Revolutionary Worker #893, February 9, 1997
While there has been little news in the mass media lately about the revolutionary war in Peru's countryside led by the PCP, the fact is that the People's War is continuing and has caused serious concerns for the reactionary rulers of Peru and the U.S. imperialists behind them. Only a few months ago, more glimpses of the continuing People's War were visible through the fog they spread in an attempt to cover up the reality in Peru.
Earlier in the second half of 1996, the bourgeois press in both the U.S. and Peru ran a number of articles worrying about the continuing Maoist People's War led by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP, often called the Shining Path or Sendero Luminoso in the press). The New York Times wrote on August 8 of "a recent string of attacks that have raised fears the Shining Path insurgency is making a comeback." The Times pointed in particular to the situation in the Upper Huallaga Valley jungle region in north-central Peru: "The military has yet to bring order to hundreds of small villages and settlements in the Huallaga.... It is no easy task. The region's terrain is so rugged that Shining Path rebels easily elude military offensives."
The Peruvian magazine Caretas (8/8/96) also expressed concern about the situation in the Huallaga region: "In all of last year Sendero killed about 50 soldiers in the Huallaga Valley. In the first six months of this year in the same region, they've killed as many in numerous ambushes... Once again they are charging taxes along the highways... Is Sendero in its `death throes'? We all wish that was true, but the truth seems to be otherwise." Several weeks later, Caretas wrote about revolutionary activity in the south-central mountain region of Ayacucho (9/25/96): "The interception of vehicles carried out by Sendero is returning to be routine in some regions of Ayacucho."
The Peruvian newspaper La República expressed fears about PCP activity in yet another region when it wrote (8/25/96): "The Senderistas control the entire Ene River, which connects the department of Junín with the Apurímac River Valley." (A department is roughly equivalent to a state in the U.S.) According to La República, the Armed Forces patrols have stopped leaving their fortified bases in this area for fear of clashes with the Maoist forces.
One PCP action seems to have especially shaken the Peruvian reactionaries and their U.S. backers: the reported August 2 takeover of the town of Aucayacú in Huanuco department in the Huallaga Valley. According to various press accounts, about 200 PCP fighters took part in the operation which involved a pincers movement: two groups of guerrillas arrived on trucks along two separate roads, and a third arrived by boat on the Huallaga River. They overwhelmed the local police and took over the town for five hours, making speeches and holding discussions with the people. Then they dispersed into the jungle before the government troops could arrive in force the next day.
What follows are some reports of other PCP actions in the last half of 1996, gathered from the bourgeois media in Peru and elsewhere. There is no direct word from the PCP at this point about these actions. It should be remembered that the media and the U.S. and Peruvian governments have a track record of censorship, distortion and lies about the PCP and the People's War. The New York Times recently noted that Peru's Fujimori regime had suppressed news of armed actions by the PCP and other forces "in an attempt to portray Peru to the international community as safe" from armed anti-government groups.
So none of the particular reports here can be considered confirmed. And they do not give a direct picture of the state of people's power in the Peruvian counryside--the base areas led by the PCP. But a basic picture does emerge from the news reports that the PCP is continuing to lead the People's War despite heavy obstacles. They are confronting a vicious counter-revolutionary war being carried out by the Peruvian government, with the help of U.S. aid and "advisors." And the Central Committee of the PCP is waging a crucial two line struggle against a right opportunist line, arising from within the ranks of the party, which has called for bringing the People's War to an end through a peace accord.
The August 2 takeover of Aucayacú gave an indication of the concerns of the regime about the ability of the PCP to mount rather strong operations in this region. Other reports since then continue on this theme. A few weeks later, on August 21, a group of 100 PCP fighters reportedly took over the town of Las Delicias and shut down the highway for three hours. On November 2, 60 PCP fighters took over the town of Supte San Jorge near Tingo María. According to El Sol, the Maoists took control of the center for local rondas (paramilitary squads organized by the Armed Forces) and confiscated weapons. These actions are part of a series of temporary seizures of towns and villages in the Huallaga area that have been reported over the past several months.
