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«A Thesis Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of the ...»

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A Thesis

Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the

Louisiana State University and

Agricultural and Mechanical College

in partial fulfillment of the

requirements for the degree of

Master of Arts in Liberal Arts


The Interdepartmental Program

In Liberal Arts


Russell W. Switzer, Jr.

B.S., University of the State of New York, 1993

May 2007


I would like to thank my family for their support while I pursued my master’s degree. I am greatly indebted to my wife, Rae, who has endured the hardships of an Army career as well as raising a family. She supported me as I committed most of what I have of free time to this effort while taking care of our children, horses, and dogs, as well as running her own business. I would also like to thank the members on my committee, Doctors Stanley E. Hilton, Karl A.

Roider, and William A. Clark for their time, guidance, and support. Their efforts helped overcome the difficulties of pursuing advanced civilian schooling while being in the military during a time of war. I especially thank ‘Doc’ Hilton for working with me throughout this endeavor, especially while I was deployed to Iraq.



ACKNOWLEDGEMENTS……………………………………………………….... ii ABSTRACT


1 INTRODUCTION………………………………………………………..........1 2 FORMATION (1968-1980)…..………………………………………….......10 3 SENDERO ACTION AND EFFECT……………………………………….. 25 4 GOVERNMENT RESPONSE (1983-1990)………………………………... 39 5 FUJIMORI COUNTERINSURGENCY (1990-2000)…………………........ 58 6 CONCLUSION





Sendero Luminoso first appeared in Peru in May 1980 by burning several ballot boxes and hanging dogs from streetlights. This unusual event signaled the beginning of one of the most violent insurgencies in the Western hemisphere. Abimael Guzmán, the founder of Sendero Luminoso, set outto utterly destroy Peruvian society in order to replace it with his vision of a utopian communist society by creating a peasant uprising starting in the Andean highlands and spreading throughout Peru, eventually surrounding the capital, Lima.

The government of Peru virtually ignored Sendero Luminoso for two years, which allowed the group to establish strong base areas in and around the department of Ayacucho.

When the government finally reacted, it was forced to declare a state of emergency in the south central highlands and send in the military to regain control.

Through successive administrations over the next decade, Peru was engulfed in violence and destruction, human rights abuses, corruption, and economic catastrophe. Sendero Luminoso demonstrated an uncanny ability to avoid the military’s concentrated efforts while expanding into new regions of Peru. The group also benefited from the drug trade to finance the insurgency by providing protection to coca farmers and narcotraffickers in the Upper Huallaga Valley.

Only after Guzmán’s capture in 1992 did the government witness visible progress in the fight against the insurgents. Sendero Luminoso rapidly declined without Guzmán’s leadership and the remnants withdrew to the Upper Huallaga Valley. Yet many of the conditions that led to the creation of Sendero Luminoso still plague the country, including corruption in the government, poverty, and a weak economy. The missing catalyst is another leader like Abimael Guzmán.

–  –  –

Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path, was one of the most successful insurgent groups in the Western Hemisphere in the late 20th century. What is most remarkable about the group’s expansion was that it occurred at a time when most Marxist-based institutions were collapsing.

Equally remarkable was its popularity, given its philosophy of creating a utopian society through the violent destruction of all societal institutions. The group managed to mobilize the Andean peasants with promises of a better life. Successive administration failures also contributed to Sendero’s resiliency.

According to current U.S. Army doctrine, there are three basic prerequisites to the emergence of an insurgency: (1) a vulnerable population that hopes for change, (2) leadership, and (3) lack of government control. 1 All of these conditions existed in Peru and enabled Sendero Luminoso to make headway. For long-term endurance, an insurgency must be able to create popular support and maintain unity of effort. Sendero Luminoso certainly demonstrated a will to resist, as witnessed by the fact that, despite aggressive counterguerrilla operations, it survives to this day. Sendero had effective leadership, it was disciplined, and it developed a highly effective intelligence network as well as a propaganda machine. Its reach extended throughout Peru and it eventually established networks in other countries, including the United States.

An insurgency, of course, must have a favorable environment. Approximately the size of Alaska, Peru is a struggling nation of 22 million people, with a great disparity in the standards of living and distribution of wealth. The country is divided into three major regions: the Costa, Sierra, and Montaña. The Costa, or coastal region, is the most developed and contains Peru’s five largest cities, including Lima, as well as the bulk of the nation’s industries and its most 1 United States, Department of the Army, Field Manual No. 90-8 Counterguerrilla Operations, p. 1-2.

1 2 extensive agricultural areas. The majority of the business and landowners in the Costa are of Spanish origin, middle-class, and consider themselves white. This region offers the greater opportunity for employment and advancement; however, historically jobs have gone to those of Spanish descent, marginalizing the people from the Sierra and Montaña regions. The Sierra is a mountainous region covering roughly a quarter of the territory and half the population of Peru.

Peruvian Indians, who trace their roots to the Incans, inhabit this area and live at poverty levels.

They speak primarily Quechua, which further alienates them from the Spanish-speaking people of the Costa region. This area has little arable land and what land is under cultivation is stony and windswept. The only trafficable roads wind along the valley floors and are little more than dirt trails; there are no main roads from the coast.2 Due to the prohibitive mountain terrain and lack of access, the Sierra region historically received little government attention. The Montaña region consists of the Amazon River basin and takes up two-thirds of the land of Peru, but is sparsely populated, mostly by tribal Indians. Many believe this region contains rich oil reserves, but remains undeveloped because of the lack of access to the dense jungle. The poor economic conditions, especially in the Sierra region, favored insurgency.

