The terrorist organisation studied in this essay is the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso), which, led by Abimael Guzman, launched a “popular war” in Peru from 1980 to 1995. Inspired by a Marxist-Leninist-Maoist ideology, this terrorist organisation managed to kill more than 20,000 thousands people in fifteen years , provoked the exodus of 500,000 more people form the mountainous slopes of the Andes to the slums of Lima and posed a real threat to the successive governments during the period it engaged in terrorist activities. It succeeded in threatening the capital so much that the congress and the constitution were suspended and national collapse was almost happening . Even though the case of the Shining Path is special in several respects, it can help us understand the causes of terrorism and therefore give us lines along which to build counterterrorism policies. Before doing anything else, it is important to have a definition of terrorist organisation with which we can work. To this end, the definition proposed by Ross is adequate. “terrorism is defined as a method of combat in which random or symbolic victims are targets of violence. (...) The purpose of terrorism is either to immobilize the target of terror in order to produce disorientation and/or compliance or to mobilize secondary targets of demands (e.g. government) or targets of attention (e.g. public opinion)” . This broad definition of terrorist organisation encompasses the Shining Path as well as numerous other terrorist organisations. In order to understand the causes of the emergence of the Shining Path and then by extension, maybe some of the causes of terrorism, we will use a structural theory. The choice of such the theory is not insignificant. Indeed, the Shining Path appears to be the rational actor Crenshaw depicts as it was highly organised and had a very well defined plan of action . As we will see, the Shining Path does not fit all the criteria of the theory but rather than undermining the theory raises the question whether all the factors outlined in the theory are required for terrorism to happen. Firstly we will study the permissive factors of the structural theory developed by Martha Crenshaw and secondly, we will look at the precipitant factors of the same theory.
The structural theory that will be used in this essay is the one developed by Martha Crenshaw and then used by Jeffrey I. Ross . Relying on Crenshaw's theory and Ross's casual model, ten structural causes of terrorism can be identified . They are divided in two groups: the permissive factors and the precipitant factors. The permissive factors include geographical location, type of political system and the level of modernisation. The precipitant factors encompass social, cultural and historical facilitation, organisational split and development, presence of other forms of unrest, support, counter terrorist organisation failure, availability of weapons and explosives and grievances . For matters of convenience, we will study only the factors that seem to be relevant to the study of the Shining Path, whether they can be applied to the Shining Path or not. We will first talk about the permissive factors. Two of the three permissive factors according to Crenshaw's model are geographical location and level of modernisation. Looking at these factors, we will come to an important conclusion about the causes of terrorism: they are highly interdependent. Indeed, those two factors are linked in the case of the Shining Path. However, contrary to the structural model, the experience of the Shining Path leads us to refute both those factors as they are presented in the model. This does not mean that they did not have an impact on the outburst of terrorist activity from 1980 to 1995. According to the model, the geographical factor implies that cities are more likely to witness terrorism than rural areas . The Shining Path does not follow this pattern because its ideology is based on Marxism-Leninism and more importantly here Maoism. Therefore, the way the revolution was thought by Guzman was a revolution from the countryside to the city. The movement itself was born in the countryside, in the Andes. Its main base was Ayacucho (the department and the departmental capital). The city of Ayacucho is quite urban but the department in itself is very rural and it was the rural origin of people which provided the Shining Path with followers. The case of the level of modernisation should now be addressed. In her article, Crenshaw takes the example of the Russian anarchist terrorist organisation Narodnaya Volya which “would have been unable to operate without Russian's newly established rail system” . Therefore, modernisation is a facilitator to terrorism. The Shining Path seems to be the exception that proves the rule once again as Peru was not a modern state during the years preceding the outbreak of the “popular war” launched by the Shining Path. With a low continuous economic development, Peru, and especially the province of Ayacucho, where the movement originated, was not modern. In the whole of the department, there were about thirty kilometres of road, the rest of the communication axes consisting of more or less maintained mountainous paths . In spite of an obvious lack of modernisation, the region of Ayacucho remained, all throughout the “popular war” the region where terrorist activities were the most intense (because it is where the movement originated and where the members primarily came from). Further than that, the lack of modernisation gave the Shining Path an advantage over the police and the army because the region was not easily accessible . The fact that the region is mountainous makes it even less accessible. There, the case of the Shining Path tends to corroborate the findings of a study conducted by Colliers