AccessMyLibrary provides FREE access to millions of articles from top publications available through your library.
Statement before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs of the House Foriegn Affairs Committee, March 12, 1992
I appreciate this opportunity to discuss the Communist Party of Peru--usually known as Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path--with you. I want to begin by commending you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of this subcommittee for devoting your attention to one of the most important, and least discussed, issues in this hemisphere.
A little over a half century ago, Nazi Germany exterminated one-third of the Jewish population in the world--mothers, fathers, and children--while the world stood by and failed to stop it. After the Holocaust, the world community vowed "Never again." But in the 1970s, in Cambodia under Pol Pot, we saw genocide repeated. We need to learn that lesson and never repeat it again.
We welcome these hearings and asked that you hold them to stimulate public discussion about an important policy issue. The congressional foreign affairs committees have a long tradition of fostering public discussion of difficult foreign policy questions. Under your leadership, Mr. Chairman, this subcommittee has focused public attention on key questions concerning US interests in this hemisphere. It is in that spirit that I asked the opportunity to testify.
What I would like to do is begin a dialogue with the Congress about what needs to be done in Peru. I hope this hearing generates wider public debate here and abroad on what can be done to strengthen a democratic government that is confronting this hemisphere's most brutal insurgency.
Sendero Luminoso's Aims and Activities
Sendero Luminoso is unlike any other insurgent or terrorist group that has ever operated in Latin America. Put out of your mind the FMLN [Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front] of El Salvador which just signed a peace agreement, the Sandinistas in Nicaragua who allowed themselves to be voted out of office, the M-19 of Colombia, and other South American insurgencies that have ended their violent struggle to take advantage of the political space open to the peaceful, democratic left. Sendero Luminoso is in a category by itself.
There are other communist insurgencies, but only Sendero saw the fall of Eastern European communist governments as a positive step where the people overthrew decadent, bourgeois communism to make way for pure communism; Sendero bombed the North Korean commercial office in Lima and believes Fidel Castro is a US lackey. Latin America has seen violence and terror but none like Sendero's, where children are forced to commit acts of brutality as part of their indoctrination [and] where entire towns are forced to witness the so-called trial, torture, and killing of nuns or municipal leaders. Latin America has seen many variations of the Marxist vision but none so sweeping as Sendero's war against "Western culture." A Sendero victory would compare not to Cuba under Castro or Nicaragua under the Sandinistas but to Cambodia under Pol Pot.
In the words of [Sendero's leader] Abimael Guzman,
"We start from a principle established by
Chairman Mao: Violence is a universal law
with no exception....without
revolutionary violence we cannot replace one class
for another...." The revolution will triumph, according to Guzman, after the Peruvian people "cross over the river of blood" to the other side.
Make no mistake: If Sendero were to take power, we would see this century's third genocide. Luis Arce Borja, Sendero's representative in Europe, told a Lima newspaper last November that the current stage of the war--"strategic equilibrium"--will cost 1 million Peruvian lives.
Sendero began its armed campaign in 1981 just as Peru returned to democratic government. It is a movement of the "unreconstructed" Peruvian left born in protest against Peru's return …