The Fujimori regime has made extensive efforts against the People's War in this region, using its elite counter-insurgency troops. The latest government offensive in Huallaga reportedly took place in October, but they have not been successful in stopping the PCP. The October 25 issue of El Sol reported that more than 30 village mayors and other authorities in one province quit over the last four months because the PCP had demanded they resign.
Reports of temporary takeovers of towns and villages have continued. El Sol reported one such action on December 10: A column of some 40 fighters took over a village about a mile from Aguaytía. They gathered the people for a meeting and meted out justice to local reactionaries. Another form of armed action is the blocking of roads. Peruvian newspapers reported that on December 28, 20 PCP fighters blocked the road between Tingo María and Aucayacú for two hours, even though the police outpost was only a few miles away.
The government military is still much larger and more heavily armed with modern weapons and equipment than the PCP's People's Liberation Army (PLA). But when the government forces move on the few roads through the Huallaga forests, they become vulnerable to ambushes by the revolutionary fighters, who have the advantage of mobility and the support of the masses.
There have been many reports over the past several months of government troops clashing with the Maoist guerrillas--in Upper Huallaga and other regions around the country. The details and the actual extent of such encounters is hard to gauge from the censored reports in the reactionary press.
It was in the central Andes highlands--the department of Ayacucho, along with the neighboring departments of Huancavelica and Apurímac--where the first revolutionary base areas of the People's War arose. The government has concentrated large military forces in this region and made intense efforts to organize rondero paramilitary squads. In the first few months of last year, there was reportedly a huge government operation involving 3,000 soldiers, which combed through a large zone in Ayacucho in pursuit of the revolutionaries. Another large offensive was reported in October.
The PLA has carried out temporary takeovers of towns and villages here as well. La República reported on one such incident: On the morning of September 25 a PCP column entered the district of San Jose in the upper region of Huanta province in northern Ayacucho. They gathered the villagers for a meeting and painted graffiti about the People's War. The military responded with helicopter patrols. Several papers reported on an August 30 takeover of the town of San Miguel in the province of La Mar.
Caretas wrote of a September 18 PCP action on a road in Ayacucho. The fighters intercepted vehicles and painted slogans about the People's War on them. Voicing concern about the mass support for the PCP that this action seemed to reveal, Caretas complained: "The action was not reported to the police... This is not the first time that these things have not been reported... This attitude stifles military investigation."
Aside from the Upper Huallaga and the central highlands, PCP actions have been reported in various other parts of the country. Reuters news agency reported in July 1996 that the PCP is active in 15 of Peru's 24 departments.
From September to October, there were reports of a series of clashes in the Ene River region, near Satipo in the department of Junín. The PCP has recruited fighters and organized People's Committees among the oppressed Asháninka people who live in this region. The Armed Forces, for their part, have tried to organize rondas among the Asháninkas. In the bourgeois press, the Asháninka Maoists are called "terrorists," while those in the rondas are referred to as Asháninkas.
La República reported on August 25 that the army was planning to carry out a "vast military operation in the Ene Valley and cleanse the area of subversive columns." But the paper also quoted one member of the rondas who said, "The subversives are all over the Ene River Valley, and it is going to be difficult, very difficult to get them out of there."
While the main arena of the People's War in Peru is the countryside, there have also been actions in Lima--the capital city and the center of the reactionary state power. In late July there was a series of attacks in Lima--including on a central police station responsible for protecting the Congress and on the home of the general responsible for Huallaga. The head of the DINCOTE, Peru's "antiterrorist" police, was forced to resign soon after.
In response to the continuing People's War, the Fujimori regime has been continually renewing the "state of emergency" in a quarter to a third of the country. Under the state of emergency, the Armed Forces are granted full control over all affairs. On December 5, Fujimori extended the state of emergency in nine departments--from the south-central highlands of Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Cusco, and Apurímac to the central mountain region of Pasco and Junín, to the northeastern jungle areas of Huanuco, San Martín and Loreto. PCP actions have been reported in all these regions during the past few months.