Preconditions and Precipitants of Violence in Peru. (part 1/10)

Political Violence involves a variety of terms, notions and concepts that sometimes can complicate its study, it works within a spectrum of dynamic forces where the actors interact between violent and non-violent modes reacting to circumstances that benefit their interests. Though it is often associated with economic development; topics as politics, religions, race, ethnicity and gender in combination with the changing economic models are often causes of social dissatisfaction as well, thus ending in defiance (Eckstein, 1972). The retort to violence escalates when confrontation is political pressured from both sides and a violent reaction stems by one or both sides, such response can be considered legitimate or not. As a result, some forms of political violence may be considered as tactics, strategies of counter play or simply unexpected outcomes (Schmid 2011)

Though no one can predict the way civil society will react, the channels they will use or the effects that civil defiance will have on the institutions (Eckstein, opcit) as the result of social deprivation, racism or political repression; and because political violence is intrinsically related to each state’s history and development, it varies in time and action-reaction. Schmidt refers to it as “spectrum” of violent conflict because the analysis can’t be made isolating variables, or in a linear expression, it is contextual and dynamic, modified by the diverse stages within the conflict. In the case of Peru, the violent conflict spectrum appears to be composed of changes in the economic model and its social consequences on one side, and the transition to democracy and regime repressiveness on the other, shifting intermittently from a state of peace to a state of war for different periods of time.

Terrorism, usually at the end of the “spectrum” close enough to a state of war differs in essence to political violence in its motives and aim to influence a state’s government politics and /or the politics of a society. The final pursuit for a terrorist is the accumulation of power, authority and control of state and his motives are not necessarily a consequence of changing economic models, development or inequality. The terrorist’s motivation could be religious, criminal or pathological, the political significance of the terrorist act may or not come after the attack but is not a prerequisite (Schmid opcit). On the same logic, terrorism is used to label certain forms of political violence, often inflicted by non-state actors and in which, the primary aim of terrorism is to intimidate, inflict fear, and to coerce the victims into compliance using a set of strategies and methods designed to be of exemplary consequences (Schmid opcit, Ganor 2010 and Bjorgo 2006).

In an asymmetrical warfare, the group with the greatest disadvantage to upset the government and force them to respond on a different level often uses terrorist tactics. In revolutionary terrorist violence, non-state actors compel political obedience from key sectors of the population by the production of atrocities (Ganor opcit) and subsequently its mass communication of fear, though is not a primary tool for the purpose of the revolution due to the social cost it represents, some guerilla identify the tactic as necessary to achieve success in their path to power. During the first stage of the conflict in Peru, Maoist’s guerrilla forces like Sendero Luminoso relied exclusively on terrorist tactics to consolidate and preserve their base areas, exercising a tyrannical strategy of self-legitimation and justifying violence as the only channel to bring about social justice and liberation. As it will be explored further in this research, Sendero Luminoso obtained voluntary sympathizers and rural support despite the acts of defiance and violence, although as atrocities turned out to be the normal strategy, recruitment of new members became more difficult forcing the guerilla to create new mechanisms for conscription like kidnapping, child soldiers (product of rape) and taxes (new members in exchange of protection) turning the insurgency into a revolutionary terrorist movement.

From my perspective, the violent conflict in Peru from 1980 – 2010 is a multidisciplinary and multidimensional social process that encompasses economic isolation, landlessness, political-social restrictions, citizen’s rights, clashes between classes and racial conflicts. Factors or preconditions, behind the Peruvian conflict which analyzed on a comparative basis with other immediate incidental factors like land invasions, political oppression, and repressiveness (precipitants) lead directly to specific events and/or situations that triggered the outbreak of conflict. (Eckstein, 1980)

🙂 Stay tuned.



  • Boaz, Ganor Defining Terrorism – Is One Man’s Terrorist Another Man’s Freedom Fighter?
  • Bjorgo, Tore., Roots causes of Terrorism, Myths, Realities and Ways forward, NY: Routledge, 2006.
  • Eckstein, Harry, ‘On the etiology of internal wars’, in Feierabend, Ivo K., et al. (eds) Anger, Violence and Politics: Theories and Research (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1972)
  • Eckstein, Harry, ‘Theoretical Approaches to Explaining Collective Political Violence‘, in Handbook of Political Conflict, ed. T.R. Gurr (New York: Free Press, 1980).
  • Schmid, Alex P., The Routledge Handbook of Terrorism Research, NY: Routledge Taylor & Francis Group, 2011.


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