The internal conflict in Peru is an ongoing armed conflict between the Government of Peru, the Communist Party of Peru (also known as Shining Path or "PCP-SL") and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. The conflict began on May 17, 1980. It is estimated that there have been nearly 70,000 deaths, making it the bloodiest war in Peruvian history, since the European colonization of the country.
The high death toll includes many civilian casualties, due to deliberate targeting by many factions. Since 2000, the number of deaths has dropped significantly and recently the conflict has become dormant. There were low-level resurgences of violence in 2002 and 2014 when conflict erupted between the Peruvian Army and Guerrilla remnants in the VRAEM region. The conflict has lasted for over 39 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 coups with frequent switches between political parties and ideologies. On October 2, 1968, General Juan Velasco Alvarado staged a military coup and became Peru's 56th president under the administration of the Revolutionary Government of the Armed Forces, left-leaning military dictatorship. Following a period of widespread poverty and unemployment, Velasco himself was overthrown in a bloodless military coup on August 29, 1975. He was replaced by Francisco Morales Bermúdez as the new President of Peru.
Morales announced that his rule would provide a "Second Phase" to the previous administration, which would bring political and economic reforms. However, he was unsuccessful in delivering these promises, and in 1978, a Constitutional Assembly was created to replace Peru's 1933 Constitution. Morales then proclaimed that national elections would be held by 1980. Elections were held for the Constituent Assembly on June 18, 1978, whilst martial law was imposed on January 6, 1979. The Assembly approved the new constitution in July 1979. On May 18, 1980, Fernando Belaunda Terry was elected president. Between February 1966 and July 1980 approximately 500 people died of political violence.
Many affiliated with Peru's Communist Party had opposed the creation of the new constitution and formed the extremist organization known as the Shining Path. This ultimately led to the emergence of internal conflict, with the first attacks taking place a day before the elections. Despite this, national elections continued and Fernando Belaúnde Terry was elected as the 58th President of Peru in 1980. Terry had already served as the country's 55th president prior to Velasco's coup in 1968.
During the governments of Velasco and Morales, Shining Path had been organized as a Maoist political group formed in 1970 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 encouraging an "armed struggle" against the Peruvian state.
In June 1979, demonstrations for free education were severely repressed by the army: 18 people were killed according to official figures, but non-governmental estimates suggest several dozen deaths. This event led to a radicalization of political protests in the countryside and the outbreak of Shining Path's terrorist actions.
When Peru's military government allowed elections for the first time in 1980, Shining Path was one of the few leftist political groups that declined to take part. They opted instead to launch guerrilla warfare actions against the state in the province of Ayacucho. On May 17, 1980—the eve of the presidential elections—members of Shining Path burned ballot boxes in the town of Chuschi, Ayacucho. The perpetrators were quickly caught and additional ballots were brought in to replace the burned ballots; the elections proceeded without any further incidents. The incident received 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 a unified "liberated zone". There is some disagreement among scholars about the extent of Maoist influence on the Shining Path, but the majority of scholars consider Shining Path to be a violent Maoist organization. One of the factors contributing to support for this view among scholars is that Shining Path's economic and political base were located primarily in rural areas and they sought to build up their influence in these areas.
On December 3, 1982, the Shining Path officially formed an armed wing known as the "People's Guerrilla Army".
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 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, like wearing uniforms, claiming to fight for true democracy, and accusations of human rights abuses by the state; in contrast, Shining Path did not wear uniforms and did not care for democratic processes.
During the conflict, the MRTA and Shining Path engaged in combat with each other. The MRTA only played a small part in the overall conflict, being declared by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to have been responsible for 1.5 percent of casualties accumulated throughout the conflict. At its height, the MRTA was believed to have consisted of only a few hundred members.
