Country Listing

Peru Table of Contents


Guerrillas in the 1960s

The organization of farmers in the La Convención Valley of Cusco, beginning locally in 1951 and with the aid of Trotskyite Hugo Blanco starting in 1960, was the most visible of various efforts in rural Peru in the 1950s and 1960s pushing for land reform. The farmers' movement in La Convención whose principal tactic was to occupy land was successful only after a period of violent confrontation with landowners, police, and military and the capture of Blanco and most of his partisans in May 1963. It was the first example of substantial, locally organized pressure for agrarian reform. The Revolutionary Military Government (July 1962 to July 1963) officially ratified this de facto local reform as part of its newly progressive approach to dealing with Peru's problems. This initiative gave an early indication of how the armed forces preferred to deal with issues of development that became related to internal security.

The peasants' success in La Convención inspired many others around the Peruvian highlands to carry out their own land occupations, a large number of them coordinated with the return to elected government on July 28, 1963, as President Belaúnde took office. More radical groups, Cuban inspired, also saw the growing rural ferment as an opportunity to begin armed revolution in the countryside. One was the Movement of the Revolutionary Left (Movimiento de la Izquierda Revolucionaria--MIR), created in 1962 and led by Luis de la Puente Uceda with other disaffected former APRA militants. Operating in Cusco, the MIR was tracked down and destroyed by the military in October 1965, and De la Puente was killed in action. Another radical group was Guillermo Lobatón's Túpac Amaru (not to be confused with the MRTA), which suffered the same fate in Junín in January 1966 after six months of skirmishes. A third group, from the National Liberation Army (Ejército de la Liberación Nacional--ELN), a Castroite force founded in 1962 and led by Héctor Béjar Rivera, was also defeated in early 1966 in Ayacucho. Béjar was captured and jailed in late 1965. Freed in the military government's Christmas 1970 amnesty, he became an important official in the regime's organization to foster the labor movement. These guerrilla activities and military responses helped convince the armed forces that centralgovernment reforms, rather than continued protection of the status quo, were the preferred route to defend Peru's domestic security needs.

Although the military junta's reforms were ultimately unsuccessful, the regime did attempt to resolve the problems it created by turning the political process back to the civilians. It did not try to overcome its own legitimacy crisis by force. The military regime also opened up the system to the left--political parties and unions especially--for the first time on a sustained basis in Peru's history. Both the constitution of 1979 and the elections of 1980 were to a significant degree the results of the military's decisions. In this context of the restoration of civilian rule and all the enthusiasm that accompanied it, what was totally unexpected was the simultaneous preparation for the inauguration of guerrilla war by an obscure provincial Maoist university group known to outsiders as the Shining Path, and to militants as the Peruvian Communist Party (Partido Comunista Peruano--PCP).

Data as of September 1992