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People's War in Peru

By Paul Wright

In 1980 the Communist Party of Peru (PCP, also known in the media as Sendero Luminoso or Shining Path) launched a popular war of liberation in Peru. The PCP is Maoist in orientation and receives no outside support from any country. In 12 years of guerrilla war, they have carried out over 120,000 armed actions and now control roughly one third of Peru's territory. The Peruvian government has responded to this situation with increasing repression and brutality. Peru leads the world in the number of "disappeared" (people taken by the security forces and never seen or heard from again), and in the number of political murders and kidnappings. The military rules some 60% of the country under harsh "state of siege" laws that have suspended press freedom, the right to counsel, court hearings, the closing of schools and universities, and so on.

Peru is experiencing an extreme economic crisis as a direct result of 500 years of capitalist "development" that has left the vast majority of the people living in misery and poverty, while a small minority is very wealthy. The government is unable and unwilling to provide basic services such as health care, schooling, electricity, and drinkable water to the majority of its citizens. Peru has a heavily militarized civilian government in which military officers control most of the vital ministries and have almost total control of government spending. The current president, Alberto Fujimori, has launched an economic shock policy so that he can get more loans from international lending agencies; money he needs to prop up the growing war against the PCP. For the majority of Peruvians, the result of these policies is one of increasing misery.

The U.S. has reacted to the situation in Peru with increased military aid and support to the Peruvian government, doing this under the guise of the "war on drugs." One of the PCP's operating areas is the Upper Hualaga valley, which is estimated to supply some two-thirds of the world's coca crop, from which cocaine in made. The Peruvian military has a long history of corruption and involvement with drug smugglers. They make no secret of the fact that their objective is one of destroying the PCP. They are getting more help from the U.S. in this regard. There are increasing numbers of American "advisors" in Peru, and Bush recently sent an additional 24 million dollars of military aid there. The increasing involvement of the U.S. could well be a prelude to full scale military intervention. The PCP leadership has predicted that either before or shortly after they seize state power in Peru they will have to confront the United States militarily. In December of 1991 the PCP announced that its units had shot down a U.S. helicopter gunship, killing all three Americans aboard and a Peruvian soldier, so perhaps the confrontation has already started.

The mainstream media in the U.S. has largely ignored this important struggle, and when it does report on it, does so only to slander the PCP by saying they are drug traffickers, brutal, etc. With the capitalist media trumpeting the downfall of socialism by pointing to unfolding events in Eastern Europe and the Soviet Union, it is important for progressives to let people know that the struggle for socialism and communism continues. The media points to Eastern Europe and says conditions there is proof of the failure of socialism, but they do not point to the slums of Lima, the ghettos of Los Angeles and New York, and the devastation of the Native American peoples as being symptoms of the failure of capitalism. After 500 years of capitalism the vast majority of Latin Americans have not regained the standard of living (adequate food, shelter, and work) that they had under the Incas and pre-Columbus social systems.

Some of you may ask what does the PCP and their war of liberation in Peru have to do with prisoners? First, and most importantly, because it is a class struggle against a vicious system of exploitation of the many by the few, the same as the one we have here in the U.S., and because it is the duty of all who seek a better alternative to support those who are actually fighting to implement it. Second, because the U.S. government is a major supporter of the Peruvian regime, and is quite likely expand its current covert involvement in Peru to one of open intervention. We as concerned Americans need to expose this military intervention and work to put a halt to it. And third, since the PCP launched the war it has suffered many casualties and many of its members have been captured. Once captured the PCP Prisoners Of War have continued educating themselves and maintaining a coherent organization within prison, calling it the "shining trench of combat." In 1886 the Peruvian government used helicopter gunships, marines, and army troops to murder over 300 POWs. Torture and brutal treatment of the POWs is the norm. Below is a communiqué I recently received from the PCP and have translated for our readers, it is unedited. I encourage readers to learn more about events in Peru and what you can do to help support this struggle. Attached are some addresses you can write to for more information on Peru. PLN will report on events affecting the PCP's POWs as we receive news of them.

