish.
- 9 April 2016 – two soldiers and one civilian were killed, and 6 other soldiers were injured when guerrillas believed to be part of the Shining Path group, hidden in the jungles of the Junin Region attacked a truck carrying soldiers to protect voting stations in Lima, as Presidential Elections were to be held the following day.
- 2 August 2016 – The Joint Command of the Armed Forces reported that yesterday at 11 pm suspected terrorists attacked a military base in the mazamari district, in the Valley of the Apurimac River, Ene and Mantaro (abbreviated commonly VRAEM), leaving the balance of a wounded soldier.
- 27 September 2016 – At least three people, one soldier and two civilians were injured in a shooting, there is a detainee in Huancavelica.
- 13 December 2016 – A policeman died during an operation in the town of Apachita in Vraem region.
- 14 December 2016 – Two policemen (another was seriously injured) and four narcoterrorists died after a clash in the Vraem region, known for hosting remnants of Sendero Luminoso and the high traffic of drugs.
- 12 March 2017 – Militants of Sendero Luminoso attacked a helicopter of the armed forces of Peru, the latter responded to the attack leaving as balance several wounded attackers.
- 18 March 2017 – Three policemen were killed and another injured during an ambush in Ayacucho region.
- 31 May 2017 – According to Channel N, it would be a narco-terrorist attack in which two members of the National Police of Peru were shot dead in the VRAEM region.
- 21 July 2017 – Llochegua Clashes: An armed confrontation and attempted rescue rescued 10 policemen and a prosecutor injured in Llochegua, in the department of Ayacucho. A leader of a local armed group was arrested in the operation
- 1 August 2017 – A Peruvian soldier died and seven other rebels were wounded in an ambush in a clash between the army and remnants of Shining Path. In other incident in the same district at least one soldier was killed and other three were wounded.
- 6 September 2017 – At least three police were shot dead by suspected militants at approximately 6 p.m. in the province of Churcampa, Huancavelica region.
- 22 September 2017 –
- A military patrol and a group of Sendero Luminoso remnants clashed Thursday in a sector of the Vraem in Ayacucho without causing injuries, reported the Joint Command of the Armed Forces.
- A policeman was killed and four injured. A guide were also injured and one missing by the 116 of the Interoceanic road, 15 minutes by motorcycle, in the section of Puerto Maldonado - Mazuko, Madre de Dios.
- 7 June 2018 - Four policemen were killed in an ambush by terrorists in the Anco district of Churcampa province in the Huancavelica region of Peru.
- 11 June 2018 - A group of terrorists attacked a military base in the town of Mazángaro in the province of Satipo in Peru. Six soldiers were injured in the shooting.
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