IN a significant change of focus, Peru's capital city has become
the prime target for terrorist attacks and infiltration by the
Maoist guerrilla group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), according
to the Peruvian Senate commission that monitors violence.
Pacification commission chairman Enrique Bernales - who
simultaneously presides over the United Nations Commission on Human
Rights - released a report Jan. 15 stating that 672 acts of
terrorism had taken place in Lima during 1991, the vast majority
attributable to Sendero.
"Lima is now the objective and chief focus of violence in Peru,"
Senator Bernales says.
The impoverished communities of the high Andes have
traditionally been the chief battleground for Sendero, the
continent's most hard-line guerrillas. Eleven years ago, under the
leadership of philosophy professor Manuel Abimael Guzman Reinoso,
Sendero declared war on the Peruvian state from the mountain town
of Ayacucho. It remained the movement's stronghold for more than a
About 25,000 Peruvians have died so far in this war, according
to Bernales, with a cost to the state estimated at more than $20
billion - virtually equivalent to Peru's total foreign debt.
Last year the number of terrorist acts nationwide dropped to
1,656 from an all-time high of 2,117 in 1989. But it would be a
mistake to conclude that this indicates a comparable weakening in
Sendero's strength, Bernales says. The commission rather sees a
change in strategy from direct action toward "a strengthening of
Sendero's political activity."
Since early 1981, Sendero has claimed to be entering the second
stage of the armed struggle strategic equilibrium." This phase is
characterized by a stalemate with the state's legal authorities and
precedes "strategic offensive," in which the guerillas will have
the upper hand.
In Lima, Sendero is concentrating on infiltration of all forms
of popular organization, according to Gustavo Gorriti, an expert on
Sendero. Soup kitchens in the shantytowns and the
government-sponsored "glass of milk" program represent the type of
community organization Sendero deems the greatest threat to the
achievement of its ultimate aim - to overthrow the Peruvian state.
Increasingly, the capital is witness to the familiar Sendero
tactics of selective assassination and terror employed to
discourage groups and individuals who resist being co-opted or
One entire squatters' settlement, Raucana, is now administered
directly by Sendero, intelligence authorities say. Only six miles
from downtown Lima, it is noticeably better organized than the
average shantytown, with strictly observed community regulations.
Unemployed men must labor in the mud pit to make adobe bricks;
all settlers must contribute to the communal soup kitchens (which
reject international food aid); and community leaders mete out
public lashings to petty thieves and criminals. …