Dissertations and Theses

Date of Award


Document Type



International Relations


Indigenous Rights, Latin America, Marxism


"The main purpose of this research is to understand the nature of the relationship between leftist armed guerrillas and indigenous rights in the Latin American region. I argue that the ethnic component and indigenous mobilization have greatly determined the political and social achievements of Marxist insurgencies active in many countries of the sub-continent during the second half of the twentieth century. In order to test my hypothesis, I devote particular attention to the historical exposition and critical analysis of both the ethnic problem and Marxism, in its European, Russian, Chinese, and Latin American versions. Subsequently, I focus on the case studies of Guatemala and Peru, as exemplary of different results obtained by radical armed groups. The Guatemalan civil war and its outcome demonstrate the importance of indigenous people’s mobilization for the partial success and reintegration into civil life of Marxist guerrilla movements. Conversely, the Peruvian conflict points out the dangers of a dogmatic ideology that led to unprecedented violence and sparked state authoritarianism and populism. The critical assessment of the two case studies is carried out in a qualitative manner and takes into account two main variables, namely the armed groups’ degree of support for indigenous grievances and their level of dogmatism. My hypothesis proves to be valid, at least in the cases of Guatemala and Peru, as I discover that a high level ofsupport for the ethnic question coupled with a low level of dogmatism of the leftist insurgencies is linked to higher indigenous mobilization and relatively better performances of the armed guerrillas. As a consequence of these findings, I expand my analysis to the whole Latin American region and to other countries beyond this area, also challenged by the threat of political violence linked to both radical ideology and ethnicity. I conclude by highlighting the importance of the nation building process for the prevention of further instability and by recommending a manifold approach that factors the reintegration of armed groups members into society and the creation of a participatory state."


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