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Political Science Guerrilla Insurgencies in Latin America
by
David S. Palmer, Thomas A. Marks

Introduction

Insurgency in Latin America, though employing a variety of violent and nonviolent tactics, is usually associated with guerrilla warfare grounded in Marxist ideology and committed to overthrowing the state through violence. As insurgency has played out in the region since the 1950s, several groups, notably FMLN in El Salvador and FARC in Colombia, progressed to the use of large military units, and all used terror as a shaping mechanism to intimidate and to remove resisting local actors and government structures. For the most part, however, guerrilla warfare was dominated by hit-and-run actions by small units, greatly overshadowing other weapons in the insurgent arsenal. The term “guerrilla” gained currency in Spain in the campaign by patriots to harass Napoleon’s forces in the early 1800s. Similar tactics were employed by Peruvian irregulars led by Andrés Avelino Cáceres against Chilean invaders during the War of the Pacific (1879–1883) and in a number of other cases of 19th- and early-20th-century internal conflicts in the region (e.g., Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia). The focus of this annotated bibliography, however, is on the Latin American guerrilla insurgencies that emerged with the Cuban Revolution and subsequent efforts throughout the region by dissident factions, usually Marxist in ideological orientation, to overthrow governments deemed capitalist and reactionary. Guerrilla groups, often Cuba-inspired and at times Cuba-supported, began to operate in such countries as Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, and Uruguay in the 1960s; in Nicaragua, El Salvador, Brazil, and Argentina in the 1970s; and in Peru again in the 1980s. Although successful only in Nicaragua, where the Sandinistas drove the repressive Somoza dictatorship from power, several other guerrilla insurgencies have had a major impact on the countries in which they operated. In fact, following peace agreements in Uruguay with the return to democracy in 1985 and in El Salvador in a United Nations–brokered accord in 1992, former guerrilla groups reinvented themselves as political parties and won presidential elections in 2006 and 2010, respectively. As of 2011, the only guerrilla insurgencies still active are operating in Colombia, Mexico, and Peru.

General Overviews

Although the edited volume Castro 1999 includes reviews of early examples of insurgencies, including the Tupac Amaru indigenous uprising in highland Peru against Spanish control in the 1780s and the Caste War in the Yucatán peninsula of Mexico in the 1840s and 1850s, most work on the subject concentrates on the 1960s to 1990s, when guerrilla groups proliferated in the region. Guevara 1985 and Debray 1967 provide rationales and justifications for revolution from the practitioner’s and contemporary sympathetic interpreter’s perspective, as do some of the chapters in Castro 1999, while Wickham-Crowley 1992 offers the most comprehensive comparative overview of insurgent etiology derived from the theory of revolution literature. Gott 1971 provides a journalist’s fine-grained, often sympathetic review of the state of guerrilla activities in the 1960s, including the most detailed case studies of the period. Gorritti 1991 and Bagley and Palmer 1989 couch their analyses of guerrilla activities and government responses in the context of the importance of civilian democratic control to overcome such threats, while they, along with several chapters in Castro 1999 and Loveman and Davies in Guevara 1985, review insurgency dynamics in case studies of the major country examples.

  • Bagley, Bruce, and D. Scott Palmer. “Latin American Insurgencies.” In Latin America and Caribbean Contemporary Record. Vol. 6, 1986–1987. Edited by Abraham F. Lowenthal, A79–A99. New York: Holmes & Meier, 1989.

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    A summary overview of the most important insurgent movements in Latin America during the 1960s through 1980s. Extensive coverage of Colombia, Guatemala, Peru, El Salvador, Nicaragua, Ecuador, and Chile, plus short summaries of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.

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  • Castro, Daniel, ed. Revolution and Revolutionaries: Guerrilla Movements in Latin America. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 1999.

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    History of Latin American guerrillas since the 1780s, emphasizing post-1959 insurgencies, with chapters by practitioners (e.g., Camilo Torres, Luis de la Puente, Héctor Bejar, and Carlos Marighella) and scholars. Covers Guatemala, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Uruguay, and Argentina, noting in particular the diversity of approaches and practices.

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  • Debray, Régis. Revolution in the Revolution: Armed Struggle and Political Struggle in Latin America. Translated by Bobbye Ortiz. New York: Grove, 1967.

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    A French intellectual extrapolates from the Cuban Revolution’s success the strategies and tactics required for similar outcomes in Latin America. Excoriates established communist parties and labor movements for bureaucratic ossification, and argues that only guerrillas concentrated in small rural areas (focos) can generate a successful socialist revolution. Dated, but influential in the 1960s.

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  • Gorriti Ellenbogen, Gustavo. “Latin America’s Internal Wars.” Journal of Democracy 2.1 (1991): 85–98.

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    A Peruvian journalist’s incisive analysis of the trajectory of guerrilla insurgencies in the region and the ongoing violence in Guatemala, El Salvador, Colombia, and Peru. Sees US-sponsored counter-drug programs in Colombia and Peru as counterproductive to internal defense, and concludes that only democracy can overcome insurgent threats.

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  • Gott, Richard. Guerrilla Movements in Latin America. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971.

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    A former English journalist’s detailed, masterful study of the early years of guerrilla insurgencies in Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, and Bolivia, based on primary sources and extensive research in the field. Considered to be the most significant work on the subject at the time. Spanish translation by Patricia Samsing de Jadresic, Las guerrillas en América Latina (Santiago, Chile: Editorial Universitaria, 1971).

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  • Guevara, Ernesto. Guerrilla Warfare. Introduction and case studies by Brian Loveman and Thomas M. Davies, Jr. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1985.

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    The core writings by Latin America’s most celebrated revolutionary on the theory and practice of guerrilla war, with summary commentary and case studies of Guatemala, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and El Salvador by the compilers. Essential reading.

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  • Harnecker, Marta. Pueblos en armas: Entrevistas a los principales comandantes guerrilleros de Nicaragua, El Salvador, Guatemala. Mexico City: Universidad Autónoma de Guerrero, 1983.

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    A leading analyst of revolutionary activity provides extended interviews, organized by key themes, with key guerrilla figures of the Central American insurgencies of the 1970s and early 1980s (five Nicaraguan, three Salvadoran, and six Guatemalan).

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  • Wickham-Crowley, Timothy P. Guerrillas and Revolution in Latin America: A Comparative Study of Insurgents and Regimes since 1956. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992.

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    A systematic sociological study, loosely chronological, comparing successful and unsuccessful guerrilla movements and why they were absent in places. Analysis revolves around themes of levels of peasant support, guerrilla military power, and cross-class opposition versus government strength. Comprehensive and inclusive.

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Bibliographies

There are some impressive compilations of the most important material available on Latin American guerrilla insurgencies. Russell, et al. 1974 covers work on urban guerrillas, while Gato 1999 provides a selective but comprehensive overview of the entire spectrum. Others focus more narrowly on specific countries. Fort 1969 lists many of the references on the Cuban Revolution for the 1953–1959 period. Misicek 1997 covers the voluminous writings available on Peru’s Shining Path insurgency. Ramsey 1973 concentrates on work covering the generalized political violence in Colombia in the late 1940s through the 1950s. Peñaranda 2001 reviews by decade more recent published materials on Colombian guerrilla activity.

  • Fort, Gilberto V. 1969. The Cuban Revolution of Fidel Castro Viewed from Abroad. Lawrence: University of Kansas Libraries.

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    A comprehensive list of publications on Cuba from pre-revolution through the 1960s that includes over twenty pages of references on the 1953–1959 period and the first two years after coming to power (pp. 13–35).

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  • Gato, Gerard. Insurgencies, Terrorist Groups and Indigenous Movements: An Annotated Bibliography. 1999.

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    A carefully crafted summary compilation of the most important references on Latin American revolutionary movements, covering the period 1968 to 1999.

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    • Misicek, Cathy. Sendero Luminoso: A Pathfinder. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina, 1997.

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      An impressive effort to bring together and annotate the literature on Shining Path in English, from books to government documents to online resources.

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      • Peñaranda, Ricardo. “The War on Paper: A Balance Sheet on Works Published in the 1990s.” In Violence in Colombia: Waging War and Negotiating Peace. Edited by Charles Bergquist, Ricardo Peñaranda, and G. Gonzalo Sánchez, 179–194. Wilmington, DE: Scholarly Resources, 2001.

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        Annotated bibliography of the major studies in Spanish and English of guerrilla activity published during the decade, from La Violencia to the FARC, with reference to a similar review of published works in the 1980s.

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      • Ramsey, Russell W. “Critical Bibliography on La Violencia in Colombia.” Latin American Research Review 8.1 (1973): 3–44.

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        A detailed annotated bibliography of published studies dealing with the 1948–1958 generalization of political violence and the various groups involved. Includes commentary on various aspects of the conflict.

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      • Russell, Charles A., James A. Miller, and Robert E. Hildner. “The Urban Guerrilla in Latin America: A Select Bibliography.” Latin American Research Review 9.1 (1974): 37–79.

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        Provides a comprehensive annotated overview of the literature on urban guerrillas in English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French, both general and country-specific treatments: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Guatemala, Uruguay, and Venezuela. Key reference.

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      Theories of Revolution and Insurgency

      Revolution, observes Skocpol 1979, is like an earthquake, the result of structural shifts. It cannot be made. Yet it is just this that guerrilla insurgents seek to do, driven by systemic resistance (Goodwin 2001) to a violent effort to overturn existing systems of social stratification (Hagopian 1974). Frequently confusing ways with ends and even means, would-be revolutionaries, among them prominent Latin American actors, as discussed within Goldstone 1994, have advanced various road maps for the seizure of state power. In reality, they maneuver for advantage during revolutionary crisis. Particular economic, status, and political alignments will facilitate such upheaval, as explored by Paige 1975. Che Guevara claimed would-be revolutionaries could actually create the conditions for revolution. Mao Tse-tung and the Vietnamese revolutionary theorists denounced this approach as wishful thinking, emphasizing that popular mobilization (the subject of McAdam, et al. 2001) was a consequence of structural contradictions. New eras produce new alignments, which demand new insurgent strategies and tactics (see Foran, et al. 2003), but the essence of successful resistance, notes Marks 2007, remains astute analysis and flexibility in the execution of the effort “to make a revolution.”

      • Foran, John, ed. Revolutions: Rethinking Radical Change in the Age of Globalization. New York: Zed, 2003.

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        A superb collection of contributions from leading scholars, covering implications of 20th-century revolutions, future possibilities, and analytical options. Latin America figures throughout the discussion, including the Mexican and Central American cases.

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      • Goldstone, Jack A., ed. Revolutions: Theoretical, Comparative, and Historical Studies. 2d ed. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1994.

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        A collection of important contributions to the field of revolutionary studies, including Karl Marx and Max Weber, Samuel Huntington and Charles Tilly. Latin American subjects are covered by Susan Eckstein (intention vs. legacy of Latin American revolutions) and Walter L. Goldfrank (structure and agency in the Mexican Revolution).

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      • Goodwin, Jeff. No Other Way Out: States and Revolutionary Movements, 1945–1991. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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        Authoritarian state actions tend to drive demands for change by embracing radical options—hence the title of the volume. In dealing with case studies, an entire section is devoted to Central America, with the conflicts of Nicaragua, El Salvador, and Guatemala receiving superb analysis.

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      • Hagopian, Mark N. The Phenomenon of Revolution. New York: Dodd, Mead, 1974.

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        One of the most lucid treatments of the subject available. Draws upon Max Weber to examine how systems of social stratification are at the heart of both analysis of revolutionary change and efforts by dissidents “to make a revolution.”

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      • Marks, Thomas A. Maoist People’s War in Post-Vietnam Asia. Bangkok, Thailand: White Lotus, 2007.

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        Considered the current standard in its treatment of people’s war, and also offers a detailed treatment of all facets of insurgency. Its case studies include a chapter on Shining Path owing to its influence on the approach of the Nepalese Maoists.

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      • McAdam, Doug, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly. Dynamics of Contention. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001.

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        Leaders in the study of political violence offer approaches for examining societal upheaval to explore the end-state, revolution, and for understanding mobilization processes in pursuit of this goal. The Nicaragua and Mexico cases are used to elaborate themes.

