Thursday, 13 November 2008

Peru: Resurgence of Shining Path

After years in relative obscurity, the Shining Path, one of Latin America's most notorious guerrilla groups, is fighting the Peruvian military with renewed vigor, feeding on the profits of the cocaine trade and trying to win support from the Andean villagers it once terrorized, according to residents and Peruvian officials.

There's been a flurry of articles recently about the Shining Path's 'comeback'. I wonder what the belief in guerrilla strength actually contributes to it. It's pretty hard to count underground leftist groups, you know. I've read wildly differing accounts of the number of members of Shining Path in their heyday. People who are trying to bring down a state don't exactly stick around to put their job titles down on census forms, and moreover, are you counting armed combatants, supporters, sympathisers, or something else? From this perspective you gain some insight - if little sympathy - into the Peruvian military view that indigenous villagers in general counted as terrorists.

With this in mind, I do ask myself how a belief in Shining Path's resurgence, and media focus on this, actually bolsters the activities of such a group. Fear is stirred up, people change their daily lives, the media is paying attention, the government is put on the defensive... It certainly does seem as if SP has carried out a few more audacious attacks in the past few months, and I'm not suggesting this be swept under the carpet. A year or two I heard several people at Peruvian conferences saying that since the conditions that led to Shining Path's initial growth have not changed, there is space for them to stage a comeback. Then they generally paused for dramatic effect, but since the situation was hypothetical no one was that shocked. I'm now both horrified and curious about this resurgence process. Should we stop speaking of Shining Path in the past tense?

In Peru, a Rebellion Reborn (Washington Post)

No comments: