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Peru Sees Shining Path Revival

As the country's social and political crisis deepens, the Peruvian armed Maoist group is again launching attacks, reviving the massacres of the 1980s

A series of terrorist actions in inner Peru revived a conflict that killed thousands in the 1980s and was supposed to have ended in the mid 1990s. The Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path, or Sendero Luminoso in Spanish, is recruiting members and launching attacks according to independent sources and was held officially responsible for the assassination of soldiers and kidnapping of workers during the last three months.


The fanatic armed group that used to kill villager's dogs to terrorize them and blew up the Soviet Embassy in Lima in 1986, attacked patrols of infantrymen this month killing five soldiers and two civilian guides in Southern Peru, country's poorest region and tradition stronghold of the organization. Also, the rebel force led by Abigail Guzman kidnapped up to 71 workers on a gas pipeline last moth. The hostages were released 24 hours later after unclear negotiations that proved Shining Path's abilities to operate.


To calm population and add no new fresh problems to the increasingly unpopular President Toledo's administration, Defense Minister Aurelio Loret de Mola said in an interview quoted by the US daily New York Times that attacks on the military have actually dropped, from 20 clashes in 2001 to just 6 this year. However, the latest strikes are the largest in five years and local authorities cannot cover up their preoccupation of a possible escalation of violence in the country.


During the course of this year, Shining Path fighters have been moving in the inaccessible forests of south-central Peru and briefly occupied several towns and villages in the rural areas. Also, Peru's intelligence services have reported movement of rebel armed columns their contact with drug traffickers. However, authorities say their number is significantly less important than in the early nineties, when the insurgents reached 10,000.


Sendero Luminoso was founded in the 1960s as a Maoist faction of Peru's Communist Party. Its objective was to overthrow the existing government and substitute it with its own peculiar form of Maoist/Incan revolutionary community through use of violence. The organization, led by the University Professor Abigail Guzman, started operating militarily in 1978 and terrorized country's population all along the eighties and the first half of the nineties.


Peruvian former President Alberto Fujimori managed to eradicate the group thanks to a combination of military actions and open human rights violations that restricted country's democracy. Fujimori, who fled to Japan in 2000 facing crimes against humanity and corruption charges in his country, has recently expressed his will to come back. At the same time, his right hand man during his rule, Vladimir Montesinos is in jail facing similar charges. Apart from those accusations, Human Rights Watch wants both men to be prosecuted for extrajudicial executions, torture and intimidation occurred frequently and systematically covered up.