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      • Paige, Jeffery M. Agrarian Revolution: Social Movements and Export Agriculture in the Underdeveloped World. New York: Free Press, 1975.

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        Seminal analysis combining qualitative and quantitative work to explore peasant-driven upheaval in much of the post–World War II developing world. Key is the intrusion of commercial forms into moral economy, as in a case study of Peru between commercial haciendas and traditional peasant communities.

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      • Skocpol, Theda. States and Social Revolutions. New York: Cambridge University Press, 1979.

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        A major study that redressed the balance in revolutionary studies between agency and structure by highlighting that revolutions were not made by agency but by world-historical confluences of structural forces.

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      Country Studies

      Guerrilla insurgency in Latin America has been both a reflection of larger world trends and a pacesetter that has influenced others. Ironically, that which ostensibly was new, the focismo of Che Guevara, in reality was but the asymmetric war of the weak recycled in such manner and circumstances as to achieve victory against Batista’s flawed state in Cuba. The inaccurate rendering of the conflict’s history, by both Guevara and Regis Debray, produced an approach to insurgency built upon guerrilla action (the much-touted foco), which was both historical and disastrous for its subsequent imitators in countries as diverse as Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia (notably ELN), Peru (pre-Shining Path), Uruguay, and Venezuela. In Bolivia itself, of course, the approach met its logical end with the 1967 disaster that saw Che’s death. One of the most interesting collateral legacies was the effort of Latin American would-be revolutionaries, notably in Uruguay, to adapt the tenets of rural-focused foco theory to urban action. This, too, was not particularly successful. The distressing legacy of both rural and urban revolutionary action was the state backlash, which in places such as Argentina and Chile remains synonymous with horrific repression and abuse of the counterinsurgency process. In other states, however, focismo was specifically rejected in favor of approaches used elsewhere, especially in China and Vietnam. Thus people’s war as a strategy was adopted by strong insurgent groups in El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Guatemala, and Mexico. Some groups, notably Shining Path in Peru and FARC in Colombia, erred in elevating the terrorism component of people’s war to a strategic imperative, but the likes of FMLN in El Salvador and EZLN were both flexible and innovative, leaving their mark on global trends in guerrilla insurgency through their use of nonviolent techniques to significantly enhance violent efforts.

      Argentina

      A variety of urban guerrilla movements were active in Argentina between 1959 and 1976, when a repressive military dictatorship took power and ruthlessly eliminated them in what came to be called the “dirty war.” Inspired by the Cuban revolution and the banning of the Peronist party, they periodically harassed authorities with attacks on military installations, kidnappings, and assassinations. Most notable among them were the Montoneros, a dissident radical Peronist faction that conducted street warfare against civilian and military governments alike, as documented by Lanusse 2005. Both Lewis 2002 and Díaz Bessone 1986 offer comprehensive overviews and activities of the guerrilla groups, while Martínez Codo 1965 examines the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo (ERP) and Anderson 1993 focuses on their limitations. Álvarez 2010 provides a case study of early dynamics of revolutionary ferment in Mendoza, while Norden 1996 provides the broader military context within which the guerrillas emerged.

      Bolivia

      Best known in the literature of Latin American guerrilla insurgencies as the location of Ernesto “Che” Guevara’s ill-fated attempt to bring the Cuban rural foco model of small local concentrations of forces to South America, this country proved to be an inhospitable setting for guerrilla activity. Guevara 1968 makes that clear, as do Gall 1967, Lamberg 1970, and Horne 1971. The legacy of the successful 1952 revolution in Bolivia, which carried out an extensive agrarian reform and gave the illiterate, mostly indigenous rural people the vote, along with the popular military government led by General René Barrientos between 1964 and 1969, proved to be insurmountable obstacles, as developed by Johnson 2006.

      • Gall, Norman. “The Legacy of Che Guevara.” Commentary 44.6 (1967): 31–44.

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        Analysis by an English journalist of the limitations of guerrilla movements in Latin America, with particular focus on the Guevara experience.

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      • Guevara, Ernesto. The Diary of Che Guevara: Bolivia, November 7, 1966–October 7, 1967. New York: Bantam, 1968.

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        A gripping day-by-day account of the author’s travails in attempting to build a revolutionary movement on the Cuban model in Bolivia, up the day before his death on 8 October 1967. Introduction by Fidel Castro.

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      • Horne, Alistair. “Guerrillas of Teoponte.” Encounter 37.6 (1971): 76–83.

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        An account of the failed efforts of the Ejército de Liberación Nacional (ELN) to establish a guerrilla foco in Bolivia.

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      • Johnson, Joshua. “From Cuba to Bolivia: Guevara’s Foco Theory in Practice.” Innovations: A Journal of Politics 6 (2006): 26–32.

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        By laying out the core tenets of Guevara’s writings on his foco theory and comparing that with conditions in both Cuba and Bolivia, the author shows that sociopolitical factors were more important than small groups of guerrillas in fostering a successful revolution, and argues that these offer the best explanation for his failure in Bolivia.

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      • Lamberg, Robert F. “Che in Bolivia: The ‘Revolution’ that Failed.” Problems of Communism 19.4 (1970): 25–37.

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        A detailed analysis of Guevara’s inability to establish a guerrilla foco in Bolivia, based on the documents and maps recovered after his capture and death.

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      Brazil

      Stimulated by the combination of Cuba’s call for movements of national liberation and the military’s takeover of the reformist civilian government of João Goulart in 1964, urban guerrilla groups proliferated for a brief period in the late 1960s and early 1970s and are well documented by Truskier 1970 and Quartim de Moraes 1972. Nercesian 2006 updates these studies with additional material, including rural groups in the same period. Skidmore 1988 provides the broader historical context and details the measures taken by military authorities to repress the groups, including the tracking down and 1969 killing of their most prominent leader, Carlos Marighella (whose urban guerrilla manual is translated in de Souza Pinheiro 2009). Military strategy and tactics in the context of two widely separated rural counterinsurgency operations are explored in de Souza Pinheiro 1995. De Souza Pinheiro 2009 explores the similarities in approaches between the urban guerrillas of the 1960s and the urban gangs of contemporary São Paulo.

