17 May 2010
Thirty years since Shining Path went to war against the people of Peru
May 17th 1980 Shining Path, a Maoist group that split from the Communist Party of Peru undertook the first action in their 'Peoples' War', burning ballot papers in an obscure village.
Until their leader, a philosophy professor specialising in Kant, was captured in the 1990s, they took part in a bloody war which claimed the lives of 10,000s of people and displaced 100,000s.
They killed not just those they sought to over throw but targeted all on the left and in the social movements who did not support them, typically they would dynamite opponents in front of their families.
They were the most brutal of the Maoists along with the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
If they had won, who knows how many they would have murdered.
Successive Peruvian governments responded with brutal repression....ordinary Peruvian citizens suffered terror from both sides.
Now Shining Path are made up of a few hundred guerillas and are heavily involved in the cocaine trade. A spent and diminishing force.
Shining Path and the counter repression in Peru, destroyed the left, now as we know the indigenous peoples in the Peruvian Amazon provide much of the energy and leadership for the left in Peru.
I was shocked when after the massacre of Peruvian indigenous people last year at Bagua, I heard the Peruvian Ambassador to the UK talk about Shining Path as if the indigenous were linked to them so as to help justify the bloodshed.
On the contrary the indigenous people far from being manipulated, give leadership by their example, to activists across Latin America and beyond.