Peru: Renewed Attention on the Shining Path

In Peru, there has been talk about the resurgence of the terrorist movement “Shining Path,” because of various news reports of attacks on police stations [es] and military bases [es], as well as reports of young people being trained [es] by the movement. Even though there has been no reliable proof that the attacks were caused by the Shining Path, which had been especially active during the 1980s, and instead linked to drug traffickers or general social unrest, the national and international press have suggested that this group has indeed returned.

However, in recent days there have been two related developments that have increased the attention on the Shining Path. One of these is the premiere of the Peruvian film Tarata [es], which deals with the events surrounding the 1992 Tarata Street terrorist bombing in the Miraflores district in Lima. The trailer can be seen here.

The film, which follows crucial events of the period and their modern-day consequences, has become a minor blockbuster in Peru, and as Gabriel Quispe of Cinencuentro [es] notes that the film drew 46,000 in its first weekend in release. However, in the post's comments sections there are disagreements about the quality of the film.

In addition, Carla Ciurlizza of the blog C3 [es] writes about the movie:

Hace un par de días veía por televisión local un reportaje sobre la película que actualmente se exhibe en los cines, “Tarata“. Incluyó también imágenes y videos del hecho real, … con testimonios de vecinos que aún viven en esa calle. Vecinos que, como yo, vieron sus casas destrozadas y con suerte salieron vivos (otros muchos no tuvieron tanta suerte). Vecinos que hemos quedado traumatizados de por vida.

En otra parte del reportaje, para comprobar la mala memoria colectiva de los peruanos y la poca información que manejan las nuevas generaciones, se le preguntó a una chica sentada en una banca en esa misma calle si sabía lo que había sucedido allí, y totalmente despistada respondió “ah sí, el incendio, ¿no?”. La pobre tenía una vaga idea de lo que pasó, mencionaba un “coche bomba” y estoy segura que no tenía ni idea de lo que realmente es eso. Increíble.

A couple of days ago I saw a local television report about a new film showing in theaters, “Tarata”. It included real life images and videos, …with testimonies of the people who lived on that street. These were neighbors, who, like me, saw their houses destroyed and were lucky to get out alive (many more didn't have the same luck). We have been traumatized for life.

In another part of the report, proving the poor collective memory of Peruvians and the little knowledge that the current generation has, they asked a girl sitting on a bench on the same street if she knew what had happened there, and clearly confused, she responded “Oh yes, the fire, no?” The poor girl had only a vague idea of what happened. She mentioned a “car bomb” and I'm sure she didn't have a clue what this meant. Incredible.

The second recent development involving the Shining Path is the publication of the book “De Puño y Letra,” in which its title has a double meaning of both “Handwritten” and “By Word and Fist,” which was written by Abimael Guzmán, the leader of the Shining Path. Guzmán was captured by the Peruvian government in 1992 and is currently serving a life sentence. The book's manuscript was smuggled out of prison by Guzman's lawyers and contains statements from Guzman justifying his actions during the armed conflict.

Yet, Guzmán has generated a mountain of controversy due to the many politicians that have spoken out [es] against [es] the book's publication [es]. The director of San Marcos University's Cultural Center was forced to resign [es] his post after attending a public book launch.

The Peruvian Ministry of Justice has announced that it would be calling for the books to be seized, and denounced those who distributed the book [es] as apologists for terrorism.

In Foros Peru [es], there are conversations [es] and many forumists have published photos of the book. In blogs, Javier Fernandez of Javi 270270: Que pasa? [es] posed the following question:

Se ha creado una controversia por la edición de un libro de ABIMAEL GUZMAN. Personajes de la política parecen “horrorizados”. Tan fariseos como desinformados hacen de la hipocresía el pan de cada día. El precedente lo puso VLADIMIRO MONTESINOS, quien es vecino de ABIMAEL GUZMAN en la celda de ALTA SEGURIDAD DE LA BASE NAVAL. Tres libros, sin mayor trascendencia pero que si merecieron despliegue informativo, son los frutos de la intelectualidad de Montesinos…

¿Qué diferencias merecen los libros de un ejecutor por terrorismo de estado y alguien condenado por terrorismo?

A controversy has been created about Abimael Guzman's book. Politicians appear “horrified.” Hypocrisy is there daily bread. The precedent was set by Vladimiro Montesinos, who is the neighbour of Abimael Guzman in the cells of the high security naval prison. There were three books, without much significance but that merited distribution, which were the fruits of Montesinos’ intellect…

Why do the books of someone who committed state terrorism deserve different treatment to those of a person condemned for terrorism?

For his part, Silvio Rendon of GranComboClub [es] deals with the matter in the context of modern day politics:

Guzmán no está llamando a la lucha armada. Su lógica es la amnistía general para su gente como para las FFOO. Por eso, se habría esperado una protesta de parte de quienes rechazan a Guzmán y lo que significó Sendero Luminoso. Sin embargo, esta presentación se da en un momento de crecida de la lucha anti-narcóticos. Al gobierno le viene bien agitar el miedo a Sendero Luminoso.

Guzmán isn't calling for armed warfare. He is calling for an amnesty for his people, as well as for the FFOO (security forces). Because of this, a protest on the part of those who oppose Guzmán and reject everything that the Shining Path signifies was to be expected. However, the presentation of the book also comes at a time with an increase in the fight against drugs. It serves the government well to stir up the fear of the Shining Path once more.

In another post, Rendon identifies [es] an interesting fact:

¿Por qué no hubo protestas contra Abimael Guzmán? Las ONGs de derechos humanos bien hubieran podido organizar una protesta contra la tan anunciada presentación del libro del líder terrorista. … Guzmán puede presentar su libro y expresarse, pero también se esperaria que hubiera una protesta democrática contra él.