      • de Souza Pinheiro, Alvaro. Guerrilla in the Brazilian Amazon. Foreign Military Studies Office, Ft. Leavenworth, Kansas, July 1995.

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        A Brazilian Army official analyzes two successful counterinsurgency operations; in 1970 against rural Maoist insurgents in Pará, and in 1991 in response to Fuerzas Armadas Revolucionarias de Colombia (FARC) cadre on the Brazilian side of the border.

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      • de Souza Pinheiro, Alvaro. Irregular Warfare: Brazil’s Fight against Criminal Urban Guerrillas. Joint Special Operations University (JSOU) Report 09-8. Hurlburt Field, FL: JSOU Press, 2009.

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        Details how São Paulo criminal gangs adopted the urban guerrilla strategies and tactics of the 1960s and how army and police overcame a surge of violence there in 2006. Includes the “bible” of urban guerrillas, Carlos Marighella’s 1969 Minimanual.

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      • Nercesian, Inés. “Organizaciones armadas y dictadura institucional en Brazil en la década del sesenta.” Fermentum: Revista Venezolana de Sociología y Antropología 16.46 (2006): 446–460.

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        Detailed description and analysis of multiple urban and rural guerrilla groups emerging in the 1960s in the context of military government, the range of their operations, and their systematic repression and eventual annihilation by the regime by the early 1970s.

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      • Quartim de Moraes, João. Dictatorship and Armed Struggle in Brazil. Translated by David Fernbach. New York: Monthly Review Press, 1972.

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        The most complete account of the urban guerrilla groups active in the late 1960s, including strategies and tactics, strengths and weaknesses, with an appendix providing full details on each of the organizations.

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      • Skidmore, Thomas E. The Politics of Military Rule in Brazil, 1964–85. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

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        Considered the definitive treatment of the twenty-one-year military regime, includes a detailed discussion of urban guerrilla movements from 1969 to 1972 and the military repression that eliminated the threat (pp. 117–135).

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      • Truskier, Andy. “The Politics of Violence: The Urban Guerrillas in Brazil.” Ramparts 9 (1970): 30–34.

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        Interviews with major guerrilla group members set this analysis apart, and provide the basis for discussion of the organizations, their objectives, and their recruiting approaches.

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      Colombia

      Although a number of Latin American countries have experienced serious bouts of Cuban Revolution–inspired guerrilla activity, Colombia is the principal example in the region of a nation with a post-independence heritage of periodic civil wars, documented by Dix 1967 and Bushnell 1993, which provide the historical context for what is now the longest-running Marxist insurgency in the Western Hemisphere. Pizarro Leongómez 1991 traces the early years of FARC, the largest and oldest of the guerrilla organizations, while Rodríguez Pizarro 2005 focuses on the ELN and Tate 2009 on the checkered history of rural paramilitary groups as local responses to guerrilla activity. González 2002 explores the failed government-guerrilla peace talks and longstanding historical and geographical complexities, while Cruz 2001 looks to the possibilities for eventual resolution and Marks 2003 documents subsequent progress.

      • Bushnell, David. The Making of Modern Colombia: A Nation in Spite of Itself. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993.

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        A leading American historian’s overview, with a summary analysis of guerrilla insurgency dynamics, partial incorporation into the political system in the 1980s, and expansion in the early 1990s in the context of drug trafficking (especially pp. 252–268). Offers a more positive outlook than most studies.

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      • Cruz, Alberto. “El dilema de la paz: Renuncia a las armas o reformas estructurales.” In Colombia ante los retos del siglo XXI: Desarrollo, democracia y paz. Edited by Manuel Alcántara Sáez and Juan Manuel Ibeas Miguel, 209–237. Salamanca, Spain: Ediciones Universidad Salamanca, 2001.

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        Comprehensive overview of the multiple forces involved in the ongoing conflict and the complex elements that could contribute to a peaceful resolution of the long-standing guerrilla war.

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      • Dix, Robert H. Colombia: The Political Dimensions of Change. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1967.

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        The classic political history in English of a complex nation, which lays out the multiple civil wars since independence and how they help to explain its propensity toward guerrilla activity since the late 1940s. Includes a particularly insightful analysis of the 1948–1957 “Violencia” (pp. 360–386).

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      • González, Fernán. “Colombia entre la guerra y la paz: Aproximación a una lectura geopolítica de la violencia colombiana.” Revista Venezolana de Economía y Ciencias Sociales 8.2 (2002): 13–49.

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        After a fine-grained discussion of the failure of the Pastrana government (1998–2002) peace negotiations with FARC, turns to a compelling presentation and analysis of the multiple effects of Colombia’s extraordinarily complex geography and resulting longstanding weak state presence contributing to multiple local origins of guerrilla activity. A major contribution.

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      • Marks, Thomas A. “Colombian Army Counterinsurgency.” Crime, Law and Social Change 40.1 (2003): 1–29.

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        Accompanied by extensive figures, details the military reform and counterinsurgency (1998–2001) reversing prior dangerous deterioration. Military response keyed off FARC strategy and organization. An in-depth look at both sides in the conflict.

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      • Pizarro Leongómez, Eduardo. Las FARC (1949–1966): De la autodefensa a la combinación de todas las formas de lucha. Bogotá, Colombia: Tercer Mundo Editores, 1991.

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        Spans the period of La Violencia to the emergence of FARC as an insurgency seeking to adopt the Vietnamese “all forms of war” approach. The tension between the ideologically motivated leadership and the grievances of peasant guerrillas emerges as a central theme until FARC drug trade involvement alters the nature of the conflict.

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      • Rodríguez Pizarro, Alba Nubia. “Acciones colectivas en el conflicto político: ¿De guerrilla a grupos terroristas? El caso de ELN. Política y Sociedad 42.2 (2005): 133–147.

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        A theoretically grounded analysis situating ELN between collective action and terrorism, fleshed out through interviews with members providing details of social backgrounds and motivations.

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      • Tate, Winifred. “From Greed to Grievance: The Shifting Political Profile of the Colombian Paramilitaries.” In Colombia: Building Peace in a Time of War. Edited by Virginia M. Bouvier, 111–131. Washington DC: US Institute of Peace Press, 2009.

