By the end of the first two pages of With Masses and Arms, Miguel La Serna has drawn his reader into the world of the Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA). Néstor Cerpa Cartolini, a leading Túpac Amarista with a labor organizing background, and 13 other members of the MRTA have taken over the home of the Japanese ambassador to Peru with a sizable number of hostages. We learn of Cerpa's stubbornness and unwillingness to compromise, of the MRTA's precarious position, and of their reason for being at the ambassador's home in the first place: to negotiate a release of imprisoned comrades. The story of this occupation is well-known but is often told quickly, tacked on to the end of an in-depth history of Shining Path. According to La Serna, this emphasis on Shining Path has resulted in a relative dearth of...

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