Gradually, Shining Path committed more and more violent attacks on the National Police of Peru until the Lima-based government could no longer ignore the growing crisis. In 1981, President Fernando Belaúnde Terry declared a state of emergency and ordered that the Peruvian Armed Forces fight Shining Path. Constitutional rights were suspended for 60 days in the Huamanga, Huanta, Cangallo, La Mar, and the Víctor Fajardo Provinces. Later, the Armed Forces created the Ayacucho Emergency Zone, where military law superseded civilian law. The military committed many human right violations in the area where it had political control, including the infamous Accomarca massacre. Scores of peasant farmers were massacred by the armed forces. A special US-trained "counter terrorist" police battalion is known as the "Sinchis" became notorious in the 1980s for their violations of human rights.
The Shining Path's reaction to the Peruvian government's use of the military in the conflict was to increase violent warfare in the countryside. Shining Path attacked police officers, soldiers, and civilians that it considered being "class enemies", often using gruesome methods of killing their victims. These killings, along with Shining Path's disrespect for the culture of indigenous peasants, turned many civilians in the Sierra away from the group.
Faced with a hostile population, Shining Path's guerrilla campaigns began to falter. In some areas, 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 attacked by the rondas. The first reported attack was near Huata in January 1983, 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. Shining Path responded by entering the province of Huancasancos and the towns of Yanaccollpa, Ataccara, Llacchua, Muylacruz, and Lucanamarca, where they killed 69 people. Other similar incidents followed, such as ones in Hauyllo, the Tambo District, and the La Mar Province. In the Ayacucho Department, Shining Path killed 47 peasants.
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 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 US$250,000) and nearby buildings.:7–9
Shining Path was 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.
A 2019 study disputed the casualty figures from the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, estimating instead "a total of 48,000 killings, substantially lower than the TRC estimate" and concluding that "the Peruvian State accounts for a significantly larger share than the Shining Path."
Over the last two decades, there have been a number of incidents relating to internal conflict within Peru. On March 20, 2002, a car bomb exploded at "El Polo," a mall in a wealthy district of Lima near the US embassy. On June 9, 2003, a Shining Path group attacked a camp in Ayacucho, and took 68 employees of the Argentine company Techint and three police guards hostage. The hostages worked at the Camisea gas pipeline project that takes 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 some sources, the company paid the ransom.
The Lucanamarca massacre was a massacre of 69 peasants in and around the town of Lucanamarca, Peru that took place on April 3, 1983. The massacre was perpetrated by the Shining Path, the Maoist guerrilla organization that launched the internal conflict in Peru.APRODEH
Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH; English: Association for Human Rights in Peru) is a Peruvian human rights organization. It was established in 1983 by a group of professionals who had been providing information to Peruvian congressmen involved with the Congressional Human Rights Commission, such as Javier Diez Canseco. The group supported legislative work in view of the growing human rights violations during the internal conflict in Peru.
In 1985, APRODEH was among the founding members of the Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos del Perú.
APRODEH works with many organizations both within and outside of Peru.
The current directors of the group are Francisco Soberón and Miguel Jugo.Chuschi
Chuschi is a town in the Chuschi District of the Cangallo Province of the Ayacucho Region of Peru. On May 17, 1980, Shining Path guerrillas began their war against the Peruvian state by burning ballot boxes in Chuschi. On March 14, 1991, government forces perpetrated the Chuschi massacre in the town.DIRCOTE
The Counter-Terrorist Directorate (Spanish: Dirección contra el terrorismo, best known simply as DIRCOTE) is the branch of the National Police of Peru that is responsible for Peru's anti-terrorist law enforcement efforts.
DIRCOTE's Special Intelligence Group (Grupo Especial de Inteligencia or GEIN) was responsible for capturing Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán.Department of Ayacucho
Ayacucho (Spanish pronunciation: [aʝaˈkutʃo] (listen)) is a department of Peru, located in the south-central Andes of the country. Its capital is the city of Ayacucho. The region was one of the hardest hit by terrorism in the 1980s during the guerrilla war waged by Shining Path known as the internal conflict in Peru.
