This week we looked at Latin America in the late twentieth century and the political upheaval that took place in many nations. We focused specifically on the civil war within Peru. The war was really acts of terrorism perpetrated by both the state and a radical political group called The Shining Path. I found it particularly interesting how this terror began and the lasting effects on Peruvian politics today.
The rise of The Shining Path was driven by Abimael Guzman and his ability to mobilize the disenfranchised indigenous peoples in the Ayacucho highlands. It seems that a lot of the people recruited to the Shining Path were young, university-aged students who were well-educated. This surprised me because I have generally thought that educated people like university grads and professors like Guzman and his colleagues would not resort to such extremely violent measures to get their agenda across. I think that they felt they needed to resort to this, speaks to the significance of political ineptitude at the time as well as the degree of abandonment that people felt from their government being in such a remote region of Peru. Professor Cameron discusses how it is so unique that this type of violent reformation movement would spring up after an agrarian reform rather than before, again speaking to the lack of political leadership at the time.
Similarly, I was intrigued by the discussion in the video of the lasting effects that the war and the very public violence had on the political and cultural climate of Peru. For example in the conversation with Professor Maxwell Cameron he mentions that 70,000 people were killed, billions of dollars of materials are lost, and that there was “a deep trauma to the political psyche of the nation”. This was unsurprising; considering the degree of violence and the length of the war it is understandable that Peruvians would be weary of politics and reformations. What is interesting is how the war and the corrupt political moves by Fujimori resulted in a degeneration of democracy and political parties that are still struggling to fully recover.
My question for discussion is what was the international reaction to the violence and what was the reaction of the average Peruvian? It seems like neither side was really “in the right” and both were perpetuating grotesque bloodshed. Similarly, what is the sentiment about the war today and whose side is portrayed as the right one if either?
I really enjoyed reading your blog post! I wasn’t understanding the Shining Path situation in the reading, and you really cleared things up for me. It also surprised me that mostly scholars were attracted to this group.