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        An insightful analysis of the emergence and growth of major rural paramilitary movements. Originally local initiatives to counter guerrilla activity, sometimes with government support, the paramilitaries became more identified over time with drug trafficking and other illegal activities.

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      Cuba

      The Cuban Revolution of 1953–1959, with its successful overthrow of dictatorship and subsequent establishment of a communist state, provided the inspiration for a generation of Latin American guerrilla movements. Many of them, in fact, were actively supported by Cuba as movements of national liberation. The factors that led to the Cuban Revolution’s unlikely success have been subject to widespread examination. Aguilar 1972 provides the distal historical backdrop, while Alarcón 2009 details the events of the 1950s that led to victory. Domínguez 1978 covers the entire sweep of political, economic, and social forces in play from independence through the victory of the revolution and its post-revolutionary consolidation. The selections in Bonachea and Valdés 1972 flesh out the details of the revolution itself, while Sartre 1961 and Weyl 1961 offer radically different interpretations of the process and its leadership. Castro 1961 is the defense he gave in court for his involvement in what turned out to be the first military operation of the Revolution. Anderson 1997 details the life of the other major figure of the Revolution, Ernesto “Che” Guevara.

      • Aguilar, Luis E. Cuba 1933: Prologue to Revolution. Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1972.

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        The definitive study of the political ferment in Cuba in the early 1930s in which democratic reform forces failed in their efforts to come to power, giving rise to a political dynamic that produced the Fulgencio Batista dictatorship and sowed the seeds for Castro’s revolution.

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      • Alarcón de Quesada, Ricardo. “The Long March of the Cuban Revolution.” Monthly Review (2009): 14–27.

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        A leading longtime Cuban official provides a sympathetic but scholarly overview from a knowledgeable insider’s perspective of the historical background of frustrated nationalist movements to frame the major events of the 1950s leading to victory over the Batista dictatorship.

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      • Anderson, Jon Lee. Che Guevara: A Revolutionary Life. New York: Grove, 1997.

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        A detailed biography of a major figure in the Cuban Revolution, gathered from primary sources, including interviews with Guevara’s widow, with a full account of his activities as a guerrilla leader in the Sierra Maestra (pp. 211–372).

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      • Bonachea, Rolando E., and Nelson P. Valdés, eds. Cuba in Revolution. Garden City, NY: Anchor Doubleday, 1972.

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        The first third of this superior collection of articles by participants and scholars, along with excerpts of documents, focuses on the origins, politics, and leadership of the revolution.

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      • Castro, Fidel. La historia me absolverá. Lima, Peru: Ediciones Futuro, 1961.

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        The now famous defense by the accused at his trial for his 1953 attack on Cuban military forces at the Moncada barracks, where he predicts, presciently as it turned out, that his actions will be vindicated by history. Widely reprinted in other publications.

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      • Domínguez, Jorge I. Cuba: Order and Revolution. Cambridge MA: Belknap, 1978.

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        Considered to be the definitive political history of Cuba from independence through the mid-1970s, devotes a chapter (pp. 110–133) to political system breakdown due to illegitimacy, violence, and private interest, and guerrilla success by emphasizing moderate reform and appeals to national pride.

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      • Sartre, Jean-Paul. Sartre on Cuba. New York: Ballantine, 1961.

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        The French philosopher, hosted by Fidel Castro in Cuba shortly after the Revolution, offers a sympathetic but insightful description of the forces that contributed to the guerrillas’ success and a naïve analysis, in retrospect, of the maximum leader’s exercise of power.

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      • Weyl, Nathaniel. Red Star Over Cuba. New York: Hillman, 1961.

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        A detailed biography of Fidel Castro, which focuses on the elements that led to his early commitment to Marxism and establishment of what the author concludes is a Soviet dictatorship. A polemical, if equally misleading, alternative to Sartre.

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      El Salvador

      This small, densely populated country became a major arena of civil war after the failure of successive governments to maintain the political opening for new actors begun in the 1950s. Anderson 1971 sets the historical stage for the war, while Montgomery 1995 details its denouement from the “final offensive” of 1980 to the 1992 peace accords. Peterson 1997 and Wood 2003 develop the important role played by the progressive Catholic Church and nongovernmental organizations in civil society, particularly the peasantry, from the 1960s to the 1980s, which contributed to FMLN support when war broke out. Moroni Bracamonte and Spencer 1995 examines the guerrillas’ military strategy, while Stanley 1996 details the factors within the elites that provoked political violence. McClintock 1998 places the revolution within a paired comparative framework that helps to explain why it took place and why it did not succeed.

      • Anderson, Thomas P. La Matanza: El Salvador’s Communist Revolt of 1932. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1971.

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        The classic study of the government’s massive repression of peasants organized by the Communist Party and inspired by Farabundo Martí, which gave rise to an extended period of military rule. Provides the historical context for the 1980–1992 insurgency.

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      • McClintock, Cynthia. Revolutionary Movements in Latin America: El Salvador’s FMLN and Peru’s Shining Path. Washington, DC: US Institute of Peace Press, 1998.

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        A valuable paired comparison, complementing Montgomery 1995 with field research and interviews, but especially with a framework drawn from revolutionary theory literature for an explanation of why revolution occurred. For El Salvador, concludes that political factors and a favorable international climate are the key considerations.

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      • Montgomery, Tommie Sue. Revolution in El Salvador: From Civil Strife to Civil Peace. 2d ed. Boulder, CO: Westview, 1995.

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        The most detailed and comprehensive overview available of the 1980–1992 civil war and the peace process that ended it. As a scholar who has studied the country for many years and knows the key players well, the author bases much of her analysis on interviews, primary materials, and a close knowledge of local dynamics.

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      • Moroni Bracamonte, José Angel, and David E. Spencer. Strategy and Tactics of the Salvadoran FMLN Guerrillas: Last Battle of the Cold War, Blueprint for Future Conflicts. Westport, CT: Praeger, 1995.

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        In the only major study to focus on the military aspects of the guerrillas’ capacity, an ex-combatant (writing under a pen name) and a former consultant to the government analyze their strategy and tactics, drawing extensively from hitherto unavailable FMLN documents and interviews.

