Last Updated: Thursday, 26 May 2016, 08:56 GMT

Peru. Shining Path Actions in 1998: Summation and Partial Chronology

Publisher United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services
Publication Date 1 November 1998
Citation / Document Symbol [QA/PER/99.001]
Cite as United States Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, Peru. Shining Path Actions in 1998: Summation and Partial Chronology, 1 November 1998, [QA/PER/99.001], available at: [accessed 27 May 2016]
Comments The July 27, 1990 Regulations, 'Aliens and Nationality: Asylum and Withholding of Deportation Procedures,' mandated the creation of a new corps of Asylum Officers to provide an initial, nonadversarial adjudication of asylum claims. Asylum Officers use asylum law, interviews with asylum applicants, and relevant information on country conditions to determine the merits of individual claims for asylum. As specified in the Regulations (8 CFR 208.12), as amended, such information may be obtained from 'the Department of State, the Office of International Affairs, other Service offices, or other credible sources, such as international organizations, private voluntary agencies, news organizations, or academic institutions.' Question and Answer Series papers are one means by which information on human rights conditions in a country and/or conditions affecting given groups or individuals deemed 'at risk' within a given country is presented to Asylum and Immigration Officers. Question and Answer Series papers are brief descriptions of conditions in countries based on information provided by the sources referred to above. They are prepared by expert consultants and/or the staff of the Resource Information Center, Immigration and Naturalization Service, U.S. Department of Justice. Question and Answer papers cannot be, and do not purport to be either exhaustive with regard to the country surveyed, or conclusive as to the merits of any particular claim to refugee status or asylum. The chronology in this report covers the period from January - November 1998.
DisclaimerThis is not a UNHCR publication. UNHCR is not responsible for, nor does it necessarily endorse, its content. Any views expressed are solely those of the author or publisher and do not necessarily reflect those of UNHCR, the United Nations or its Member States.

Actions by Shining Path in Peru in 1998

As indicated by data compiled from Peruvian news sources by the Lima-based Asociación Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH), the decline in activities by Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) has continued in 1998.[1] However, despite this decline, Shining Path has manifested that it maintains the capacity to orchestrate activities in several departments throughout the country, including Lima.

In the first nine months of 1998, there were 223 actions by armed groups in Peru, compared with 460 in all of 1997, indicating a decline in 1998 of about 33 percent on an annualized basis. Of the 223 actions, 168 were known to be carried out or were claimed by Shining Path and 13 by remnants of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), while in 42 actions the perpetrators were unknown.

In actions involving violent attacks, the great majority of which involved Shining Path, there were a total of 73 deaths and 34 wounded, about 80 percent of which casualties were incurred among civilians, police and soldiers. In 1997 the total of dead and wounded was 200, indicating a decline in 1998 of about 30 percent on an annualized basis.

In the coastal department of Lima, which includes the nation's capital, there were 122 guerrilla actions in 1997, resulting in 13 deaths and 22 wounded among civilians, police and soldiers, but no recorded losses among insurgents. In the first nine months of 1998, there were 68 guerrilla actions, indicating a decline of about 25 percent on an annualized basis. Most noteworthy was that none of the 68 actions in Lima department during 1998 resulted in either deaths or injuries on either side, compared with the 13 killed and 22 wounded in 1997. According to APRODEH, many of the actions in Lima department in 1998 have been of a propagandistic nature, e.g., painting of slogans on walls, distributing flyers and small hit-and-run attacks, which probably accounts in large part for the absence of death or injuries.[2]

In the first nine months of 1998, a majority of the deaths and injuries resulting from Shining Path attacks were reported in three departments: Ayacucho, in the Andes southeast of Lima, where 31 percent of deaths and injuries occurred; Huánuco, in the southern portion of the Upper Huallaga Valley northeast of Lima, where 26 percent occurred; and San Martín, in the northern portion of the Upper Huallaga, where 19 percent occurred.

In recent years, Shining Path has been attempting to make a comeback, hoping to take advantage of a decline in popular support for the Fujimori government and the dire economic and social conditions which a majority of Peruvians continue to endure. According to David Scott Palmer, writing at the end of 1997:

Shining Path…retains a significant operational capacity in various parts of the country, including the Departments (states) of Lima, Huánuco, Ayacucho, and San Martín…They have returned to an earlier strategy of selective attacks against police and military targets, local officials, community and neighborhood leaders, and individuals whom they believe have betrayed them, as well as of new recruitment efforts in rural communities, urban neighborhoods, and universities. They have reconstituted an emergency central committee as well as some of their regional committees.[3]

