March 22, 2002

Resurgence of Shining Path?

LIMA, Peru (AP) --The Shining Path rebel movement once counted 10,000 fighters
and controlled large swaths of Peru's countryside, bringing bloodshed to the country
for more than a decade as it spread its form of communist revolution.

But by the late 1990s the group had shriveled to a few hundred fighters operating in
the remote jungle after its leaders were captured in a crackdown.

The government ceased to regard the Maoist insurgency as a threat until this week.
Now its members are believed to have detonated a car bomb near the U.S. Embassy
that killed at least nine people and injured more than 30 others.

The Shining Path was founded in 1970 by philosophy professor Abimael Guzman
and took up arms a decade later, intent on imposing a regime along the ideals of
China's Mao Tse-tung.

Guzman instilled an almost religious zeal in his followers and convinced them that
Sendero Luminoso, as the group is called in Spanish, would one day rule Peru and
then carry the revolution even into the heart of hated capitalism: the United States.

The Shining Path regards the United States as its great enemy because it stands in
the way of world revolution.

By the early 1990s the Shining Path had virtually driven the Peruvian government to
its knees with a campaign of car bombings, political assassinations and massacres of
peasant communities that refused to support the rebels.

Some 30,000 people died in the violence, including guerrillas, soldiers, policemen,
public officials and campesinos caught in the cross fire between the Shining Path
and the armed forces.

But in September 1992, Guzman was captured and, months later, sentenced to life in
prison without parole. He is being held in a high-security prison on a navy base in
Lima's port of Callao.

The government of then-President Alberto Fujimori began a crackdown, using
draconian measures that included secret courts that drew international criticism.

The Shining Path then saw its numbers dwindle to some 500 combatants, who
continued to fight on in remote jungle areas, earning money from providing
protection to the illegal coca trade.

Not until recently did President Alejandro Toledo, who took office in July 2001,
show much interest in pursuing the remnants of the once-powerful band. This
month officials announced the opening of five police bases in coca-growing areas to
combat the rebels and drug trafficker allies.

Former President Alan Garcia, whose 1985-1990 government suffered the brunt of
the Shining Path assault, warned Toledo on Thursday that he should not
underestimate the threat the rebels represent.

He said he had received reports last year that Shining Path guerrillas had begun
robbing dynamite from mines in the central Andes, much as they did they when they
launched their war on the state in 1980.

Wednesday's car bomb was packed with 110 pounds of dynamite.

"We have to understand that this changes the political scenario," Garcia said.
"Immense danger is looming over our country."

Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.