Why weren't there protests against Abimael Guzmán? Human Rights NGOs could have organized a protest against the well-advertised presentation of the book of a terrorist leader. …Guzman could present his book and express himself, but one would expect that there would have been democratic protests against him.

Perhaps inspired by all this, and the 17th anniversary of the day when Guzmán was captured, presented before the Peruvian people, jailed on September 24, 1992, Claudia Cisneros of Sophimania [es] published an extensive post about 10 myths about the Shining Path and the war against subversion, including this one:

4) Lo que queda de Sendero está en el VRAE


Sendero sigue existiendo en Lima y en las principales ciudades del país. Se hace sentir y se infiltra, sigilosamente, en universidades, sindicatos e instituciones populares. No tienen la beligerencia de antes y apelan a ser “amigos del pueblo” asumiendo como propias agendas reivindicativas legítimas, pero no para buscar soluciones sino para boicotearlas, promoviendo el pensamiento errado de que la única salida es la violenta. Ese Sendero, silencioso y poco atractivo para la cobertura mediática, es tan peligroso como el del VRAE. ¿Están los servicios de inteligencia haciendo su trabajo de infiltración y desactivación? ¿Hay siquiera un Servicio de Inteligencia Central? No y no.

4. The remaining members of the Shining Path are in VRAE (Apurímac and Ene River Valley)


Shining Path continues to exist in Lima and the main cities of our country. It inflitrates quietly and is felt in universities, syndicates and public institutions. They don't have the same belligerence as before or call themselves “friends of the people”, using legitimate grudges for their own agendas, don't seek solutions but boycotts, promoting the erroneous thought that the only solution is violence. This Shining Path, silent and beneath the radar of the media, is just as dangerous as the one in the VRAE. Are the intelligences services infiltrating and shutting down these operations? Is there even a Central Intelligence Service? No and no.

In the blog Notas desde Lenovo [es], Jacqueline Fowks writes about howdistrust and poor coordination can explain the attack in San Jose de Secce:

La zona del ataque está localizada en el VRAE, foco de las acciones del grupo de SL que nunca salió de su reducto de Vizcatán (Huanta) después de la captura en setiembre de 1992 del líder fundador del grupo, Abimael Guzmán. Autoridades y analistas han demostrado que el grupo está articulado e involucrado en el cultivo de coca y el transporte de droga hacia la costa peruana. […] No estamos como en 1983, ni el Sendero de antes es el de ahora, pero la historia a veces ayuda a mirar mejor lo que tenemos al frente. Aquí, un interesante documento desclasificado de la embajada de EEUU -de febrero 1983- menciona la ausencia del Estado, la labor de la policía y del Ejército, y el desempeño de los medios -entre otros factores- en la lucha contra SL luego de los asesinatos en Uchuraccay.

The zone of the attack is based in VRAE, focus of the actions of the group from Shining Path, which never left its stronghold in Vizcatan (Huanta) after the capture of its founding leader, Abimael Guzman in September 1992. Authorities and analysts have demonstrated that the group is involved in the cultivation of coca and transporting drugs to the Peruvian coast. […] We're not the same as we were in 1983, nor is the Shining Path of old the same as today, but history sometimes helps us see things a little more clearly. Here, an interesting declassified document from the US embassy from February 1983, mentions the failure of the state, the poor work of the police and the army, and the disengagement of the media – among other factors – in the fight against SL after the assassinations in Uchuraccay.

A recent post from Francisco Canaza of Apuntes Peruanos [es]includes an analysis of the situation in VRAE and how the Shining Path continues to: stir up fear:

hay que diferenciar claramente la dinámica de los grupos instalados en el : por un lado existe el movimiento Proseguir, que se adscribe al fin original de Sendero; y por otro lado está instalada una serie de guardias paramilitares al servicio de las cadenas de tráfico de drogas. Son cosas distintas que necesitan soluciones específicas. Proseguir no es, como erroneamente se dice, un grupo estancado en el , sino una serie de columnas que se desplazan por la sierra de Junín, Huancavelica y Ayacucho. Contrario a esto, son únicamente los grupos de servicio al narcotráfico (protección paramilitar) los que sí están perennemente desarrollando sus actividades en el .

Por lo demás, el mundo institucional se ha mostrado complaciente con el terrorismo de , reduciendolo incluso a la categoría de guerrilla, viendo sólo el componente subversivo y no la estructura insana del mismo; o peor aún justificando su trasfondo al calificar su accionar como político o ejecución en “una guerra”. Este gobierno al confundir los fines, los objetivos y los trasfondos de una inexistente pero necesaria política sobre el terrorismo está igualmente perpetuando el real problema, que sigue creciendo y extendiéndose, mientras busca ganar réditos con la bandera del miedo.

One has to differentiate clearly the dynamics of the groups involved in VRAE: on one side exists the movement Proseguir, which ascribes to the original aim of the Shining Path; on the other there are a series of paramilitary guards working for the drug traffickers. They are different problems which call for different solutions. Proseguir isn't, as is falsely stated, a group rooted in VRAE, but a series of columns of soldiers driven out of the mountains of Junin, Huancavelica and Ayacucho. In fact, it is only the groups providing paramilitary protection to the drug traffickers who are always developing their activities in VRAE.

National institutions have been shown to be complacent of the terrorism of the Shining Path. They treat them as guerillas, seeing only the subversive element and disregarding the insanity of its underlying structure; or even worse using fear of terrorism to justify their political actions or start “a war”. This government, by confusing the aims, objectives and nature of its inexistent but necessary counter-terrorism policy is helping to perpetuate the real problem. Terrorism continues to grow and extend its reach, while the government seeks to earn credit under the banner of fear.

Translation by Tom Schrieber

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