Terrorist violence in Peru is on the upswing, reports Monitor contributor Caitlin Randall. The latest incident, in which up to 80 villagers were massacred Sunday in the central highlands, was blamed on a left-wing guerrilla group, Sendero Luminoso, or Shining Path. The Sendero, whose goal is a self-styled communist revolution along the lines of Mao Tse-tung's peasant revolt in China, has grown increasingly violent and powerful.
In the three years since it was formed in the province of Ayacucho, the Sendero rebels have been accused of nearly 500 killings. The incidents finally prompted Peru's President Fernando Belaunde Terry earlier this year to send 2, 000 soldiers to Ayacucho to quell the violence. Once ousted by a left-oriented military coup, President Belaunde had long been wary of the Army, and preferred to leave the fight to Peru's national police force. But, said one military source: ''We were no longer up against isolated terrorist action. The Army had to be sent in.''
In recent weeks, the Army was said to be dealing a series of heavy blows to the guerrilla band. Military sources said the massacre was in revenge for the Army's campaign. Opposition forces, however, charge that the Army is responsible for the incident. Meanwhile, the local people, mostly sheep and cattle farmers, are leaving their homes, hoping to avoid further violence.