Palmer was in Peru from May to September 1998, most of the time in Ayacucho Department. In a recent telephone interview, he reported that the general points made in his November 1997 affidavit still hold. He estimates that Shining Path currently has a military cadre of about 1,000 members nationwide. Approximately a third of them are operating in Ayacucho Department; the majority of the rest are in the Upper Huallaga Valley, with the remainder in cities. Some are organized in units of up to 70 guerrillas; others operate in smaller units; while the remainder operate individually as "floaters" between groups.[4]

In 1998 in the Upper Huallaga Valley and in Ayacucho Department, Palmer reported "a dramatic increase in visits" by Shining Path guerrillas to villages and small communities. The visits were generally peaceful propaganda efforts to try to regenerate popular grassroots support. According to Palmer, most of these episodes are not reported in the Peruvian media, which does, however, report the more high-profile, violent incidents. Palmer noted that the most high-profile violent attacks in 1998 were part of Shining Path's attempt to disrupt the local elections in October.[5]

News reports of Shining Path activity and the data compiled by APRODEH also indicate that Palmer's assessment of the relative strength of the insurgency and its geographical presence appeared to hold true for much of 1998, despite the reduction in the number of guerrilla actions. The decline may have been the result of the capture in Lima in late April of Pedro Domingo Quinteros Ayllon, nom de guerre "Comrade Luis," second-in-command of the Shining Path emergency central committee. Quinteros was generally considered the second most important Shining Path leader after Oscar Ramírez Durand, nom de guerre "Feliciano," who succeeded the jailed Abimael Guzmán as head of Shining Path. Peruvian police sources said that Quinteros had traveled to Lima to meet with Shining Path cells in the capital.[6]

Despite the arrest of Quinteros, Shining Path appeared to maintain its operational capacity, particularly in the Upper Huallaga Valley northeast of Lima, as indicated by the following, non-comprehensive survey of some of the more significant Shining Path actions in 1998. Still, despite a number of significant guerrilla actions in the Upper Huallaga in the months before the municipal elections held nationwide on October 11, there were no reports of violence on the day that voting was conducted.[7]

•           Inearly February 1998 a Shining Path column attacked the Amazon jungle town ofPotsoteni located in the Upper Huallaga Valley 560 kilometers northeast ofLima. The group of approximately 30 guerrillas fought for more than an houragainst members of the town'sronda,a civilian self-defense group made up of peasants armed by the government. Theconfrontation, according to Peruvian military sources, left four peasants andfour guerrillas dead and five peasants gravely wounded. A few weeks earlier, inJanuary, possibly the same Shining Path column attacked Tungayhuaco, anothertown in the Upper Huallaga Valley. In that assault, one peasant died andguerrillas seized small arms from residents before fleeing.[8]

•Inmid-February one soldier was killed and eight others gravely wounded when anarmy patrol set off a number of mines presumably planted by Shining Pathguerrillas near the Upper Huallaga city of Tingo María, the capital of HuánucoDepartment. According to military sources, the patrol was tracking a ShiningPath column that apparently had carried out a series of attacks against townsin the valley since January, including those cited in the paragraph above. Themilitary sources said the attacks indicated a "significant increase" in ShiningPath activities in the Upper Huallaga since the beginning of 1998.[9]

•OnMarch 10, a Shining Path column of about 30 guerrillas attacked and brieflyoccupied the town of Cahuas in Huánuco department in the Upper Huallaga Valley.Inhabitants were corralled into the town's central plaza, where the guerrillasassassinated the local justice of the peace and two other individuals.[10]

•Inmid-March, Peruvian army soldiers clashed with a group of about 30 Shining Pathguerrillas near the Andean town of Vizcatán 325 kilometers southeast of Lima inthe department of Ayacucho. The confrontation left ten insurgents and onesoldier dead and six soldiers wounded, according to army sources. Vizcatán is aformer Shining Path stronghold and the old refuge of Oscar Ramírez Durand, nomde guerre "Feliciano," successor of Abimael Guzmán as head of the Shining Path.Peruvian armed forces expelled the Shining Path from Vizcatan in 1996, but armysources interpreted a recent increase in clashes between soldiers andguerrillas as evidence the Shining Path were looking to try to retake the town.[11]

•Atthe end of July, about 50 Shining Path guerrillas attacked and occupied forfour hours the jungle town of Angasyacu in the southern end of Upper HuallagaValley. The guerrillas dynamited three high-tension electrical towers andthreatened to kill residents if they voted in the municipal elections that wereto be held throughout Peru on October 11.[12]

