This week’s focus is on Peru, specifically movements concerning peasant’s rights, freedom from repression, and institutional corruption in the 1980s. Focusing on the Prolonged People’s War of the Shining Path and administration of Alberto Fujimori, Peru experienced another wave of conflict later than other Latin American countries. Rather than the communist revolutions earlier in the century, Peru’s was sparked by events in the 1960s.
Land reforms are again hugely important as a basis of conflict in Latin America. I believe this is because of Latin America’s history having experienced extraction from colonisers. The region is largely an export economy, one that was founded on and used for raw goods and materials rather than industry and production that characterises the North. Of course, there are still many examples of industrialisation and modernisation, especially in the former weeks of this course, but the legacy of extractive colonialism remains important to Latin America as an economic structure in rural areas as well as bearing continuous social influence on conflicts. As was demonstrated in the Mexican Revolution, land and land reforms are of huge importance to rural Latin American peasants. The Mexican Revolution is shrouded in “land and liberty” ideas and images of the rural peasants taking over the urban environment, arguably taking back what has been kept from them through extraction and the inequality that comes from economic divisions. Like Mexico, land reforms were an integral part of insurgency in Peru, however the unique Peruvian aspect is that middle-class people were the perpetrators of these insurgencies, not peasants. The perpetrators fought on the basis of helping the peasants, but the Velasco coup and the land reforms he imposed to theoretically help peasants aggravated the conflict even further.
In response to the unsuccessful land reforms, more middle-class people founded the Shining Path in an attempt to actually help the peasants. This organisation gained support because it communicated with the peasantry and came to understand their demands and was willing to help and protect them, unlike the government. The tensions between the Shining Path and the government came to a head under Fujimori; violence from both parties and restrictions imposed by the government rapidly increased, resulting in an extremely traumatic dirty war and ultimately, government victory.
Cameron’s video lecture brought up an argument I found quite interesting: the idea of cyclical violence. Peasant repression brought about the Velasco coup which brought about land reforms which brought about the Shining Path which antagonised society to the point of terroristic government retaliation which left a deep fear in Peru still existing today. It seems as if every event that occurred that tried to alleviate repression caused further repression. Perhaps this is because no single movement, event, regime, etc. can cater to every member of the population, and so some people will always be favoured over others. Yet, does this result in a revolution, violence, and further repression every time? The Peruvian case certainly is interesting in this perspective and I’m happy I was able to note some connections to other Latin American happenings that have been discussed in class!