Peruvian Guerrillas Target Capital Shining Path Boosts Terrorism and Political Infiltration in Lima in Bid to Overthrow State

By Sally Bowen, | The Christian Science Monitor, January 27, 1992 | Go to article overview

Peruvian Guerrillas Target Capital Shining Path Boosts Terrorism and Political Infiltration in Lima in Bid to Overthrow State


Sally Bowen,, The Christian Science Monitor


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 decade.

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 controlled.

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. …

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