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      • Peterson, Anna L. Martyrdom and the Politics of Religion: Progressive Catholicism in El Salvador’s Civil War. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1997.

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        Lays out the important role of the liberation theology-influenced Roman Catholic Church in organizing and progressively empowering the poor in Christian Base Communities in the 1960s and 1970s, and the degree of support many provided to the guerrillas when civil war broke out.

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      • Stanley, William. The Protection Racket State: Elite Politics, Military Extortion, and Civil War in El Salvador. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1996.

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        The best case study available of the factors contributing to state-sponsored violence: elite ideology and perceptions, rivalries between elite groups, and international forces. Draws on primary sources and interviews to conclude that hardline elites and their outside supporters were largely responsible for the generalization of violence during the conflict.

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      • Wood, Elisabeth Jean. Insurgent Collective Action and Civil War in El Salvador. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

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        A meticulous analysis, based on the social movement literature and extensive field work and interviews in agricultural cooperatives in five rural locations, of grassroots support for the guerrillas during the civil war and how their experience helped to expand the post-conflict democracy that emerged.

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      Guatemala

      Wracked by guerrilla insurgent violence from 1961 to 1996, Guatemala perhaps holds pride of place in conjuring up visions of no-holds-barred internal war. Stereotypes notwithstanding, a growing body of work highlights the ever-shifting balance between structure and agency in this peasant-based war. Gutiérrez and Rios 1981 details the insurgent groups and events over the 1960s and 1970s. Wilkinson 2002 and Yaworsky 2006 examine the structural basis for indigenous resistance to the Guatemalan state, the former by examining the role of the coffee plantation, the latter the impact of marketing subsystems in fostering deprivation that provides the kindling for ideological fire. Konefal 2010 explores those uniquely Maya elements for joining the revolutionary project, even as May 2001 highlights the role of violence itself as a contextual variable. Stoll 1993 emphasizes the contingency of indigenous peasant postures as maneuvering takes place to ensure a measure of dignity and survival. Kruijt 1996 gives a broad overview of the entire period of guerrilla activity and military perspectives. As such, the guerrillas are but one of several competing options, with the state ultimately winning out in the contest of mobilization.

      • Gutiérrez, Luis y Esteban Rios. “El movimiento armado en Guatemala.” Cuadernos Políticos 29 (1981): 93–103.

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        A richly detailed analysis of the origins and evolution of guerrilla activities in the 1960s and 1970s, along with the interactions and divisions between MR-13, FAR, PET, and ORPA, along with a variety of popular front organizations.

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      • Konefal, Betsy. For Every Indio Who Falls: A History of Maya Activism in Guatemala, 1960–1990. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2010.

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        Situates Maya indigenous participation in the insurgency within a matrix of personal and societal factors. Ethnicity and class affected a uniquely Maya process of framing and narrative, with ideology and state repression as intervening variables. The resulting unleashing of forces posed challenges for both non-indigenous revolutionaries and the state itself.

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      • Kruijt, Dirk. “La guerra permanente.” In Sociedades de terror: Guerrillas y contrainsurgencia en Guatemala y Perú. By Dirk Kruijt, 29–51. Cuadernos de Ciencias sociales 88. San Jose, Costa Rica: Programa Costa Rica, Facultad Latinoamericana de Ciencias Sociales, 1996.

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        Broad overview from the origins of the guerrilla movements in the 1950s to the March 1996 peace agreement, with particular focus on military perspectives and policies.

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      • May, Rachel A. Terror in the Countryside: Campesino Responses to Political Violence in Guatemala, 1954–1985. Athens, OH: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 2001.

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        Popular resistance evinces a cyclical pattern responding to both global and state forces along with internal indigenous community developments. Violence itself both enables and constrains agency, with responses channeling and shaping individual impulse in new ways, which then feed back into further resistance. Resistance actor ideology serves to both interpret and shape events.

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      • Stoll, David. Between Two Armies in the Ixil Towns of Guatemala. New York: Columbia University Press, 1993.

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        Pathbreaking study of peasant agency in the Guatemalan insurgency. Rejects black/white dichotomies to illuminate a peasant world of gray, as communities, caught between rival demands of state and guerrillas, sought to maximize their chances of survival, social justice, and community progress. This often meant siding with the government rather than the insurgents.

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      • Wilkinson, Daniel. Silence on the Mountain: Stories of Terror, Betrayal, and Forgetting in Guatemala. New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2002.

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        A compelling exploration of the role of history and the quest for dignity in shaping Guatemalan indigenous responses to state intervention, especially economic, as expressed by the coffee plantation. As affected indigenous organize, the state responds with violence, further compelling indigenous actions that serve to privilege ideological explanations of reality.

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      • Yaworsky, William. “Marketing Systems and Insurgency in Western Guatemala.” Small Wars and Insurgencies 17.1 (2006): 65–78.

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        Penetration of the indigenous peasant world takes a variety of forms, some more likely to foster disruption of lifestyles and therefore resistance. Dendritic and primate marketing systems of western Guatemala, as opposed to top-heavy and interlocking systems, tend to foster support for ideological solution to the challenge of diminishing life-chances.

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      Mexico

      Certainly one of the most examined guerrilla movements of the post-1959 era has been the 1995 (and beyond) Zapatista (EZLN) uprising in Chiapas. Womack 1999 and Harvey 1998 highlight the long-standing ethnic and class grievances that saw the emergence of indigenous resistance to the Mexican state. Sharpening of latent and open tensions produce in Higgins 2004 an ideological formulation of justice which challenges accepted concepts of state and modernity, even as, in Arquilla and Ronfeldt 2001, exploitation of the opportunities afforded by networks in an age of globalization serves as a harbinger of intangible parity with, if not primacy over, tangible factors on the battlefield. Globalization’s potential for a guerrilla movement reaches its logical end in Barmeyer 2009, when the Zapatista movement reaches a point where its entire funding is essentially out of reach of the Mexican state. This provides the insurgency with a level of immunity hitherto unthinkable for a guerrilla movement rooted in its local social base. The ERP and ERPI insurgent groups emerging at the same time as the EZLN, much less studied because they operate in the shadows, are well covered by Hirales Morán 2003 and Lofredo 2007.

