Peru Embassy Takeover

Tunnels Reveal U.S.-Fujimori Plans for Military Assault

Revolutionary Worker #898, March 16, 1997

As we go to press, there are signs that the U.S.-backed Fujimori regime in Peru is planning a military assault on the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima--where an armed unit of the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) is holding 72 hostages. The hostages are mostly high-level diplomatic, government and business officials from Peru, Japan and other countries. The MRTA seized the residence on December 17 last year.

According to a report in the New York Times (March 8), Peruvian newspapers confirmed that the police have dug tunnels beneath the ambassador's residence. The Peruvian journalists reported seeing truckloads of dirt being transported from a house near the ambassador's residence to the headquarters of the Peruvian secret police. The police covered up the noise from the digging by playing loud music over loudspeakers and carrying out noisy tank maneuvers through the nearby streets. The digging had been going on since January. One tunnel has already collapsed because it was built without reinforcements.

The Times wrote: "From the quantity of dirt removed, it appeared that a network of three or four tunnels was under construction, with the aim of eventually storming the residence.... One military official was quoted as saying there were several tunnels constructed, not for the police to enter, but to pump gas into the residence during a possible assault."

These revelations about the tunnels are made even more ominous by the fact that they follow recent reports about a military plan drawn up by the Peruvian army for storming the ambassador's residence. On February 16, the Peruvian newspaper La República reported that there was a secret government "intervention plan," involving the direct participation of U.S. military forces.

This "intervention plan" was reportedly devised in early February by Peru's Army Intelligence Agency and submitted to Fujimori. The New York Times (February 17) wrote: "United States participation in the assault is crucial, according to the plan, which said that the commandos would come from the Peruvian Army's School of Commandos and the United States Southern Command, based in Panama."

In their public statements, U.S. officials are being vague about their role in planning for an assault. But from the start of the takeover, the U.S. government has demanded that the Fujimori regime refuse to meet any of the MRTA demands, which include better prison conditions and the release of MRTA political prisoners. And the New York Times report gave an indication of U.S. involvement in assault plans: "A spokesman for the United States Embassy here [in Lima] said today that at the start of the crisis, the State Department offered any resources that would be useful. `So far, Peru has not responded to that offer, and it has not been withdrawn,' the spokesman said. `We are not advocating the use of force, and we would like to see this crisis end peacefully. But if the Peruvian government were to ask us for helicopters, surveillance equipment, or Spanish-speaking commandos, we would definitely consider such a request.' "

The "intervention plan" reportedly calls for U.S. and Peruvian paratroopers to drop into the diplomatic compound from helicopters at night, under the cover of loud military music and noise from helicopters and airplanes piped through huge speakers. The paratroopers would then plant explosives around the diplomatic residence and storm the building. The operation would supposedly take only seven minutes.

According to La República, the plan states, "It cannot be assured that a military action will be clean; there could be numerous...losses." La República wrote that if the plan was carried out, it could mean as many as 90 people dead--including 75 percent of the hostages, 95 percent of the MRTA members in the compound, and about 20 U.S. and Peruvian commandos. One of the plan's goals is "neutralizing"--in other words murdering--the MRTA members.

The new reports about the police tunnels beneath the diplomatic compound adds another dimension to this "intervention plan." The New York Times pointed out in its article on the tunnels: "The prospect was also raised of a simultaneous assault by air and ground and from under the ground."

The U.S. and Peruvian governments have been claiming they want a "peaceful" end to the takeover, and there have been on-and-off negotiations between the MRTA commandos and the Peruvian regime. So the leaking of the assault plan to the press and the digging of the tunnels may be part of the Fujimori regime's pressure tactic against the MRTA in the negotiations.

In early March, Fujimori went to Cuba to talk to Fidel Castro about the possibility of the MRTA hostage-takers receiving asylum in that country. Castro reportedly agreed to take in the MRTA members for asylum, if they and "all other parties to the standoff" formally asked Cuba to do so. In response, Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, the MRTA commander leading the takeover of the ambassador's residence, said, "We prefer not to make a statement in favor or against this offer now." He reiterated that their main demand was the freeing of the MRTA prisoners.

Two days later, the MRTA called off the talks with the government, reporting that they have been hearing loud noises coming from beneath the floor of the ambassador's residence. Peruvian officials denied MRTA's accusation that tunnels were being built. But press reports have now confirmed that these noises are indeed from the digging of tunnels by the police as part of plans for a possible military assault.

After the revelation about the tunnels, Fujimori continued to claim publicly that he was committed to resolve the standoff in a "peaceful" way--but he also warned that this approach would last only as long as the MRTA "fully respected the life and health of the hostages."

Hypocrisy of Fujimori's "Respect for Life"

It is possible that there could be further negotiations between the Fujimori regime and the MRTA. But Fujimori might also use the justification of "protecting the lives of the hostages" to order a military assault--which would be aimed at killing most or all of the MRTA members in the compound and would result in the certain deaths of many of the hostages as well.

It is despicable hypocrisy for Fujimori and the reactionary rulers to talk about "respect for life and health." For 16 years the Peruvian government, with U.S. backing, has been carrying out mass murder, torturing political prisoners, "disappearing" thousands of activists and ordinary people, and committing many other atrocities. Their main target has been the People's War led by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP). In 1983-84 alone, the Peruvian military killed 8,700 people, mainly poor peasants, in an effort to crush this just struggle which has drawn the active participation and support of millions of oppressed in Peru.

This revolution is aimed at overthrowing a system which brings nothing but daily suffering and horror for the masses of Peruvian people--peasant farmers deprived of land and the means of survival, huge shantytowns where millions of urban poor are crowded together, death squads who target opponents of the government. The PCP is carrying out the Maoist strategy of protracted people's war--building revolutionary base areas in the countryside and surrounding the center of reactionary power in the cities, with the goal of seizing nationwide political power and liberating Peru from the grip of imperialist dominators, local bourgeois exploiters and big landowners. The revolution is guided by the communist ideology of Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, and is waged as part of the worldwide proletarian revolution.

(The MRTA has a different outlook and strategy. It does not carry out the Maoist line of waging people's war, building base areas in the countryside and aiming at a complete break with the system of imperialism and domestic reaction. They have seen armed actions as a tactic in pressuring and negotiating with various ruling class parties and forces.)

The U.S. Hand in Peru

News of the "intervention plan" and the U.S. role in it comes on the heels of the February 3 announcement by the Clinton administration that the Pentagon is planning major new military moves in eastern Peru. The U.S. intends to send tens of millions of dollars in additional U.S. funds and equipment, as well as more U.S. troops, to Peru. The preliminary plans call for regular visits to the Peruvian jungle by Navy Seal and Green Beret teams. They also include supplying the Peruvian military with more than 100 river patrol boats equipped with M-60 machine guns and satellite-linked tracking and communications gear. This new military program is being pushed under the cover of the "war on drugs." (See RW #895 for more on this plan.)

This new military aid and the U.S. role in the assault plan against the MRTA show how deeply the U.S. imperialists are involved in propping up the brutal rulers of Peru.

An armed assault to retake the ambassador's residence in Lima would be another bloody crime committed by the U.S.-backed Peruvian state against the interests of the masses of people in Peru. Any such action should be actively opposed by everyone with a sense of justice and sympathy for the oppressed people around the world.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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