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Ronda Campesina (English: Peasant Rounds) was the name given to autonomous peasant patrols in rural Peru. The rondas were especially active during the early 1980s in northern Peru and during the insurgency by the Maoist group Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and by the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.
The rondas were originally formed as a protection force against theft, especially cattle rustling. Later, they evolved into a full-blown private justice system, complete with courts. They often provoked the ire of the Peruvian state.
When Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmán launched his insurgency against the government in 1980, the Peruvian armed forces by and large ignored the threat at the very outset. Because the very core of the movement was land redistribution, the insurgency was confined to rural areas in the Andean regions inhabited by indigenous and Amerindian groups, and largely off the radar of the government. Peasants who did not support the revolutionary movement, therefore, created "rondas campesinas".
It was the only in 1982 that the Peruvian government has begun to take action in earnest. Military rule was established in nine provinces after a state of emergency was declared in December of that year, and the Rondas Campesinas were employed by the military. The Peruvian military, their auxiliaries the Rondas Campesinas, and the Sendero Luminoso guerrillas all committed human rights atrocities during the course of the conflict.
Even though the internal conflict is now largely confined to the VRAE and has greatly diminished since 1992, the term Rondero is still used in everyday speech in Peru to signify a volunteer neighbourhood watchman either the countryside or in the suburbs of cities such as Lima or Trujillo. These days, the defining quality of the Rondero appears to be that he is unpaid, unlike the ubiquitous "Huachiman" and the uniformed security guards that are seen outside of homes and business all over Peru.