•Inthe second week of August a column of more than 50 Shining Path guerrillasattacked and occupied Saposoa, a city of 13,000 people 730 kilometers northeastof Lima at the northern end of the Upper Huallaga Valley. Saposoa is thecapital of Huallaga province in the department of San Martín. The heavily armedguerrillas overran the local headquarters of the national police, disrupted arally for Mayor Celso Rodríguez Vargas who was running for reelection onOctober 11, and held the city for four hours before leaving. Rodríguez wasexecuted by gunshot to the head following ajuiciopopular, or people's trial, staged by the guerrillas. Rodríguez was acandidate of theVamos Vecinomovement, a pro-Fujimori organization established as a vehicle for governmentcandidates in the 1998 municipal elections. Two other civilians were killed andsix wounded during the assault on the police station. According to militarysources, the attack on Saposoa was the first significant Shining Path militaryaction in San Martín department in four years. During that period, they said,the Shining Path's radius of activities in the Upper Huallaga had been limitedmore to the southern end of the valley 200-250 kilometers away.[13]

•Towardthe end of September a group of more than 50 Shining Path guerrillas attackedAucayacu, a municipality of 21,000 people on the Rio Huallaga in Huánucodepartment 370 kilometers northeast of Lima. The insurgents took over thecentral plaza, exchanged gunfire with police and set off bombs in twobuildings. During the assault which lasted about an hour, the guerrillaspainted the phraseNo Votar, Don'tVote, on building walls and scattered fliers with the same message. As theyfled into the jungle, they set off grenades behind them. There were no reporteddeaths or injuries among the insurgents, police or civilians.[14]

•OnSeptember 30 a group of about 20 Shining Path guerrillas attacked themunicipality of Uchiza located in the jungles of the southern portion of theUpper Huallaga Valley. During the incursion, which lasted less than an hour,the guerrillas set off a bomb and scattered fliers calling for people not tovote in the municipal election and to join theguerra popular, people's war. Military sources said the attackersmight have been part of the Shining Path column which attacked Aucayacu about aweek earlier.[15]

•Followingthe October 11 municipal elections, anti-terrorist police announced that theyhad arrested eight alleged members of the Shining Path in the departments ofAyacucho and Ica (along the Pacific coast south of Lima), and in southern Lima.Police sources in those areas said those apprehended had been planning to carryout attacks during the elections.[16]

•OnNovember 2 a group of Shining Path guerrillas killed three farmers attending areligious festival in the town of Pueblo Nuevo in Huánuco department in theUpper Huallaga Valley. The farmers, two men and a woman, were dragged from thefestival and shot. The guerrillas hung signs around their necks readingsoplón, informer. Peruvian governmentofficials speculated that the killings were in reprisal for the recent capturein Huánuco of Jenny Rodríguez Neyra, the third highest ranking Shining Pathleader still at large.[17]

[1] AsociaciónPro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH). "Acciones de grupos alzados en armas," a seriesof tables charting armed actions by guerrilla groups in 1997 and 1998, undated.

[2] Interviewwith Rosario Narvaez, APRODEH staff, 28 October 1998.

[3] Palmer,David Scott. Affidavit, 6 November 1997,

[4] .Palmer,David Scott. Telephone interview, 13 November 1998

[5] Palmer,David Scott. Telephone interview, 13 November 1998

[6] "Capturan alider Senderista,"Reuters(Lima: 21April 1998), inEl Nuevo Herald(Miami: 22 April 1998).

[7] "Lima mayorreelected, exit polls show,"AssociatedPress(Lima: 11 October 1998), in MiamiHerald(Miami: 12 October 1998).

[8] "Sangrientaofensiva de Sendero deja 8 muertos,"Reuters(Lima: 8 February 1998), inEl NuevoHerald(Miami: 9 February 1998).

[9] "Minas deSendero Luminoso,"El Nuevo Herald(Miami:16 February 1998), citing unnamed wire service reports.

[10] "Peru:Ataque a poblado,"El Nuevo Herald(Miami:12 March 1998), citing unnamed wire service reports.

[11] "Tropas delgobierno eliminan a 10 terroristas en Peru,"El Nuevo Herald(Miami: 15 March 1998), citing unnamed wire servicereports.

[12] "Peru:terrorismo contra elecciones,"El NuevoHerald(Miami: 28 July 1998), citing unnamed wire service reports.

[13] "Sangrientareaparición de Sendero,"El Nuevo Herald(Miami:10 August 1998), citing unnamed wire service reports.

[14] "Senderoreaparece como columna guerrillera,"AssociatedPress(Lima: 24 September 1998), inElNuevo Herald(Miami: 25 September 1998).

[15] Muñoz,Reynaldo. "Sendero amenaza de nuevo al Peru,"Agence France Presse(Lima: 29 September 1998), inEl Nuevo Herald(Miami: 30 September1998).

[16] "TheAmericas,"Miami Herald(Miami: 15October 1998), citing unnamed wire service reports.

[17] AssociatedPress (Lima: 4 November 1998) - as reported on America Online, InternationalNews Service.

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