For more information write to: Comite Sol Peru, BP 24, 94371 Sucy en Brie Cedex, France, they have a wide variety of PCP documents and materials, including calendars, posters, and so on, in English, French, Spanish, etc., and they publish the unofficial PCP journal EI Diario in French. Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru, P.O. Box 1246, Berkeley, CA 94701, they publish the PCP journal El Diario in English and also have a variety of other PCP materials in English. MIM Distributors, P.O. Box 3576, Ann Arbor, MI 48106, has a Peru study pack available for $12.00, which gives an in depth look at events in Peru, the PCP, and its activities. El Diario International, BP 1668, 1000 Brussels, Belgium (when writing do not put the name on the address, just the box number, city, etc.) is the international edition of EI Diario published in Spanish by exiled Peruvian journalist Luis Arce Borja. It carries news on events within Peru, and the PCP and its activities.

Here is the "Shining Path's" communiqué:

Fujimori Prepares Genocide In Canto Grande; Prisoners Of War In Danger Of Death

Canto Grande, December 17, 1991: Before dawn, at 4 am, 500 members of the national police with painted faces, accompanied by over 20 fierce attack dogs and armed with assault rifles and machine guns, violently tried to enter Pavilion I-A (women prisoners) and 4-B (male prisoners). Both pavilions are grim concentration camps where close to 1,000 prisoners are housed, male and female, who are accused of belonging to the Maoist guerilla army.

Faced with imminent danger and the threat of the bloodthirsty National Police, the prisoners organized a brave defense of their lives. Under the slogan "resist and combat" they faced the uniformed mob in a hard and unequal battle using all items at hand (some sticks and kitchen utensils), hot oil, lye, muriatic acid, and with other improvised defensive weapons they resisted for 10 hours. Despite the prisoners' material disadvantage the police forces received heavy blows. They were unable to get past the barriers and barricades that blocked entrance to the pavilions. At 2:00 in the afternoon the 500 policemen had asked for support from the army, and had backed off their on their intention of entering the prison. They had no other choice but to suspend their genocidal assault when, after the soldiers had taken up positions to "attack with everything" they received a "superior order" instructing them to "leave the attack for later."

During the confrontation the police contingents fired blindly. They used high caliber machine guns, threw vomit bombs and even fragmentation grenades. Their own official spokesman said that more than 30 prisoners had suffered bullet wounds and were severely wounded, but that military and civilian authorities refused to provide them with the necessary medical assistance.

Fujimori, within a few months of taking office, put into practice a sinister plan to annihilate the prisoners of war housed in the Canto Grande (Lima) prison. The pretext is the same used by the Aprista regime of Alan Garcia Pere to commit the genocide of June 19, 1986, where 300 prisoners were murdered.

The government's criminal plan has the support, and is seconded by, the right-wing press and the media directed by the official left (Izquierda Unida) through publications such as Expreso, El Comercio, Ultima Hora, La Republica (this is a daily linked to the United Left), Caretas, Oiga, Si and other means of communication through which the most absurd and unlikely hoaxes are woven against the prisoners. The dirty work by the mercenary press prepares the ground for the bloody act.

"The Senderista subversives are using the prisons to develop their indoctrination work, plan their terrorist actions, maintaining contact with the outside through visits. "

"The terrorists have taken over Canto Grande.... They are armed with rifles and dynamite.... What is the government waiting for to stop this...." These official mouthpieces desperately scream.

On June 15 of last year, army troops and police tried to enter Canto Grande to kill the prisoners. The decisive resistance by the exemplary prisoners aborted the genocidal plan.

On July 24, after persistence in their intent for a massive killing, the prisoners of war in an extensive and detailed document denounced Fujimori before the courts and public opinion as being the principle responsible for, and personally directing, the preparations of the actions for the genocide.

This past November, the prisoners of war repeated their denunciation. In this document they indicate that the army and the police had received the order from the president to commit the massacre at the Canto Grande prison.

[Editor's Note: The most recent issue of World Perspectives states that according to Inter press Service on January 10, 1992, United Left senator Javier Diez Canseco accused the Ministry of the Interior of planning to massacre the PCP guerrillas held in Canto Grande. The accusation came after PCP prisoners took over all of the prison's wards, administration building, hospital, and medical stores to protest poor hygienic conditions, food shortages, and lack of medical care. They also objected to a government order to transfer them to the Fronton Island penal colony a few miles off the port of Callao.]

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