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 3)
The Peruvian government underestimated the power and influence of the Shining Path. The Path did not seem to have the support or manpower that it needed to actually cause political damage, so the government largely ignored it. However, in the year 1981, Peru’s government at last took action. Unfortunately, with its lack of knowledge and insight regarding the capabilities and reach of the Shining Path, the Peruvian government was unable to effectively control it. Labeling several Andean regions emergency zones, the government began questioning and detaining people who they believed to be Shining Path members or sympathizers (Pedahzur and Weinberg 2013, 119-21).
With physical aggression going on between the radical group and the Peruvian government, officials were scared, unable to differentiate between innocents and Shining Path members, and they began an almost equally horrific sweep of the affected regions. Even worse, “threats, intimidations, and selective assassinations encouraged the retreat of the representatives of the central government, as well as of elected local officials and other community leaders (Kent 1993, 442). The Shining Path effectively used scare tactics to clear out the most threatening opposition.
People were brutally beaten, raped, and tortured during interrogations by the government, and huge death tolls occurred because of conflict. As time passed, the conflicts expanded geographically, and at one point the Shining Path spent time terrorizing Lima and its citizens. In the early 1980s, members committed acts of arson and damaged amenities in Lima, at one point leaving bombs close to the government and justice palaces (Pedahzur and Weinberg 2013, 87-94).
To further their efforts, the Shining Path began targeting certain people from certain political or social groups, evening attempting to murder Domingo García Rada, who was the president of the Peruvian National Electoral Council at the time. Beginning in the early 1990s, the Shining Path largely controlled the geographical countryside of Peru, and even the edges of Lima fell under its power (Larsen 1992, 39).