Shining Path

Maoist movement in Peru dedicated to violent revolution.

It was founded in 1970 by a philosophy professor, Abimael Guzmán Reynoso (b. 1934), as a result of a split in the Peruvian Communist Party. The senderistas began their campaign among the impoverished Indians of the high Andes, attracting sympathizers by their emphasis on the empowerment of Indians at the expense of Peru's traditional elite. They gained control of large areas of Peru through violence and intimidation. By 1992, when Guzmán was captured and their influence began to wane, they had caused an estimated 25,000 deaths and seriously disrupted the Peruvian economy. Their new leader, Oscar Ramirez Durand, was sentenced to life imprisonment in 1999.

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▪ Peruvian revolutionary organization

      Peruvian revolutionary organization that endorsed Maoism and employed guerrilla tactics and violent terrorism.

      The Shining Path was founded in 1970 in a multiple split in the Communist Party of Peru. It took its name from the maxim of the founder of Peru's first communist party, José Carlos Mariátegui: (Mariátegui, José Carlos) “El Marxismo-Leninismo abrirá el sendero luminoso hacia la revolución” (“Marxism-Leninism will open the shining path to revolution”). The leader and principal founder was Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, alias Comrade Gonzalo, a long-time communist and former philosophy teacher (1962–78) at the National University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga, in the city of Ayacucho in the high Andes Mountains. He and his followers, known as Senderistas, sought to restore the “pure” ideology of Mao Zedong and adopted China's Cultural Revolution as a model for their own revolutionary movement. The organization's other models were Stalinist Russia and the Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia. Envisioning revolution as a long military offensive, the Shining Path relied primarily on the peasantry and made ruthless use of terror and violence.

      With a following of young intellectuals he gathered in Ayacucho in the 1960s, Guzmán spent the next decade recruiting armed supporters among the indigenous peoples in the countryside and the poorer urban districts. The Shining Path began its revolutionary campaign in remote areas of the Andes (the group's first act of violence occurred on May 17, 1980, near Ayacucho) and soon was engaged in bombings and assassinations and other terrorist acts in various urban centres, including Lima and Callao. It gained control of poor rural and urban districts in central and southern Peru by violence and intimidation, while attracting sympathizers and supporters through its tight discipline, its organizing ability, and its emphasis on empowering the native population at the expense of Peru's traditional Spanish-speaking elite. It reportedly established cocaine-processing plants in the Huallaga valley to fund its activities.

      Guzmán, whose organizational and tactical abilities underlay the Shining Path's success, was captured in a police raid in Lima on September 12, 1992, and in October he was sentenced to life imprisonment on terrorism charges. Despite his conviction, the organization continued to clash with the government throughout the 1990s. In July 1999 its new leader, Oscar Ramirez Durand (alias Comrade Feliciano), was captured and, like Guzmán, sentenced to life imprisonment. In 2003 Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Committee issued a report that estimated some 70,000 people had been killed by Shining Path guerillas and government forces during the last two decades of the 20th century. The Shining Path's terrorist activities also seriously disrupted the country's economy.

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Universalium. 2010.

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