Terror, Society, & Law: Peru's Struggle against Violent Insurgency

By Fujimori, Alberto | Harvard International Review, Fall 1998 | Go to article overview

Terror, Society, & Law: Peru's Struggle against Violent Insurgency


Fujimori, Alberto, Harvard International Review


This article was translated from Spanish by Senior Editor Pedro Pimentel.

ALBERTO FUJIMORI is President of the Republic of Peru.

My perspective on the contemporary and ever-present phenomenon known as terrorism is not that of an academic. This does not mean, however, that my contact with this phenomenon precludes any knowledge of terrorism's origins, or that I cease to wonder how terrorism will adapt to new social conditions. My main source of knowledge has been and continues to be physical confrontations with subversive organizations, groups that have selected terror as their principal means of destabilizing democracies and establishing totalitarian regimes. Since 1991, Peru has successfully fought against the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)--the two groups responsible for the breakdown of government in Peru during the 1980s.

Governance, as a rational expression of power, is not merely the efficient administration of the apparatus of the state. This concept also requires the establishment and maintenance of the social and political conditions necessary for a government to attain its goals. Only then can a government channel the interests of civil society, integrating public needs with the political system to achieve economic development.

In Peru, terrorist organizations have struggled for a decade to erode the democratic system and to generate the "revolutionary conditions" necessary for obtaining power. Simultaneously, the short-sightedness, inaction, and even indifference of the traditional political sectors have helped to foment conditions favorable to terrorism.

In 1989, an atmosphere of confusion surrounded the Peruvian presidential campaign. Ideas about combating terrorism remained vague. Some academic circles, linked to the Peruvian left, had not yet discounted terrorism as a means of effecting change; they considered terrorists to have taken up arms against an unjust government. The traditional political class remained trapped between the pressures of the right and the left. No comprehensive counter-terrorist policy existed, and the state continuously lost ground to subversive groups. The Peruvian people found themselves caught in the crossfire between the terrorists--Shining Path or MRTA--and the military.

In 1990, a fundamental reorientation of the political system occurred after the victory of the independent movement, Cambio 90. Cambio 90 strengthened the state and infused it with a new spirit. Since then, Peru's enemies have begun to understand that they no longer face a state apparatus weakened by hyperinflation, economic disorder, and graft. In addition, the country has rebounded from the nadir to which it had sunk at the hands of the traditional political class. The progressive and permanent infusion of order in all aspects of Peruvian life has created an atmosphere of trust and hope in the population, thus invigorating national institutions such as the armed forces. Clear ideas and projects, combined with sufficient political resolve, finally led to the development of a comprehensive strategy to fight terrorism.

The Long Struggle

During the Cold War, neither the United States nor the Soviet Union--both hegemons and nuclear powers--dared to employ nuclear weapons against one another. They knew that if they did, they would face a catastrophe potentially fatal for both their nations and the world in general. Consequently, nuclear weapons only served to produce an "equilibrium of terror": a draw. Therefore, the only option left was conventional or traditional warfare between the members of Warsaw Pact and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO). Since conventional warfare ran the risk of escalating and triggering the use of nuclear weapons, that particular strategy was discarded as a viable option.

Socialist theorists responded to the Cold War malaise by developing their own strategy: the destabilization of democratic nations either through guerrilla warfare or manipulation of the democratic process. …

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