Week 11: On “The Terror”

I really like this chapter’s selection of documents as they capture important aspects of the Peruvian dirty war, which is an exemplar of the phenomena throughout Latin American of the time.

The first document is ironic to me in that the author had the very problem he saw in the country. He was well aware of the barrier of “disinformation, prejudice and ideology” between different groups–the peasants, the Senderistas, and the state’s armed forces. However, while he highlights how the villagers were ignorant and therefore fearful of the outsiders, he himself makes wrong assumptions and accusations about the villagers. For example he describes the village as completely isolated from the modern world, but in fact many peasants had experience in and knowledge of the other part of Peru. Even his assertion that the dancing woman was “undoubtedly one of the mob who threw rocks and swung sticks” seems offensive to me.

The document also reflects the pandemic paranoia  in Latin America. Every one had something to fear, and from the fear sprouted hatred and violence, which led to so many incidents of dehumanization in the period. Between the Senderistas and the state, the peasant masses were the most pathetic because they were so susceptible to the other two forces and could trust neither to be their real friends and alliance.

The second document first impressed me with its recurrent mention of Chinese Chairman Mao Tsetung, and how much inspiration Gonzalo got from him. It’s quite pathetic that he believed that the military theory and practice Mao provided and with which he succeeded in leading the struggle in China were universal and would guarantee the same result in Peru. Mao’s adaption of Marxism was essentially based on Chinese situation. Given Peru’s situation, the adversary Gonzalo faced, and the measures he took, one wouldn’t be optimistic about his success. By the way, it’s also interesting for me to know that slogan like “Death to the Traitor Deng Xiaopeng” (actually there’s a typo; it should be Deng Xiaoping 邓小平) was painted on the walls in Andean communities. (Deng was actually the one who corrected the terrible mistakes Mao made in his old ages and saved China from great socioeconomic misery with his reform. He was strongly attacked by opponents at first.)

Yet let’s remember that China is certainly not the only international influence on Latin America at the time. The US, as always, played an important thought not necessarily overt role in the wars.

The third document reinforces the idea of “destruction for construction/reconstruction”, which seems to be a shared motto among the opposite forces. There could be no negotiation, no mild reforms, but only annihilation. This idealistic attitude is not only troubled by the great difficulty to actually construct, but also undermined by the leader’s egocentrism and pursuit of power. Fujimori, despite all his patriotic claims and desires in the Declaration of the Autogolpe, was not people’s servant. He was not so different from the many authoritarian figures we see in Latin America.

The last document reminds us of the real sorrow this period inflicted on ordinary people. The narrator touched me by a composed expression of sorrow and condemnation. The text captures something that is not exclusive to Fujimori, or Peru, or Latin America. It’s mankind that will forever suffer from its own malevolence and meanwhile pursue justice, and that will see endless figures who outweigh humanity by themselves. Personal favorite quote: “Real power is internal; is able to create, to convert ideals into reality, and permits us to leave our Utopia because we are reality.”


Question for discussion: what do you think of the idea that something needs to be destroyed to construct something better? e.g. Gonzalo’s wish to destroy the reactionaries to construct a communist country, or Fujimori’s autogolpe to destroy the current, failed democracy to build a new one.

Read 1 comment

  1. I do not think that something needs to be destroyed, I think that there is always room for cooperation but i think that it is extremely difficult because it is nearly impossible to please everyone, perhaps there will always be resistance from a subordinate group. However, does distruction have to come with violence?

Leave a Reply