Shining Path

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Shining Path
Fullname: Shining Path
Alias: Communist Party of Peru
Sendero Luminoso
Origin: Peru
Foundation: Late 1960's
Headquarters: Lima, Peru
Commanders: Abimael Guzmán
Goals: Overthrow the Peruvian government and establish a "dictatorship of the proletariat" (failed)
Crimes: War crimes
Human rights violations
Mass murder
Drug trafficking
Money laundering

We practice selective annihilation of mayors and government officials, for example, to create a vacuum, then we fill that vacuum. As popular war advances, peace is closer.
~ Unidentified Shining Path officer.

Shining Path (Spanish: Sendero Luminoso), also known as the Communist Party of Peru, was a communist guerrilla and terrorist organization in Peru. The goal of Shining Path is establish a Maoist and dictatorship state in Peru. They were the main cause of Internal Conflict in Peru (1980-2000). The organization was founded by Abimael Guzmán in 1980. They have been known to engage in drug trafficking and other related activities.

Widely condemned for its brutality, including violence deployed against peasants, multiple acts of mass murder, killing of trade union organizers, elected officials and the general civilian population, the Shining Path is regarded by Peru as a terrorist organization, having committed numerous human rights abuses and war crimes. Japan, the United States, the European Union, and Canada likewise classify the group as a terrorist organization and prohibit funding and other financial support.


The Shining Path was founded in 1969 by Abimael Guzmán, a former university philosophy professor (his followers referred to him by his nom de guerre Presidente Gonzalo), and a group of 11 others. His teachings created the foundation of its militant Maoist doctrine. It was an offshoot of the Communist Party of Peru — Bandera Roja (red flag), which in turn split from the original Peruvian Communist Party, a derivation of the Peruvian Socialist Party founded by José Carlos Mariátegui in 1928.

The Shining Path first established a foothold at San Cristóbal of Huamanga University, in Ayacucho, where Guzmán taught philosophy. The university had recently reopened after being closed for about half a century, and many students of the newly educated class adopted the Shining Path's radical ideology. Between 1973 and 1975, Shining Path members gained control of the student councils at the Universities of Huancayo and La Cantuta, and they also developed a significant presence at the National University of Engineering in Lima and the National University of San Marcos. Sometime later, it lost many student elections in the universities, including Guzmán's San Cristóbal of Huamanga. It decided to abandon recruiting at the universities and reconsolidate.

Beginning on March 17, 1980, the Shining Path held a series of clandestine meetings in Ayacucho, known as the Central Committee's second plenary. It formed a "Revolutionary Directorate" that was political and military in nature and ordered its militias to transfer to strategic areas in the provinces to start the "armed struggle", despite the revisionism instituted in China by Deng Xiaoping and its economic success since 1978. The group also held its "First Military School", where members were instructed in military tactics and the use of weapons. They also engaged in "Criticism and Self-criticism", a Maoist practice intended to purge bad habits and avoid the repetition of mistakes. During the existence of the First Military School, members of the Central Committee came under heavy criticism. Guzmán did not, and he emerged from the First Military School as the clear leader of the Shining Path. In 1992, Guzmán and other leaders of the Shining Path received life imprisonment sentences for their role in the Lucanamarca Massacre, among other charges.

During its heyday, the Shining Path committed a long series of atrocities against civilians, mainly peasants, which included the multiple use of car bombs, rape of women, and multiple mass murders. In general, it is considered that the Shining Path is the main responsible for the destabilization and violence in Peru during the 1980s and 1990s. Among its most infamous acts, is the so-called "Asháninka Holocaust" where the Shining Path murdered 6000 Asháninka indigenous people, practically committing genocide. The Shining Path also maintained a strong rivalry with the MRTA, another terrorist group with a Guevarist ideology.

Shining Path allied itself with Colombian Marxist group FARC during the last two decades of the Cold War.

In 1991, President Alberto Fujimori issued a law that gave the rondas a legal status, and from that time they were officially called Comités de auto defensa ("Committees of Self Defence").They were officially armed, usually with 12-gauge shotguns, and trained by the Peruvian Army. According to the government, there were approximately 7,226 comités de auto defensa as of 2005; almost 4,000 are located in the central region of Peru, the stronghold of the Shining Path.

The Peruvian government also cracked down on the Shining Path in other ways. Military personnel were dispatched to areas dominated by the Shining Path, especially Ayacucho, to fight the rebels. Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Apurimacwere, and Huanuco were declared emergency zones, allowing for some constitutional rights to be suspended in those areas.

On September 12, 1992, El Grupo Especial de Inteligencia (GEIN) captured Guzmán and several Shining Path leaders in an apartment above a dance studio in the Surquillo district of Lima. GEIN had been monitoring the apartment, as a number of suspected Shining Path militants had visited it. An inspection of the garbage of the apartment produced empty tubes of a skin cream used to treat psoriasis, a condition that Guzmán was known to have. Shortly after the raid that captured Guzmán, most of the remaining Shining Path leadership fell as well.

The capture of rebel leader Abimael Guzmán left a huge leadership vacuum for the Shining Path. "There is no No. 2. There is only Presidente Gonzalo and then the party," a Shining Path political officer said at a birthday celebration for Guzmán in Lurigancho prison in December 1990. "Without Presidente Gonzalo, we would have nothing."

At the same time, the Shining Path suffered embarrassing military defeats to self-defense organizations of rural campesinos — supposedly its social base. When Guzmán called for peace talks, the organization fractured into splinter groups, with some Shining Path members in favor of such talks and others opposed. Guzmán's role as the leader of the Shining Path was taken over by Óscar Ramírez, who himself was captured by Peruvian authorities in 1999. After Ramírez's capture, the group splintered, guerrilla activity diminished sharply, and peace returned to the areas where the Shining Path had been active.

At present, there is a small cell of the Shining Path in the VRAEM area, which is mainly dedicated to drug trafficking.