Rondas Campesinas (Informal) (Peru)

Country: Peru
Details of Formation: The group grew out of a grass roots initiative as early as the 1970s to combat cattle thieves. In the mid 1980s they were harnessed by government institutions under Alan Garcia in the fight against Sendero Luminoso.
Details of Termination: en Fujimori came to power in 1990 he convinced the military to provide the Rondas Campesians with weapons and he passed a law on 12th November 1991 giving the Rondas legal status, officially naming them "self-defense committees". The change of government and the passing of this law thus changed the nature of this group from informal to semi-official (See Rondas Campesinas Semi-Official).
Purpose: The main purpose of the group was the fight against armed opposition groups (e.g. the Sendero Luminoso or the Shining Path). Initially, it was used as a grassroots strategy for the protection of rural communities from cattle thieves but transformed into a counter-insurgency group when conflict began. The PGM was also used to gather intelligence for the military.
Organisation: Reports state that the group was linked to the army’s official command and collaborated with the security forces.
Weapons and Training: Prior to 1991 it is reported that the group did not receive weapons from the government. Instead, weapons were obtained by the PGM itself, although in some instances guns were provided by army officers. Weapons included machetes, rock slings, spears, stones, and homemade weapons. Sources state that training was poor or non-existent.
Size: --
Reason for Membership: It is reported that some members joined voluntarily, but that there were also instances of people being pressured by the navy in the river basin area and by the military to join, who killed villagers for not being members and burnt down houses.
Treatment of Civilians: The group was responsible for multiple instances of violence against civilians. Contrasting with the government’s stated purpose of the group, protecting civilians by combating the Shining Path, it was accused of violating human rights, torture, extrajudicially murdering civilians (suspected opponents), and raiding and burning down villages. The group reportedly also engaged in community development and was apparently crucial for defeating the Shining Path. Members used the group to get revenge, although this was not intended to be a consequence by the government.
Other Information: A source states that one region alone had 30 groups with 6,000 - 7,000 members and another 50,000 members. These groups were originally paid for any rebels that they handed over, which resulted in problems with vigilantes using this to 'settle old scores' between communities. There are also reports of disintegration into lawlessness and human rights violations.
References: Amnesty International. 1993. “Peru. Ten Settlers Massacred by Civil Defence Patrol.” AI Index: AMR 46/38/93. November 1993.

Information was taken from news sources listed in the PGMD.