      • Arquilla, John, and David Ronfeldt. “Emergence and Influence of the Zapatista Social Netwar.” In Networks and Netwars: The Future of Terror, Crime, and Militancy. Edited by John Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, 171–199. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 2001.

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        Seminal work detailing the emergence of “netwar” as a key factor in 21st-century guerrilla warfare. In a globalized world, tangible factors find themselves competing with intangible factors, such as framing and narrative, to the extent that the former often is trumped by the latter. Thus, the Mexican state found itself hamstrung in dealing with what objectively was a weak, peripheral uprising.

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      • Barmeyer, Neils. Developing Zapatista Autonomy: Conflict and NGO Involvement in Rebel Chiapas. Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2009.

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        Analyzes the connection between financial independence and democratic empowerment, as illustrated by the Zapatista movement, revealing the extent to which transnational forces weaken state response to insurgent challenge, thereby strengthening movements that objectively appear less than viable.

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      • Harvey, Neil. The Chiapas Rebellion: The Struggle for Land and Democracy. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.

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        Explores how a local insurgency emerged from a social movement’s long-standing efforts to resolve grievances. Overlapping ethnic and class roots led an indigenous peasantry to accept ideological guidance in the face of state repression and further marginalization as globalization continued to alter structural factors.

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      • Higgins, Nicholas P. Understanding the Chiapas Rebellion: Modernist Visions and the Invisible Indian. Austin: University of Texas Press, 2004.

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        Considers the 1995 Zapatista uprising and its denouement as an example of the long-standing indigenous quest for empowerment in the context of globalization. Argues that it indicates the need for a new conceptualization of the state and the notion of modernity. Illustrative of a growing number of similar upheavals worldwide, this rebellion reveals that “the end of history” was anything but.

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      • Hirales Morán, Gustavo. Grupos radicales en el México de hoy. Policy Papers on the Americas 14.9. Washington, DC: Center for Strategic and International Studies, 2003.

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        A longtime left activist and political prisoner in the 1970s traces the emergence of a “second generation” of radical organizations in the mid-1990s, both more violent (ERP, ERPI) and less so (EZLN), and their activities through 2002.

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      • Lofredo, Jorge. “La otra guerrilla mexicana: Aproximaciones al estudio del Ejército Popular Revolucionario.” Desacatos: Revista de Antropología Social 24 (2007): 229–246.

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        A full-bodied analysis of the history and activities of the EPR and its multiple offshoots in several states, especially Guerrerro and Oaxaca, from its origins in left parties in the 1960s to insurgency after the mid-1990s. Detailed and authoritative.

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      • Womack, John, Jr. Rebellion in Chiapas: An Historical Reader. New York: New Press, 1999.

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        Places this revolt in historical perspective, with a lead essay followed by primary documents and shorter explanatory essays. The result highlights centuries-old ethnic and class empowerment issues, complicated by the unique trajectory of the Mexican state and globalization. The result is a paradigmatic uprising involving a mixture of structure, agency, and contingency.

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      Nicaragua

      Involvement of both the United States and its Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) made the civil war in post-Somoza Nicaragua one of the most controversial of all post-1959 Latin American insurgencies. Vilas 1985 offers a class-based explanation for the guerrilla movement, while Marti i Puig 2002 develops a broader and more agency-focused perspective. Only with the end of the conflict, however, were certain ground truths able to emerge through the work of scholars. Zimmerman 2000 and Miranda and Ratliff 1993 focus upon the degree to which the promise of the Sandinista quest for justice was subsumed by individual and organizational hubris and incompetence, producing, as amply documented in Brown 2001 and Horton 1998, counter-revolution in the form of the Contras. Ultimately and ironically, it was this second-order revolt that was to dominate, at least for a time, the Nicaraguan new order. Figueroa Ibarra 2005 provides an alternative explanation for failure based on the broader world decline of socialism.

      • Brown, Timothy C. The Real Contra War: Highlander Peasant Resistance in Nicaragua. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2001.

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        Examines the nature and composition of the Contras, the ostensible CIA mercenaries, which the author documents as in fact a peasant rebellion produced by state repression. The irony is that the repression was carried out by the Sandinistas, who had won their revolution against the repressive Somoza dictatorship.

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      • Figueroa Ibarra, Carlos. “La revolución sandinista y los contratiempos de la utopia en Centroamérica.” Bajo el Volcán 5.9 (2005): 67–85.

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        Places the 1970s Sandinista revolution within the wider economic and political context of Central America and argues that its ultimate failure after victory is related to the ebbing tides of socialist regimes just as it was trying to consolidate its revolution.

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      • Horton, Lynn. Peasants in Arms: War and Peace in the Mountains of Nicaragua, 1979–1994. Athens, OH: Ohio University Center for International Studies, 1998.

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        Details the community divisions in the quest for dignity and justice that was at the heart of both the Sandinista and Contra insurgencies in Nicaragua. Ultimately, Sandinista embrace of ideological rather than pragmatic solutions to peasant needs produced the Contra counter-revolution.

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      • Marti i Puig, Salvador. La izquierda revolucionaria en Centroamérica: El FSLN desde su fundación a la insurrección popular. Working Paper 203. Barcelona: Institut de Ciències Polítiques i Socials (ICPS), 2002.

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        A compact summary tracing the Sandinista movement from origins to victory and the degree to which it was influenced by the Cuban Revolution and the reformist elements of the Catholic Church after Vatican II.

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      • Miranda, Roger, and William Ratliff. The Civil War in Nicaragua: Inside the Sandinistas. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction, 1993.

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        Looks within the Sandinista ruling elite to examine how the forces and hopes that produced the end of the Somoza dictatorship were ultimately cast aside for the pursuit of individual and ideological ends. The result was a continuation of the Nicaraguan population’s struggle for emancipation, but with forces now aligned against the revolution.

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      • Vilas, Carlos M.. “El sujeto de la insurrección popular sandinista.” Cuadernos Políticos 42 (1985): 32–53.

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        A richly detailed class-based analysis, documented with multiple tables, of both the development of socioeconomic conditions favorable for the emergence of the Sandinista revolution in the 1970s and the socioeconomic composition of the participants themselves.

