Title page for ETD etd-01242007-200500

Type of Document Master's Thesis
Author Switzer, Russell W
Author's Email Address falcon05@hughes.net
URN etd-01242007-200500
Title Sendero Luminoso and Peruvian Counterinsurgency
Degree Master of Arts in Liberal Arts (M.A.L.A.)
Department Liberal Arts (Interdepartmental Program)
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
Stanley E. Hilton Committee Chair
Karl A. Roider Committee Member
William A. Clark Committee Member
  • Guerrilla warfare
  • Fujimori
  • Maoist
  • Abimael Guzman
Date of Defense 2006-12-22
Availability unrestricted
Sendero Luminoso first appeared in Peru in May 1980 by burning several ballot boxes

and hanging dogs from streetlights. This unusual event signaled the beginning of one of the

most violent insurgencies in the Western hemisphere. Abimael Guzmán, the founder of Sendero

Luminoso, set out to utterly destroy Peruvian society in order to replace it with his vision of a utopian communist society by creating a peasant uprising starting in the Andean highlands and

spreading throughout Peru, eventually surrounding the capital, Lima.

The government of Peru virtually ignored Sendero Luminoso for two years, which allowed the group to establish strong base areas in and around the department of Ayacucho. When the government finally reacted, it was forced to declare a state of emergency in the south central highlands and send in the military to regain control.

Through successive administrations over the next decade, Peru was engulfed in violence

and destruction, human rights abuses, corruption, and economic catastrophe. Sendero Luminoso

demonstrated an uncanny ability to avoid the military’s concentrated efforts while expanding

into new regions of Peru. The group also benefited from the drug trade to finance the insurgency by providing protection to coca farmers and narcotraffickers in the Upper Huallaga Valley.

Only after Guzmán’s capture in 1992 did the government witness visible progress in the

fight against the insurgents. Sendero Luminoso rapidly declined without Guzmán’s leadership

and the remnants withdrew to the Upper Huallaga Valley. Yet many of the conditions that led to

the creation of Sendero Luminoso still plague the country, including corruption in the government, poverty, and a weak economy. The missing catalyst is another leader like Abimael Guzmán.

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