Shining Path

The Shining Path (in Spanish: Sendero Luminoso) is an insurgent Maoist guerrilla organization in Peru (the group refers to itself as the Communist Party of Peru). Its followers are generally called senderistas.

Its stated goal is to replace Peruvian bourgeois institutions with a communist peasant revolutionary regime. After the capture of its leader Abimael Guzmán in 1992, it has only been sporadically active.

Widely condemned for its brutality, including violence deployed against ordinary peasants, trade union organizers, and popularly elected officials, Sendero is on the U.S. Department of State's "Designated Foreign Terrorist Organizations" list. Peru, the United Kingdom and European Union likewise regard Shining Path as a terrorist group and prohibit providing funding or other financial support.

The movement's ideology and tactics have been copied by other Marxist guerrilla groups, notably the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) in Nepal. Both the Communist Party of Nepal (Maoist) and Shining Path are members of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement.


Rise of Shining Path

Missing image
PCP poster supporting an electoral boycott

Shining Path was founded in the late 1960s by former university professor Abimael Guzmán (also known as Presidente Gonzalo), whose teachings created the foundation for 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 in 1964.

Between 1973 and 1975, Shining Path gained control of the student councils in the Universities of Tacna and Huánuco, and developed a significant presence in the University of Engineering in Lima and the San Martin de Porres University. Sometime thereafter, it decided to abandon the universities and reconsolidate itself. In the beginning of 1980, it 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, and ordered their militias to transfer to strategic areas in the provinces, to start the "armed struggle". The group also held its "First Military School" where militants were instructed in military tactics and weapons use. They also engaged in criticism and self-criticism, a cult-style form of indoctrination popularized by Mao Zedong, during which participants were encouraged to denounce their peers as being insufficiently revolutionary. Those receiving criticism admitted guilt, and launched further attacks against themselves. During the First Military School, members of the Central Committee came under heavy criticism, while Guzmán did not, and he emerged for the First Military School as the clear leader of Shining Path.

When Peru's military government allowed elections for the first time in a dozen years in 1980, Shining Path was one of the few insurrectionary groups which declined to take part, instead launching a guerrilla war by attacking election booths in the highlands of the province of Ayacucho. On May 17, 1980, it burned ballot boxes in the town of Chuschi, Ayacucho, on the eve of the presidential elections. It was the first act of war by Shining Path. However, the perpetrators were quickly caught, and the incident received very little attention in the Peruvian press.

Throughout the 1980s, Shining Path grew in both the territory it controlled and the number of militants in its organization, and it began mounting attacks against civilians and the infrastructure in Lima, such as in 1983, when it sabotaged several electrical transmission towers producing a citywide blackout and set fire to the Bayer industrial plant, destroying it completely. That year, the group also set off a powerful bomb in the offices of the governing party, Popular Action. Two years later, in June 1985, marking an escalation in its activities in the capital, Shining Path again blew up electricity transmission towers in Lima, producing a blackout, and detonated car bombs near the government palace and the justice palace. It also stared fires in several shopping malls. (At the time, Raúl Alfonsín, the President of Argentina, was being received by Fernando Belaúnde, then President of Peru.) In one of its last attacks, on 16 July 1992, the militants detonated a powerful bomb on Tarata Street in Lima [1] (, killing more than forty people and destroying several buildings.

During this period, Shining Path also targeted specific individuals, notably leaders of other leftist groups, local political parties, labor unions, and peasant organizations, some of whom were anti-Sendero Marxists. On 24 April 1985, in the midst of Presidential elections, it tried to assassinate Domingo García Rada, the President of the Peruvian National Electoral Council, severely injured him and mortally wounding his driver. In August, 1991, the group killed two Polish and one Italian priest in the department of Ancash. They later blew up their bodies with dynamite. The following February, Shining Path assassinated María Elena Moyano, a well-known community organizer in Villa El Salvador, a vast shantytown in Lima.

By 1991, Shining Path had control of much of the countryside of the center and south of Peru and had a large presence in the outskirts of Lima. As the organization grew in power, a cult of personality evolved around Guzmán. The official dogma of Shining Path ceased to be Maoism, and was instead referred to as "Marxism-Leninism-Maoism-Gonzalo thought.

In addition to fighting the Peruvian government, Shining Path also engaged in armed conflicts with Peru's other major Peruvian guerrilla group, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), with campesino self-defense groups organized by the Peruvian armed forces, and with legally-recognized parties of the Peruvian Left.

Although the extent of Shining Path atrocities and the reliability of reports remains a matter of controversy, the organization has been frequently accused of particularly brutal methods of killing. According to a 1988 report in the Los Angeles Times, "the insurgents hung the women on a wall and hacked them with knives and machetes before slitting their throats." [2] (

Missing image
Abimael Guzmán

Decline of Shining Path

While Shining Path militants were able to quickly seize control of large areas of Peru, the rebels soon faced serious problems. Many peasants were not happy with Shining Path rule. There were many reasons for peasant distrust of Shining Path, such as the lack of respect for indigenous culture and institutions shown by Shining Path as well as the brutal form of justice meted out by Shining Path "popular trials."

In many areas, peasants formed anti-Shining Path patrols, known as rondas. These rondas were generally poorly-equipped despite donations of guns from the Peruvian armed forces. Nevertheless, Shining Path guerrillas were militarily attacked by the rondas.

The Peruvian government also clamped down on the Shining Path. Military personnel were dispatched to areas dominated by the Shining Path, especially Ayacucho, to fight the rebels. Ayacucho itself was declared an emergency zone, and constitutional rights were suspended in the area.

Initial government efforts to fight Shining Path were not especially effective or promising. Military units engaged in many human rights violations, which caused Shining Path to appear in the eyes of many as the lesser of two evils.

The military eventually lessened the pace at which it committed atrocities such as massacres. Instead, the Peruvian state used intelligence agencies to fight the Shining Path.

On September 12, 1992, such intelligence efforts paid off. On that day, Guzmán and several Shining Path leaders were captured by Peruvian special forces; shortly thereafter the rest of Shining Path's leadership fell as well. At the same time, the Shining Path suffered embarrassing military defeats to campesino self-defense organizations — supposedly its social base — and the organization fractured into splinter groups. Guerrilla activity diminished sharply thereafter, with peace returning the areas where the Shining Path had been active.

Although the organization has virtually disappeared, a militant faction known as Proseguir (or "Onward") continues to be sporadically active in the region of the Ene and Apurimac valleys on the eastern slopes of the Andes, some 300 miles southeast of Lima. It is believed that the faction consists of three companies known as the North, or Pangoa, the Centre, or Pucuta, and the South, or Vizcatan. According to the Peruvian government, the faction consists of around 100 hardliners from other (now disbanded) regional Shining Path units. The government claims that Proseguir is operating in alliance with drug traffickers.

The Proseguir faction has been blamed for an upsurge in guerrilla activity in the region during 2003. Government forces have had a number of successes in capturing its leading members. In April 2000, commander José Arcela Chiroque, a.k.a. "Ormeno", was captured, followed by another leader, Florentino Cerrón Cardozo, a.k.a. "Marcelo" in July 2003. In November of the same year, Jaime Zuniga, also known as "Cirilo" or "Dalton," was arrested after a clash in which four guerrillas were killed and an officer wounded. Officials said he took part in planning the kidnapping in June of 71 workers of the Argentine company Techint, who were working on a gas pipeline in the jungle. He was also thought to have led an ambush against an army helicopter in 1999 in which five soldiers died.

On 9 June 2003 a Shining Path group attacked a camp in Tocache, Ayacucho, and took 68 employees of the Argentinian company Techint and three police guards as hostages. They had been working in the Camisea gas pipeline project, a gasoduct that would take natural gas from Cuzco to Lima. According to sources from Peru's Interior Ministry, the terrorists asked for a sizable ransom to free the hostages. Two days later, after a rapid military response, the terrorists abandoned the hostages. According to rumor, the company paid the ransom.

That year, the Peruvian National Police broke up several Shining Path terrorist camps and captured many members and leaders. It also freed more than 200 indigenous people held in virtual slavery. For the year, terrorist incidents amounted to 115 (a decrease of 15% from the 134 kidnappings and armed attacks in 2002). Also for the year, 6 military and 3 private defense personnel were killed, and 6 Shining Path terrorists were killed and 209 captured.

In April 2004, a man known as Artemio and identifying himself as one of the last free Shining Path leaders gave a media interview where he stated that the group will resume violent operations unless the Peruvian government grants an amnesty to other top Shining Path leaders within 60 days. Peru's Interior Minister, Fernando Rospigliosi, said that the government would respond "drastically and swiftly" to any violent action. In September of the same year, a comprehensive sweep by police in five cities netted seventeen suspected members. According to the interior minister, eight of the arrested were school teachers and another two were high-level school administrators.

In combating Shining Path, the Peruvian armed forces frequently used excessive force and many innocent civilians were killed. Government forces destroyed villages and killed campesinos suspected of being supporters of Shining Path. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR) established by President Alejandro Toledo found in a 2003 report that the total number of deaths and/or disappearances of people caused by revolt its consequences was 69,280. Of those, 22,507 were fully identified as dead and 46,773 were anonymous disappearances. Shining Path was directly responsible for the death of 12,561 people. According to a summary of the report by Human Rights Watch, "Shining Path ... killed about half the victims, and roughly one-third died at the hands of government security forces... The commission attributed some of the other slayings to a smaller guerrilla group and local militias. The rest remain unattributed." The other major Peruvian guerrilla group during this period, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), was held responsible for 1.5% of the deaths. [3] (


  • Shining Path "has bombed police headquarters and municipal offices, gas stations and middle-class apartment buildings, think tanks and public schools. It has paralyzed the country with so-called armed strikes, and set fire to bus drivers who defied its orders to stay at home on strike days. It has murdered peasant families and leftist leaders. Most often, victims are killed in full view of their family or community. Sometimes they are hanged and sometimes shot, but often an execution-squad member — in many cases a woman — delivers the coup de grace with a knife. [...] Sometimes a man who has just finished casting a mandatory vote in a national election will have the finger with the telltale electoral ink hacked off." Alma Guillermoprieto, "Letter from Lima: Down the Shining Path," The New Yorker, 8 February 1993



  • Terrorist Group Profiles, Dudley Knox Library, Naval Postgraduate School
  • Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980-1995, ed. Steve Stern, Duke University Press: Durham and London, 1998 (ISBN 082232217X)
  • "Coup against Shining Path", La Republica (Lima), 13 November 2003
  • The Shining Path: A Histoy of the Millenarian War in Peru, Gorriti, Gustavo trans. Robin Kirk, The University of North Carolina Press: Chapel Hill and Londo, 1999 (ISBN 0807846767)

External links

fr:Sentier lumineux fi:Loistava polku pl:Świetlisty Szlak sv:Sendero Luminoso zh:光明之路


  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools