There are two main rebel groups operating in Peru, both leftist: The Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement).
Both groups arose in response to Peru's entrenched system of race and class based on discrimination, which has deeply impoverished most of the country's population, especially citizens of indigenous descent. Therefore most members and supporters of the "Shining Path" and the "Tupac Amaru Movement" belong(ed) to the poor and forgotten class of the population. "Sendero Luminoso" and the "Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru" both seek(ed) to overthrow the existing Peruvian government and impose their own communist regimes.
Shining Path, founded in the late 60's by former university professor Abimael Guzman, is a militant Maoist group which wants to install a peasant revolutionary authority in Peru. The "Sendero Luminoso" first established a foothold in San Cristóbal of Huamanga University, where Guzman taught philosophy. Between 1973 and 1975 "Shining Path" gained control of the student councils in the Universities of Huancayo and La Cantuta, and developed a significant presence in the National University of Engineering in Lima and the National University of San Marcos, the oldest university in the Americas. The group took up arms in 1980. It was one of the world's most ruthless insurgencies.
The Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru, named after the 18th century rebel leader who fought against Spanish colonial control, was founded on many of the communist principles that led to the Cuban revolution. The group, which is Marxist and wants to "clean" Peru of all imperialist elements, took up arms in 1984 and had at its height close to 1,000 members. Tupac Amaru members have tried to promote a Robin Hood image of stealing from the rich to help the poor. Tupac Amaru became known internationally for its 1996 takeover of the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima. Most of its leaders were killed in 1997 when Peruvian forces raided the Japanese compound and freed the hostages.
In the 1980s and early 1990s vicious terrorist attacks were daily occurrences across Peru. Shining Path and Tupac Amaru were notorious for indiscriminate bombings, assassinations, brutal killings, kidnappings, bank robberies and attacks on western embassies and businesses. The human and economic toll was devastating and Peruvians have a particular dread of terrorism right to this day. More than 30,000 people have died during this time.
When it became evident to the Peruvian government that Shining Path and later Tupac Amaru represented a clear threat to the state, neither President Belaúnde nor President Garcia managed to stop the terror attacks. When President Alberto Fujimori took over in 1990, he immediately waged an aggressive and highly successful campaign against the terrorist groups.
Although Shining Path was cracked down and lost its terrifying strength, it continues to exist in Peru. Today remaining groups of Peru's most notorious terrorist group have an estimated 300 members and are now dedicated to protecting Peruvian drug barons and their illicit operations throughout the Peruvian jungle. Sendero Luminoso is not sponsored by any state and has no known links to other terrorist groups. It considers itself the only remaining true communist revolutionary movement.
With most of its leaders dead or imprisoned, the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru lost its former power and influence as well. Today the group has less than 100 members. Tupac Amaru initially received support and some training from Cuba and has historical ties to two leftist insurgent groups, the FARC in Colombia and the FMLN in El Salvador.