Insurgencies develop through several phases. 3 In Phase I, the insurgency is latent and incipient. Its organizers conduct selected acts of terrorism, such as attacks on police forces, assassination of local government officials, and sabotage infrastructure. They may also conduct discreet tactical operations to increase influence in the area and, perhaps more importantly, to acquire arms and ammunition.

Phase II is guerrilla warfare. As the insurgent group gains strength and numbers, it openly challenges the local police and small military units in order to establish control over areas of the country. The insurgents then set up their own government over these areas to demonstrate

–  –  –

to the populace that they alone can provide the services the State failed to provide. The goal of this phase is to expand control over other areas and people, in order to mobilize additional support through public service and propaganda. If this fails to generate support, however, the insurgents will resort to coercion and terrorism. The nature of the guerrilla actions and terrorist strikes against the military often provoke an equally violent reaction, or overreaction, from the government forces. The guerrilla acts in the hope that the military will overreact against the general population, causing larger numbers of people to support the insurgency. Each guerrilla success, no matter how minor, followed up with effective propaganda, provides psychological support to the insurgency and demoralizes the government forces. As the government dedicates greater effort to the military aspects of counterguerrilla operations, fewer resources are available for development projects, which hinder its ability to reverse the conditions that caused the insurgency.

Phase III insurgency, also called a war of movement, is conventional warfare.

This phase occurs when larger insurgent units conduct combat operations against government forces to capture and retain key objectives. Sendero Luminoso only briefly achieved phase three.

Although it engaged in large-unit attacks on government forces, it never was able to retain its objectives for more than twenty-four hours and never was able to sustain the momentum to continue to fight determined government forces.

What are the strengths and weaknesses of guerrilla forces? One of the strengths typically is intelligence collection. Virtually every person is a potential spy or informer for the insurgents in their areas of operation. Another asset is the fact that the rebels are native to the region. They therefore know the traditions and speak the language of the local populace, making them very hard to distinguish from the average citizen. This characteristic becomes even more important

–  –  –

strengths. Guerrilla tactics are another advantage because of the ease of planning and execution and difficulty in preventing. Elusiveness, surprise, and brief violent action characterize such tactics, which can be further divided into terrorism and harassment. Some examples of terrorism include bombings, assassinations, kidnappings, threats, mutilations, murder, torture, or blackmail. Insurgents generally use terrorism for coercion, provocation, and intimidation.

Examples of harassment include ambushes, raids, and other small-scale attacks dispersed in geography and time which give the perception that the guerrilla can strike anywhere. Finally, physical conditioning is an asset and was so especially in the case of Sendero, which operated in the Sierra, an environment that imposed enormous physical hardships on government troops.

Insurgent movements also have several weaknesses, the primary being limited personnel and resources. Numerically small at first, a guerrilla band must rely on early tactical successes, supplemented by intense propaganda, to attract recruits. The insurgents must also balance the need to recruit new members against security concerns of being penetrated by government agents. Guerrilla forces typically start out with few weapons and little access to money and must acquire additional resources through operations or contributions from the local populace or even foreign governments. The insurgents are also limited in their ability to reach mass segments of the population, especially in areas without modern infrastructure and internet access.

Sendero Luminoso exploited the poor economic conditions to convince the most negatively affected and vulnerable population, the Indian population of the Sierra, to pick up arms and fight against the government. Sendero leaders patiently recruited these people by capitalizing on government neglect while providing hope of a better life. The group progressed through the phases of development and started with simple acts of protest, such as painting slogans on government structures, escalated to terrorism, and eventually resorted to large scale

–  –  –

insurgency and allowed it to expand to the Costa region, which eventually necessitated a comprehensive counterinsurgency campaign.

Counterinsurgency describes the full range of measures used by a government to protect its society from subversion, lawlessness, and insurgency. 4 It comprises the actions taken by a nation to promote growth by building viable institutions (political, military, economic, and social) that respond to the needs of the people and has three targets: the population, the insurgents, and external actors. The government of Peru initiated a limited counterinsurgency campaign beginning in 1983, focused mainly on the military aspects or counterguerrilla operations. Although the focus was on military operations against the insurgents, it also enacted various political, economic and social changes.

Essentially, the State must take various actions to change the conditions that fuel the insurgency. Most importantly, the government must focus on improving the lives of the population. It may also use diplomacy – negotiation with the insurgents. State-sponsored amnesty programs are an example of this. The government may resort to restrictions on civil liberties in order to deny the insurgents the freedom to operate. While this method is the most effective, it can also have adverse consequences and undermine the legitimacy of the current administration. The more restrictions the State can impose without causing more people to rebel, the quicker it can defeat the insurgency. The regime may also target and destroy the insurgent leadership. This technique is effective in a leader-centric organization, but usually only in the short-term as new leaders step forward to fill the vacuum created by the loss. Finally, counterguerrilla operations focus on the active military element of the insurgent movement only.

Counterguerrilla operations, such as those launched by the Peruvian military in 1983-84, are a supporting component of counterinsurgency.

–  –  –

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