Maoist Guerrillas Ambush Armed Forces in Peru

Revolutionary Worker #1208, July 27, 2003, posted at

We received the following from A World to Win News Service:

14 July 2003. A World to Win News Service. Maoist guerrillas under pursuit turned around and ambushed an Armed Forces patrol July 10, in what the authorities are calling the most serious armed clash Peru has seen for four years.

The dead included an Army major, three Special Forces (anti-guerrilla) non-commissioned officers, a Navy marine officer and two paramilitary guides. Ten other soldiers were reported wounded. They were part of a force of 20 combined Army and Navy patrols brought in by helicopter to chase down the Maoists. Three of these patrols seemed to be hot on the heels of the rebels when their prey suddenly ambushed one of them, and then escaped. According to some reports the government troops first hit booby traps and then were surrounded by rebels firing automatic weapons. Other reports said that the soldiers, from units particularly known for their cruelty, had stopped for an evening meal. There were no reported casualties among the Maoists, who reportedly gathered up the patrol's weapons and ammunition afterward.

The confrontation took place in thick jungle highlands in the area between the Ene and Apurimac rivers in the province of Huanta, near the northeastern boundaries of the department of Ayacucho.

The Armed Forces have been combing the region since mid-June, when fighters said to be under the leadership of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) took over a work camp owned by an international company constructing an oil pipeline across the Andes mountains. The authorities said that the guerrillas seized a large quantity of explosives being delivered at that moment, as well as other supplies and equipment. Although the government said that the guerrillas took 71 technicians and workers with them, all appeared "healthy and safe" the following day.

In the last major armed clash in 1999, three Army officers and a military pilot were killed as their helicopter hovered for a landing. Since then, according to statistics recently released by the military, the Maoists have carried out few major assaults and ambushes of government soldiers--until recently. The military said that 41 actions took place in June, including a number of occasions when guerrilla units came into villages to address the population and other mass actions. The military claims that two-thirds of the actions took place in Ayacucho and surrounding jungle areas in the departments of Apurimac and Huancavelica, with other actions in the south and in the far north.

Ayacucho was the cradle of the revolution when PCP launched the People's War in 1980. Later the revolutionary war spread to almost every corner of the country as it gradually became a mass movement of millions of peasants, workers and other people. The authorities say that the current upsurge, as all the media label it, is being carried out by what they call the Proseguir (Continue) forces who have rejected the call to end the People's War issued almost a decade ago. That call has been accepted by others from PCP.

PCP Chairman Gonzalo (Abimael Guzmán) was captured in 1992 and sentenced to life in solitary confinement by a military tribunal in a brief secret trial presided by hooded judges. He is to be given a new civilian trial between September and November this year, the Lima press is now saying. He has not been seen in public since he humiliated the Peruvian government shortly after his arrest. Paraded before the international press, he turned the tables on his captors with a resounding speech calling for continuing the People's War.

The country's Truth and Reconciliation Commission reportedly sent a delegation to his prison cell in July to ask him to make a videotaped presentation. The Lima press says that he refused, principally because he has demanded the right to appear live and in open public session to give his views, according to Caretas , and also because the Commission is about to issue a report covering up the extent of the massacres of civilians committed by the military, according to La Republica . There is every reason to fear that the civilian trial will be a remake of the earlier farce, in which the acknowledged leader of much of Peru, especially its poor, was convicted of "terrorism." If the account in the Lima media is true, the Peruvian government is continuing to deny Chairman Gonzalo and other imprisoned PCP leaders the right to speak to the world for themselves.

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