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      • Zimmerman, Matilde. Sandinista: Carlos Fonseca and the Nicaraguan Revolution. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2000.

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        Biography of key Sandinista figure Carlos Fonseca Amador, whose ideological and operational leadership framed the struggle against the Somoza dictatorship. Although he was killed in action in 1976, his life highlights the essence of the revolution that ultimately foundered under the misguided leadership of his erstwhile compatriots.

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      Peru

      Over the course of the 1980s and early 1990s, the country and much of its population were subject to the scourges of political violence, led by an insurgent organization espousing radical Maoist peoples’ war, at a historically unprecedented level. As Misicek 1997 (see Bibliographies) presents, these developments were subject to many scholarly efforts to describe, understand, and explain. Only a few of the most important works can be noted here. Béjar 1969 provides an example, noted by the later guerrilla leaders, of how unsuccessful Cuban-style rural revolution can be. Degregori 1990 provides the local context within which Marxist elements were increasingly radicalized, while Gorritti 1999 lays out the origins and early successes of Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) itself. Palmer 1994 and Stern 1998 offer multiple scholarly analyses of the full trajectory of the insurgency, with Degregori, et al. 1996 focusing on organized peasant reaction, a key reason why the insurgency failed. Taylor 2006 explores Shining Path activities in the previously understudied Northern Sierra, with McCormick 1993 presenting a comprehensive study of Peru’s understudied other guerrilla group, MRTA.

      • Béjar, Héctor. Perú 1965: Una experiencia guerrillera. Lima, Peru: Campodónico Ediciones, 1969.

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        A compelling retrospective account of the failed effort to establish Cuban-style rural focos in the sierra, by one of its leaders and participants who survived and remained an important figure on the political left.

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      • Degregori, Carlos Iván. Ayacucho 1969–1979: El surgimiento de Sendero Luminoso. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1990.

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        A fine-grained account by an Ayacucho university graduate and leading Peruvian anthropologist of the local and regional context and major events where Shining Path originated, grew, and launched its peoples’ war.

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      • Degregori, Carlos Iván, José Coronel, Ponciano del Pino, and Orin Starn. Las rondas campesinas y la derrota de Sendero Luminoso. Lima, Peru: Instituto de Estudios Peruanos, 1996.

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        A compelling and detailed account of the key role that organized local peasant groups played in defending their communities from guerrilla incursions and in contributing to Shining Path’s defeat.

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      • Gorriti, Gustavo. The Shining Path: A History of the Millenarian War in Peru. Translated by Robin Kirk. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1999.

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        English translation of Historia de la guerra milenaria en el Perú, first published in 1990. A leading Peruvian investigative journalist provides an authoritative account, drawn from interviews and primary intelligence sources, of the early ideological and organizational development and operations of the guerrillas between 1980 and 1982 in a context of government indifference.

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      • McCormick, Gordon H. Sharp Dressed Men: Peru’s Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. Santa Monica, CA: RAND, 1993.

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        A full overview of Peru’s “other” guerrilla group, the much smaller and more moderate Castro-influenced MRTA, dominated by urban, university-educated youth and active between 1982 and 1997.

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      • Palmer, David Scott, ed. Shining Path of Peru. 2d ed. New York: St. Martin’s, 1994.

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        Comprehensive coverage by Peru and Shining Path specialists of the guerrilla organization’s development from the 1960s to the capture of its leader in 1992, including historical background, leadership, ideology, organization, strategy and tactics, peasant community relationships, and connections to the drug trade.

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      • Stern, Steve J., ed. Shining and Other Paths: War and Society in Peru, 1980–1995. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1998.

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        Penetrating analyses by Peruvian and US scholars of the rise and fall of Shining Path, tracing the historical background, the relationship to other social and political actors, details of the insurgency in various parts of the country, the role of women, and the war’s tragic legacy. Essential reading.

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      • Taylor, Lewis. Shining Path: Guerrilla War in Peru’s Northern Highlands, 1980–1997. Liverpool, UK: Liverpool University Press, 2006.

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        A longtime English Peru scholar provides a detailed account of Shining Path operations in a part of the country given a high priority by the leadership but not hitherto studied closely. The author’s close knowledge of the area and its people, however, allowed for valuable insights on the guerrillas’ relationships and capacity.

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      Uruguay

      Seen as a 20th-century “Switzerland of Latin America” for its progressive social policies and stable democratic governments, Uruguay’s economic decline and political polarization after the mid-1950s gave rise in the 1960s to the Tupamaros urban guerrilla movement. Moss 1971 provides the broader context for the rise of the group. Gerassi 1969 offers an early interpretation of its activities from an outside perspective, while Wilson 1974 fleshes out the organization’s scope and operations as an insider, and Churchill 2010 focuses on gender issues within the group. Porzecanski 1973 gives a compact overview of the entire trajectory of the movement as well as the context that inspired it, while Peirano Iglesias 2009 shows the differences between far-left groups in Uruguay and Chile. The most complete and comprehensive presentation of the group at its apogee is provided by Mayans 1971, but a superb bibliography may be found in Woodruff 2008. Who would have thought that the Tupamaro urban guerrillas of the 1960s could become Frente Amplio social democrats able to win both local and national elections four and five decades later?

      Venezuela

      In the context of a transformative political dynamic in which democratic elections in 1958 brought Romúlo Betancourt to the presidency, Fidel Castro’s new revolutionary government decided to train a Venezuelan guerrilla force to make that country the first case of Cuban-supported movements of national liberation. The effort failed, but not before several years of urban and rural insurgent violence threatened the country’s first extended experience with democratic procedures since independence. Cockcroft and Vicente 1965, Callahan 1969, and the Georgetown Research Project 1970 offer details and analyses of guerrilla organization and activities during the height of their operations. Gall 1972 provides an in-depth profile of Teodoro Petkoff, one of the major insurgent leaders, while Ramos Flamerich 2010 does much the same in his interview with another leading guerrilla figure, Douglas Bravo. However, the most comprehensive treatment of the guerrillas from start to finish is Linárez 2006.

      LAST MODIFIED: 11/29/2011

      DOI: 10.1093/OBO/9780199756223-0026

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