Continued from Part 3
The Shining Path brutally killed its victims and rejected the idea of human rights. A Shining Path document stated:
|2009 Shining Path anti-American
propaganda poster featuring the faces
of Marx, Lenin, Mao, and Guzman
“We start by not ascribing to either Universal Declaration of Human Rights or the Costa Rica [Convention on Human Rights], but we have used their legal devices to unmask and denounce the old Peruvian state. . . . For us, human rights are contradictory to the rights of the people, because we base rights in man as a social product, not man as an abstract with innate rights. "Human rights" do not exist except for the bourgeois man, a position that was at the forefront of feudalism, like liberty, equality, and fraternity were advanced for the bourgeoisie of the past. But today, since the appearance of the proletariat as an organized class in the Communist Party, with the experience of triumphant revolutions, with the construction of socialism, new democracy and the dictatorship of the proletariat, it has been proven that human rights serve the oppressor class and the exploiters who run the imperialist and landowner-bureaucratic states. Bourgeois states in general. . . . Our position is very clear. We reject and condemn human rights because they are bourgeois, reactionary, counterrevolutionary rights, and are today a weapon of revisionists and imperialists, principally Yankee imperialists.”
--The Communist Party of Peru, Sobre las Dos Colinas
Level of support
While the Shining Path quickly seized control of large areas of Peru, it soon faced serious problems. The Shining Path's Maoism never had the support of the majority of the Peruvian people; according to opinion polls, 15% of the population considered subversion to be justifiable in June 1988 while 17% considered it justifiable in 1991. In June 1991, "the total sample disapproved of the Shining Path by an 83 to 7 percent margin, with 10 percent not answering the question. Among the poorest, however, only 58% stated disapproval of the Shining Path; 11 percent said they had a favorable opinion of the Shining Path, and some 31 percent would not answer the question." A September 1991 poll found that 21 percent of those polled in Lima believed that the Shining Path did not kill and torture innocent people. The same poll found that 13% believed that society would be more just if the Shining Path won the war and 22% believed society would be equally just under the Shining Path as it was under the government.
Many peasants were unhappy with the Shining Path's rule for a variety of reasons, such as its disrespect for indigenous culture and institutions, and the brutality of its "popular trials" that sometimes included "slitting throats, strangulation, stoning, and burning." While punishing and killing cattle thieves was popular in some parts of Peru, the Shining Path also killed peasants and popular leaders for minor offenses. Peasants were offended by the rebels' injunction against burying the bodies of Shining Path victims.
The Shining Path became disliked for its policy of closing small and rural markets in order to end small-scale capitalism and to starve Lima. As a Maoist organization, it strongly opposed all forms of capitalism. It followed Mao's dictum that guerrilla warfare should start in the countryside and gradually choke off the cities. As the peasants' livelihoods depended on trade in the markets, they rejected such closures. In several areas of Peru, the Shining Path launched unpopular restrictive campaigns, such as a prohibition on parties and the consumption of alcohol.
Government response and abuses
In 1991, President Alberto Fujimori issued a law that gave the rondas a legal status, and from that time they were officially called Comités de auto defensa ("Committees of Self Defence"). They were officially armed, usually with 12-gauge shotguns, and trained by the Peruvian Army. According to the government, there were approximately 7,226 comités de auto defensa as of 2005; almost 4,000 are located in the central region of Peru, the stronghold of the Shining Path.
The Peruvian government also clamped down on the Shining Path in other ways. 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 the Shining Path were not very effective or promising. Military units engaged in many human rights violations, which caused the Shining Path to appear in the eyes of many as the lesser of two evils. They used excessive force and killed many innocent civilians. Government forces destroyed villages and killed campesinos suspected of supporting the Shining Path. They eventually lessened the pace at which the armed forces committed atrocities such as massacres. Additionally, the state began the widespread use of intelligence agencies in its fight against the Shining Path. However, atrocities were committed by the National Intelligence Service and the Army Intelligence Service, notably the La Cantuta massacre and the Barrios Altos massacre, both of which were committed by Grupo Colina.
After the collapse of the Fujimori government, interim President Valentín Paniagua, established a Truth and Reconciliation Commission to investigate the conflict. The Commission found in its 2003 Final Report that 69,280 people died or disappeared between 1980 and 2000 as a result of the armed conflict. About 54% of the deaths and disappearances reported to the Commission were caused by the Shining Path. A statistical analysis of the available data led the Truth and Reconciliation Commission to estimate that the Shining Path was responsible for the death or disappearance of 31,331 people, 46% of the total deaths and disappearances. 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 MRTA was held responsible for 1.5% of the deaths.
Continued in Part 5: The Shining Path’s collapse and resurgence
Information courtesy of Wikipedia. Propaganda poster was obtained via TrevorLoudon.com and victims photograph was obtained via Neveryetmelted.com .