A referendum was held on 30 October 2005, in order to decide whether the department would merge with the departments of Ica and Huancavelica to form the new Ica-Ayacucho-Huancavelica Region, as part of the decentralization process in Peru. The bill failed and Ayacucho remained an independent department.Grupo Colina
Grupo Colina (Spanish for "hill group") was a military anti-communist death squad created in Peru that was active from 1990 until 1994, during the administration of Alberto Fujimori. The group is known for committing several human rights abuses, including an eight-month period of 1991–92 that saw a total of 34 people killed in the Barrios Altos massacre, the Santa massacre, and the La Cantuta massacre.Hatun Asha ambush
The Hatun Asha ambush took place on the eve of the 2016 Peruvian general election.Bands of Shining Path guerrilla fighters armed with long-range rifles and grenades, ambushed a Peruvian military caravan of eight vehicles at Hatun Asha. The ambush began at approximately 5:00 (a.m.), when guerrillas targeted a Peruvian military patrol along a rural road within the Santo Domingo Acobamba district. The vehicles were transporting election material and the 311th battalion soldiers were tasked with guarding polling places in the central Junin region, while the patrol was also to serve in Lima. The ambush left a total of nine government soldiers and two civilian contractors dead as well as five others who escaped wounded. Government helicopters were called in to respond to the incident and hunt down the perpetrators.
The ambush marked the deadliest Shining Path attack in years and a resurgence of the group in order to disrupt the Peruvian general elections.Luis Giampietri
Luis Giampietri Rojas (born 31 December 1940) is a retired admiral of the Peruvian Navy and a politician with the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance party. Giampietri ran successfully as Alan García's vice-presidential candidate in the 2006 Peruvian election, and was sworn in on 28 July 2006 and served until 28 July 2011.Giampietri was one of the naval officers implicated in the massacre on El Frontón, a prison island off the coast of Callao. The massacre took place during Alan García's administration, on June 18, 1986, after Shining Path prisoners staged an uprising at El Frontón and two other prisons. All the prisoners involved in the rebellion were killed, and Human Rights Watch claimed that evidence suggested that "no fewer than ninety" of the prisoners killed were victims of extrajudicial executions.On December 17, 1996, Giampietri was taken hostage by the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) during the Japanese embassy hostage crisis. Key to the success of the rescue operation was the intelligence provided by Giampietri, admiral of the Peruvian Navy at the time and former commander of a special operations group. He received and distributed hundreds of bugged items in the building and himself communicated by radio with the Peruvian military.
As of February 2007 Giampietri is working ahead of the CEAN or Extraordinary Commission for APEC, in Spanish initials. He has successfully arranged 127 international meetings so far. These meetings will be held in nine different major cities such as Lima (Peru's capital), Arequipa, Trujillo, Chiclayo, Iquitos, Piura, and Tumbes; and possibly Cusco.National Intelligence Service (Peru)
The National Intelligence Service (Spanish: Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional or SIN) was an intelligence agency of the Government of Peru. The agency was disbanded by Alberto Fujimori after its de facto chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, was caught paying bribes to major political, military and media figures. Fujimori later pleaded guilty to charges stemming from the scandal.
A number of scandals surrounded SIN. SIN was widely believed to be behind a number of cases of kidnapping, torture, and murder.
It is believed that SIN was related to Grupo Colina.Operation Chavín de Huántar
Operation Chavín de Huántar was a military operation in which a team of one hundred and forty-two commandos of the Peruvian Armed Forces ended the 1997 Japanese embassy hostage crisis by raiding the Japanese ambassador's residence and freeing the hostages held there by the terrorist organization Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) being considered one of the most successful hostage rescues in the world.Peruvian prison massacres
The Peruvian prison massacres occurred on June 18–19, 1986, after a series of riots in the San Pedro, Santa Mónica, and El Frontón prisons in Lima and Callao. The military repression of these riots resulted in the loss of at least 224 lives.Putis massacre
The Putis Massacre was a massacre of 123 campesinos carried out by the Peruvian Army in a rural hamlet in the Santillana District of the Huanta Province in the Ayacucho Region of Peru. The massacre occurred in December 1984.San Cristóbal of Huamanga University
The San Cristóbal of Huamanga National University (in Spanish, Universidad Nacional de San Cristóbal de Huamanga) is a public university located in the city of Ayacucho (formerly known as Huamanga) in southern Peru.
The university was established in 1677 by Cristóbal de Castilla y Zamora, the Catholic archbishop of La Plata o Charcas. Until it was closed in the mid-19th century, it operated mostly as a seminary for the training of Catholic priests. The government of Perú reopened it in 1959 as a national university.
In the 1960s, the university became a breeding ground for communist organizations, including the Shining Path. This group, led by philosophy professor Abimael Guzmán, started there before growing into a violent guerrilla movement that conducted a bloody campaign against the government of Perú and against rival leftists groups. (See also Efraín Morote Best.)
The rector of the university is Homero Ango Aguilar, a biologist.Santa massacre
The Santa Massacre was a massacre of nine campesinos carried out by Grupo Colina in the Santa Province of the Ancash Region of Peru. The massacre occurred on May 2, 1992.
Carlos Alberto Barrientos Velásquez, Roberto Barrientos Velásquez, Denis Atilio Castillo Chávez, Federico Coquis Velásquez, Gilmer Ramiro León Velásquez, Pedro Pablo López Gonzáles, Jesús Manfredo Noriega Ríos, Carlos Martín Tarazona More, and Jorge Luis Tarazona More all died in the massacre.
After carrying out the massacre, members of Grupo Colina, a death squad operating out of the Army of Peru, painted pro-Shining Path graffiti as a false flag operation. All of the members of Grupo Colina have since been jailed.
The victims of the massacre were finally exhumed and identified in August 2011 and reburied in late November of the same year with the Peruvian government formally apologizing to the relatives of the victims in name of the state.Tarata bombing
The Tarata bombing was a terrorist attack in Lima, Peru, on July 16, 1992, by the Shining Path terrorist group. The blast was the deadliest Shining Path bombing during the Internal conflict in Peru and was part of a larger bombing campaign in the city.
The explosions happened on Avenida Larco, in the business area of Miraflores, an upscale district of the city. Two trucks, each packed with 1,000 kg of explosives, exploded on the street at 9:15 pm outside the Bank “Banco de Crédito” of Peru, killing 25 and wounding 155. The blast destroyed or damaged 183 homes, 400 businesses and 63 parked cars. The bombings were the beginning of a week-long Shining Path strike against the Peruvian government, a strike which caused 40 deaths and shut down much of the capital.In the wake of the incident, galvanized by public outrage, President Alberto Fujimori intensified his crackdown on Peruvian insurgent groups.The Dancer Upstairs
The Dancer Upstairs is a 1995 novel by Nicholas Shakespeare. It is based on the Maoist insurgency of the 1980s in Peru, and tells the story of Agustin Rejas, a police Lieutenant (later promoted to Captain), hunting a terrorist based on Abimael Guzmán, leader of the Shining Path. In 2002 it was given a film adaptation under the same title.Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement
The Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (Spanish: Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru, abbreviated MRTA) was a Peruvian Marxist guerrilla group which started in the early 1980s. The group was led by Víctor Polay Campos until he was sentenced to 32 years' imprisonment in 1992 and by Néstor Cerpa Cartolini ("Comrade Evaristo") until his death in 1997.
The MRTA took its name in homage to Túpac Amaru II, an 18th-century rebel leader who was himself named after his claimed ancestor Túpac Amaru, the last indigenous leader of the Inca people. MRTA was designated a terrorist organization by the Peruvian government, the US Department of State and the European Parliament but was later removed from the United States State Department list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations on October 8, 2001.
At the height of its strength, the movement had several hundred active members. Its stated goals were to establish a socialist state and rid the country of all "imperialist" elements.Víctor Polay
Víctor Alfredo Polay Campos (born April 6, 1951) is one of the founders of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, a Peruvian terrorist organization that fought in the internal conflict in Peru. He is currently imprisoned in Callao Naval Base with Abimael Guzmán and Vladimiro Montesinos.
He was arrested in 1992. In 1997, the UN Human Rights Committee has found that the circumstances of his trial and detention violated articles 7, 10 and 14 of the ICCPR.On March 22, 2006 he was found guilty by a Peruvian court on nearly 30 crimes committed during the late 1980s and early 1990 and was sentenced to 32 years in prison.
Internal conflict in Peru
Post–Cold War conflicts in the Americas