and Hoeffler which states that countries with mountains or jungles tend to experience more domestic conflicts than countries with a flat landscape. The Shining Path therefore does not fit all the criteria of the structural model but it does not mean that the above factors are wrong. The mountainous landscape and the backwardness of Peru in general and Ayacucho in particular made terrorism easier. The third and last permissive factor described in Crenshaw's article and in Ross's model is the type of political regime. Democracies would be more inclined to experience terrorism than non democratic regimes . The case of Peru and of the Shining Path is very delicate here. The Shining Path launched “popular war” right when a 12 year long military dictatorship yielded to democracy. In this sense, the Shining Path engaged in terrorist activities under a democratic regime. However, the transition to democracy did not happen brutally, through a revolution or an uprising. The transition to democracy was slow and relatively peaceful as it was organised by the military government. Under popular pressure (strikes and work stoppages), the military government gradually installed democracy from 1975 until 1980 through reforms that had been left unanswered for a long time and by setting up democratic elections . Even the Left had been included in elections as soon as 1978 even though it was the worst enemy of the military government. From this perspective, the Shining Path emerged and became powerful under a decreasingly authoritarian regime and then under a democratic one. Because it launched the attack right when the regime became democratic, it is difficult to say that the democratic regime triggered or facilitated terrorism. On the other hand, what can be said is that it lasted quite a long time because of the democratic regime. In Ross's words, democratic regimes benefit from “strengths” but suffer from “limitations” . Among these limitations are the legal limitations which, along liberal lines, prohibit the state to behave in certain ways or engage in certain activities which would go against liberal principles. It was the case for the Peruvian government which, at first, was “reluctant to impose drastic emergency measures because it wanted to uphold civil liberties” . Sending Barreto to Ayacucho was quite enlightening of this wish because he prohibited torture during interrogations . This time of respect for basic individual right did not last long as the government had to resort to more drastic methods but at first, liberal values were very important to the government. One last important point to make about the type of political regime in the emergence of terrorism is that democracy is linked to economic development. This point is not part of Crenshaw's theory but is quite important in order to understand the emergence and success of the Shining Path in Peru. This link overlaps two factors of Crenshaw's theory: the type of political regime and the economic grievances. A study by Flanigan and Fogelman demonstrates that “domestic violence becomes more severe with each declining level of economic development for both categories of regime [democracies and non democratic regimes]” . In their classification, Peru is one of the countries in the lowest level of economic development and hence, it is inclined to experience domestic violence (whether it is governed by a democratic or a non democratic regime). Regarding the permissive factors, the Shining Path does not comply with all of them. Far from meaning that the permissive factors as they are described by Crenshaw are false, it just means that the factors only describe tendencies, not certitudes. One cannot really venture into saying more about these permissive factors as they are only settings, not triggers of terrorism. The triggers of terrorism, still according the Crenshaw, are the precipitant factors.
One important fact to bear in mind again, is the fact that all the causes of terrorism are “interdependent” . Therefore, it is of paramount importance to remember that when talking about one cause, we are not talking about one isolated phenomenon but about one that can be fuelled or appeased by another. The main precipitant factor here is grievances and it encompasses a lot of different fields but before studying the grievances addressed by the Shining Path, we will talk about other highly related precipitant factors. The interrelated factors that need attention are counterterrorist organisation failure and availability of weapons and explosives, the latter being considered here as a consequence of the former. In counterterrorist organisation failure, one needs to understand state failure in countering terrorism in the case of the Shining Path. The biggest mistake of the Peruvian state is probably to have largely underestimated the Shining Path , mistake the Shining Path greatly took advantage of . In underestimating the Shining Path, what is meant is that the government did not take the Shining Path as a serious threat. No one did. One example of the complete disengagement of the state concerning the Shining Path is the attempt by the government to pass a counterterrorist bill in 1980 which was turned down by the assembly, even by some of President Belaunde's party members . The government later remedied this mistake but it was too late. The consequence of state failure is that the SP was able to loot mines for dynamite that they then used in terrorist acts. No special guard was dispatched to mines . The same comment can be applied to some police stations in Ayacucho, where the terrorists were the most active, which were not protected and that the Shining Path attacked for a double motive. The first one being, of course, the attack of a symbol of the state and the second one being an attack in order to obtain more arms.
