The Undermining of Peru’s Democracy by the Shining Path Insurgency, from 1980 to 2000 (Part 2)

This is a paper I wrote for one of the two courses taken during the Journey to Peru program of summer 2016.


The Undermining of Peru’s Democracy by the Shining Path Insurgency, from 1980 to 2000 (Part 2)


After several years, the Shining Path’s ideologies lost popularity with university students, so its leadership decided to move on to more radical idea-spreading tactics. Essentially, the Shining Path evolved into a military-driven group that spread out into particular geographic areas in order to physically enforce its practices and ideas. To better carry this out, the Path created military schools where its members could learn physical tactics and the use of weaponry. This culminated into the scrutiny of some Shining Path leaders, but not of Guzmán. In fact, Guzmán was well liked overall and ultimately stood forward as the Shining Path’s commander (Taylor and Frances 2003, 105-8).

When it was time for the presidential election in Peru in 1980, the Shining Path adamantly refused to participate. Its initial goal had been to undermine the process of democracy and to create a dictatorship in which its ideology would reign. So, with the vulnerability of an election, the Shining Path began a guerrilla war around the Ayacucho Region of Peru, burning ballot boxes and creating a small havoc. This incident was minor, however, and while it was significant in displaying the growing power and radicalism of the Shining Path, it was not enough to cause major worry in the political spectrum of the country (Taylor and Frances 2003, 61-5).

From the United States’ Committee on Foreign Affairs, witnesses testified to the relentlessness of the Shining Path’s aggressive tactics as well as the “military intervention and civil unrest that resulted from the Shining Path insurgency in Peru (U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs 1992). Nonetheless, this radical group was only paving the way for expansion and further power. As does that of any successful organization, the Shining Path’s membership increased, and as such, it was able to accrue more territory, continuing to use physical aggression to push its cause. As I mentioned above, many poor and isolated groups in Peru were out of reach of the government, and because of this, their loyalties were free for the taking. The Shining Path provided them an outlet in which to pledge their loyalty, and many did (U.S. Committee on Foreign Affairs 1992).

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