To the editors:
Bill Martin, in his defense of Peru’s Shining Path guerrilla movement (“Defender of the Shining Path,” January 22), implies that leftists who oppose Shining Path do so on the grounds that Shining Path “is a Maoist party and people on the left think that’s over with.” There is, however, a more serious reason than sectarianism for the failure of some leftists (and other people of conscience) to jump on the Shining Path bandwagon. This is the issue of Shining Path’s human rights violations.
Amnesty International has condemned Shining Path for its assassinations of community leaders in Peru’s countryside, and the Canadian Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America has reported that thousands of defenseless civilians have been killed by Shining Path guerrillas. For example, in 1992 Maria Elena Moyano, a community leader and democratically elected vice-mayor of Villa El Salvador, was assassinated by a Shining Path soldier. The U.S.-based Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru, which is pro-Shining Path, rationalized Maria Elena’s death by stating that she was an active defender of the government and police. However, the truth is that Maria Elena defended neither the brutality of Peru’s military government nor the violent tactics of Shining Path. Rather, she concentrated on working with the poor, organizing soup kitchens, health programs for children and the elderly, and women’s groups. For her refusal to cooperate with the violence and terrorism of the right or the left, she was killed.
I support Bill Martin and others like him for taking often unpopular stands against injustice, and for searching out and bringing to light the violence and terrorism that props up world capitalism. But I strongly disagree with endorsing revolutionary tactics that merely continue this cycle of brutality. What is needed is a perspective that recognizes movements such as Shining Path as the consequence of, rather than solution to, inherently unjust political and economic structures. Perhaps the “innocents” killed in the cross fire–a long list of ordinary and extraordinary women, children, and men to which we can now add the name of Maria Elena Moyano–are the ones we should be paying attention to.