Now having a look at the grievances, it is a category which comprises many different fields and is therefore difficult to approach as one single factor. First of all, we will study the impact of economic grievances on the emergence of the Shining Path. Peru did not happen to be a poor country in the years preceding the Shining Path's attempt of revolution but the main problem was and still is redistribution. According to a study made by Webb, the poorest 1/3 of the population received only 5% of the national income . The main sufferers of this uneven redistribution were people living in rural areas. Between 1960 and 1975, Peru underwent a period of significant economic growth but the distributional pattern remained unfair, even in spite of the efforts made by the military government to reduce the inequality by introducing agrarian reforms or nationalisation of the main foreign firms . The situation worsened from 1975 on because of an economic contraction due to the foreign debt and implementation of structural adjustment programmes . Because of those strains imposed on the Peruvian economy, per capita income fell drastically . The most affected portion of the population was the Andean peasants who have now been the poorest social group in Peru for many years . Once again overlapping factors, the economic factor can be linked to the political factor studied above and then to the causes of terrorism. Economic restriction drastically limited the capacity of the state to respond to the expectations of the people raised with the advent of democracy. This situation led the trade unions and the political parties to be increasingly ineffective in carrying out their role of intermediation between social demands and the state . The perceived unfairness of the redistribution of the national income and the ineffectiveness of the state, the parties and the trade unions could have led the Andean people to come to the conclusion that drastic measures, such as revolution and the destruction of the existing system, were necessary. It is necessary to add that a straight line between hunger and revolution was never drawn . Indeed, in the case of the Shining Path, the revolution was started by a group of university intellectuals . The link that can possibly be made between economic problems and revolution is that the intellectuals convinced hungry people that their organisation was the last resort to address the unfair situation and promised them an escape from corruption, poverty and despair . The second part of this statement is that it appealed to people in a specific socio-politico-cultural context. The other and most important type of grievance is discrimination. This type of grievance is interrelated with the other precipitant factor which is social, cultural and historical factor and the above economic factor. Before saying anything else, what was said in the previous paragraph justifies a sentiment of discrimination by the Andean Peasant because they have been the poorest social group in Peru for a long time. They are the ones who suffer most from the uneven distribution of wealth in Peru. However, grievance does not only regard economic discrimination. Discrimination is an old grievance, a legacy from colonialism. There was a difference, right from the start, between the colonisers (the whites) and the Indians (the indigenous people of this region). The Indians were perceived as inferiors to the whites, to the people living on the coast . This racial sentiment was not completely erased over the years so that a real cleavage remained in Peru, splitting Peruvian society in two. At the beginning of the 20th century, a political current emerged, called the Indeginismo. Its proclaimed goal was the “revendication of the Indian” . One of the main theorists of this movement, Mariategui chose the Indian as the race culture upon which to construct the nation . He included his nationalistic views within a Marxist-Leninist framework stating that “the indigenous question begins in our economy. It has its roots in the ownership of the land” . Therefore, the Indian is a peasant but most of all, he has been deprived of his land by the colonial hacienda system (similar to the latifondiaire system in Italy) which is maintaining him within a feudal system. Building up on this theory, Diaz Martinez, an important senderista intellectual at the moment of the origin of the movement wrote that “the connection of two such different societies in Peru, the rural and the urban, (...) makes integration difficult and, the much-heralded communal development will be difficult to achieve under present conditions” . Guzman, the head of the Shining Path, used this combination of Marxism and nationalism to rally poor Indian peasants. Guzman did not follow Mariategui's heritage completely as he did not intend to achieve a “Peruvianisation of Marxism” but just an orthodox application of this socialist theory. Moreover, the hierarchy of Guzman's party reproduced the colonial order which he sought to destroy, with white educated cadres and brown skin followers coming from modest backgrounds . In spite of doctrinal inconsistencies, the Shining Path exercised a “fatal attraction” on its followers. The main reason for that can be explained by grievances. When young people arrived at the university of Ayacucho (Universidad Nacional de San Cristobal de Huamanga), where Guzman was a philosophy teacher, they tended to be more attracted by the Shining Path for several reasons. First of all, being part of the party gave them an identity while they were far away from their community . Second and most importantly, coming from poor backgrounds, Guzman's radical ideology gave them the answer to their feeling of discrimination. The revolutionary discourse, heavily tainted with millenarianism gave them the impression that they were about to take part in an historical event, a radical change of society which would redress the injustice they had been suffering . Their grievances were not heard by parties of the left mainly because when they entered the democratic process in 1980, they ended up “trapped in a rhythm imposed by Lima” , participating to a state which could not respond to people's demands. Furthermore, before the transition to democracy, the military government implemented some left orientated policies such as the agrarian reform and the nationalisation of the main foreign firms. The left, when it entered legality in 1980 therefore had to differentiate itself from other parties . On the other hand, the Shining Path “stayed enclosed within its own philosophical adventure” and remained distant of electoral processes . When some peasants or Andean students longed for something different from neutrality, the Shining Path appeared to be the alternative . Once again, there is not something to say about each precipitant factor as delineated by Crenshaw but it is not necessarily a lack as the Shining Path is still considered as a terrorist organisation. The interdependence of the factors is still to be underlined here. The grievances would not be as meaningful if there had not been social, cultural and historical facilitation.
The study of the Shining Path is therefore enlightening in several respects regarding the causes of terrorism. The theory developed by Crenshaw enables us to study the causes of terrorism but three things need to be kept in mind. First of all, not all factors need to play a role. That is some specific features of a state need to be taken into account and may refute the conclusion drawn by the theory. Nevertheless, the study of the Shining Path shows us that even if its “popular war” appeared to be “anachronistic” in its ideology and “out of step” with Peruvian history, terrorism does not come from nowhere. The second thing to remember is that all factors are interconnected. That means that a problem in one field may have consequences in another domain, like the economic recession on democracy in Peru. However, interdependence does not have to be a problem. If we look at it from another perspective, it can be an opportunity for the state to fight terrorism, using the necessary means to remedy to one factor, and the consequences of this fight in one domain trickling down on other domains. The third and last thing that needs to be pointed out is that terrorist organisations, whether it is the Shining Path or any other organisation, use their strengths as well as the governments' weaknesses to achieve their goal.
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