The Communist Party of Peru (Partido Comunista del Perú, often referred to as Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path), is a Maoist guerrilla group in Peru. Its stated goal is to replace Peruvian bourgeois institutions with a communist peasant revolutionary regime. Since 1994, it has only been sporadically active.
Shining Path was founded by former university professor Abimael Guzman under the alias "President Gonzalo" in the late 1960s; his teachings created the foundation of its militant Maoist doctrine. When Peru's military government allowed elections for the first time in a dozen years in 1980, Shining Path was one of the few insurrectionary groups which declined to take part, instead launching a guerrilla war by attacking election booths in the highlands of the province of Ayacucho.
Throughout the 1980s, Shining Path grew in both territory it controlled and the number of militants in its organization. By 1991, it had control of much of the countryside of the center and south of Peru and had a large presence in the outskirts of Lima, Peru's capital city, where it mounted attacks against civilians and the infrastructure.
In fighting Shining Path, the Peruvian armed forces also committed many atrocities. Government forces destroyed villages and massacred campesinos suspected of being supporters of Shining Path. A Truth and Reconciliation Commission established by President Alejandro Toledo found in a 2003 report that over 69,000 people had died during the civil war, at the hands of the rebels and the state.
On September 12, 1992, Guzman was captured by Peruvian special forces; shortly thereafter the rest of Shining Path's leadership fell as well. At the same time, Shining Path suffered embarrassing military defeats to campesino self-defense organizations — supposedly its social base — and the organization fractured into splinter groups. Guerrilla activity diminished sharply thereafter, with peace returning to many of the areas where Shining Path had been most active.
Although Shining Path has virtually disappeared in much of Peru, a militant faction known as Proseguir (or "Onward") continues to be sporadically active in the region of the Ene and Apurimac valleys on the eastern slopes of the Andes, some 300 miles southeast of Lima. It is believed that the faction consists of three companies known as the North, or Pangoa, the Centre, or Pucuta, and the South, or Vizcatan. According to the Peruvian government, the faction consists of around 100 hardliners from other (now disbanded) regional Shining Path units. The government claims that Proseguir is operating in alliance with drug traffickers.
The Proseguir faction has been blamed for an upsurge in guerrilla activity in the region during 2003. Government forces have had a number of successes in capturing its leading members. In April 2000, commander Jose Arcela Chiroque, a.k.a. "Ormeno", was captured, followed by another leader, Florentino Cerrón Cardozo, a.k.a. "Marcelo" in July 2003. In November of the same year, Jaime Zuniga, also known as "Cirilo" or "Dalton," was arrested after a clash in which four guerrillas were killed and an officer wounded. Officials said he took part in planning the kidnapping in June of 71 workers of the Argentine company Techint, who were working on a gas pipeline in the jungle. He was also thought to have led an ambush against an army helicopter in 1999 in which five soldiers died.
In addition to fighting the Peruvian government, Shining Path also had armed conflicts with another Peruvian guerrilla group, the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA), campesino self-defense groups organized by the Peruvian armed forces, and legally-recognized parties of the Peruvian Left.
Internationally, Shining Path is widely regarded as a terrorist group. The organization is on the United States Department of State's list of Foreign Terrorist Organizations, meaning (among other things) that it is illegal for US citizens to provide any aid to the group. The United Kingdom and European Union likewise list Shining Path as a terrorist group and prohibit providing funding or other financial support, although membership is not prohibited.
Shining Path's ideology and tactics have been copied by other Marxist guerrilla groups, notably the Maoist United People's Front in Nepal.