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The Shining Path

The Communist Party of Peru (El Partido Comunista del Perú, PCP)—more commonly known as the Shining Path or Sendero Luminoso—is a militant Maoist guerilla group founded in the late 1960's in an attempt to restructure an impoverished Peruvian society perpetuated by a system deeply-rooted in race and class-based discrimination.

Established by former University professor Abimael Guzmán in response to a split in the Peruvian Communist Party, the Senderistas took up arms in 1980, launching their campaign in indigenous communities in the Andes and attracting sympathizers with ideas of replacing the traditional ruling elite with a peasant revolutionary authority. Using violence and intimidation, they quickly gained control over large regions of Peru throughout the 1980's, attacking any allusion of capitalist society and greatly disrupting the Peruvian economy.

By the time their influence began to wane with the capture of Guzmán in 1992, the Shining Path was responsible for an estimated 25,000 deaths in Peru. The group has been widely condemned for its brutality—victims have often been hacked to death with machetes, and peasants, trade union organizers, popularly elected officials, and civilians have been regular targets. Though their new leader, Oscar Ramirez Durand, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999 under harsh anti-terror laws enacted by former president Alberto Fujimori, sporadic violent acts since have served as reminders that the group still maintains a presence in society.

Throughout Fujimori's crackdown thousands of Peruvians were convicted of terrorism-related crimes and faced life sentences in prison, many of which may have been unjust, according to human rights activists. In 2003 the constitutional court struck down Fujimori's hard-handed laws, granting 1,900 Shining Path prisoners the right to request retrials in civilian court, including founder Guzmán.

Since 2010 the Shining Path has lost a majority of its leadersunder the operations of the Peruvian National Police (PNP), greatly weakening their influence in the country. Humala has since declared that the Shining Path is unable to operate in most Peruvian regions, and the organization is inching closer to defeat.

While the Shining Path is considered to be a terrorist group by major world authorities and maintains a place on the U.S. Department of State's "Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations" list, Humala has since declared that the Shining Path is unable to operate in most Peruvian regions, and the organization is inching closer to defeat. Both Peruvian and North American governments say that terrorism is not a prevailing problem in Peru today.

Here are some related tips to help plan your trip to Peru: The Peruvian Amazon Environmental Issues, Politics in Peru, Social and Environmental Issues in Peru, The Economy of Peru, Environmental Issues Of The Colca Canyon, Inca Trail: Environmental Issues and Lori Berenson: An American Behind Peruvian Bars.

By Caroline Bennett
exploring, laughing, wanderlust, strangers. 120 film, making art, cyanotypes, vintage. scotch on the rocks & coffee, black. the unknown. the sound of...
14 Jun 2012

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