If you call yourself the ‘Shining Path’ does that include ‘lighting up’ a neighbourhood in a bomb attack?
LIMA, PERU — In the annals of terrorism a few groups have elected to refer to themselves by interesting names. Al Qaeda (AQ) is Arabic for ‘the base’: I guess they really thought they were creating a fundamental structure for a new society. Islamic State (ISIS) saw themselves as the harbingers of the new Caliphate. Then there is the Philippines’ group the name of which reduces to the acronym MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front) – and I have no intention of going down THAT road.
The main terrorist group in Peru for years chose the label Sendero Luminoso – ‘Shining Path’ in English. It was created in 1980 and had the stated goal of overthrowing the government and establishing a ‘new democracy’ – i.e. a communist dictatorship. It was active for a decade and a half until its leader, Abimael Guzman, was picked up by security forces in 1992. Since that date it has dropped off most analysts’ radar.
Sendero Luminoso may have claimed that it wanted to usher in a utopian society in Peru but it also wanted to foment a world-wide revolution. Unfortunately, their tactics to achieve this ‘nirvana’ included the targeting of peasants, unions (wait, aren’t all communists supposed to be pro union??), elected officials and the general public.
On this day in 1992 Sendero carried out a vehicle bomb attack in the wealthy Miraflores district of Lima, the nation’s capital, killing 25 people and wounding 155. The bombing on the residential street of Tarata was the Shining Path’s deadliest attack on civilians in the capital, contributing to a sense of panic in the city about an insurgency that had already killed thousands of people in the remote Andes and Amazon regions.
Twenty-five thousand deaths in the Sierra and the shantytowns were not enough to make people aware that the war affected them. With the 24 deaths in Miraflores and the continuing insecurity, the message has come home with a vengeance.
On September 11, 2018 Guzman was given a second life sentence for the Miraflores attack. He will not be getting out of prison any time soon. Perhaps that means Sendero Luminoso will not be as effective at its carnage any time soon either.