Peru's Embassy Massacre

Revolutionary Worker #905, May 4, 1997

On April 22, 150 heavily armed Peruvian military troops carried out a commando raid to end the four-month takeover of the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). The next day, the U.S.-backed Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori walked through the residence and, like a modern-day conquistador, gloated over the bodies of the MRTA militants as TV cameras recorded the gruesome ritual.

All 14 MRTA members involved in the takeover were killed in the assault. TV footage showed that some of their bodies had been mutilated and even dismembered by the soldiers. There were reports that some MRTA members were executed after they surrendered. The scene brought to mind the brutal execution 200 years ago of the Indian rebel Tupac Amaru. The Spanish colonizers cut out Tupac Amaru's tongue and tore apart his body by tying his arms and legs to four horses which were sent galloping in different directions.

In a cold-hearted move, the Peruvian government refused to release the bodies of the massacred MRTA rebels to their relatives. The bodies were buried in unmarked graves to prevent closer examination.

Asked by journalists how the troops had been able to carry out the assault, Fujimori claimed it was "Peruvian know-how." The Peruvian rulers are indeed experts in torture, death squads, inhumane prisons and other vicious methods of repression.

But Fujimori is a front man for a much more powerful class of oppressors and exploiters--the U.S. imperialists. And the bloody handprints of the U.S. are all over the massacre of the MRTA militants in Lima.

A Cynical Game

The MRTA takeover of the Japanese ambassador's home began on December 17, when they took hostage hundreds of high-level diplomats, government and military officials and business executives who were attending a party. Over the following weeks, the MRTA released all but 72 people.

For years, Fujimori has been declaring that the Peruvian government was about to totally crush all armed opposition. But the Maoist people's war led by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP--usually called the Shining Path in the media), is continuing, and Fujimori has had to keep large areas of the country under emergency rule. And the MRTA takeover in Lima put an international spotlight on the widespread torture and brutality in Peru's prisons (see accompanying article).

The takeover was a serious embarrassment for the Fujimori regime. And Fujimori, along with his U.S. backers, refused to even acknowledge any of the demands by the MRTA for better prison conditions or freeing political prisoners.

At the same time, Fujimori pretended to negotiate and search for a "peaceful solution." He appointed a team to hold talks with the MRTA--including the Canadian ambassador who was one of the hostages let go by the MRTA, an archbishop, and a Red Cross official. Fujimori even talked with Fidel Castro, raising media speculation that a deal was being worked out to let the MRTA militants go to Cuba as political exiles.

But all this was a cynical game. According to the New York Times, the Canadian ambassador himself admitted that Fujimori's negotiating team "had served as little more than a cover to give [Fujimori] time to put in place the physical and political elements of a raid."

Secret "Intervention Plan"

The U.S. government claims that it had no direct participation in the April 22 assault. But an ex-FBI agent named Bob Taubert told CNN News on April 23 that the Peruvian security forces which carried out the raid were trained on U.S. soil last December for precisely this type of operation. There were also some reports that Israel had helped the Peruvian military in preparing for the raid.

Taubert said that the security forces were in communication with one of the hostages --a former military officer who had a concealed two-way radio. There have been various other reports that sophisticated electronic devices were planted in the ambassador's residence, allowing the military to listen in on movements inside the building and to communicate with some of the captives.

The CIA had no comment when asked if it had given intelligence assistance to the Peruvian military in preparation for the raid. But the CIA and other U.S. intelligence agencies are deeply involved in the counterinsurgency operations of the Peruvian military. The CIA had a direct hand in the massive search by the Peruvian secret police that led to the 1992 capture of PCP Chairman Gonzalo. U.S. radar planes have provided data for detailed maps of the remote countryside, which are used by Peruvian troops in the war against the PCP guerrillas.

In February, the Peruvian newspaper La República reported the existence of a secret government "intervention plan," involving the direct participation of U.S. military forces. The plan was reportedly devised 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."

Fujimori is justifying the commando raid by saying that the MRTA had stalled the negotiations and that he was concerned about the health of the hostages. The U.S. government also tried to put the blame on the MRTA for their own deaths, claiming that they were "responsible for what happened." Fujimori is being praised by his imperialist sponsors for a "brilliant" rescue plan that resulted in only one of the hostages dying.

But it is clear that Fujimori and his backers were perfectly willing to sacrifice the lives of the hostages in order to bring an end to the embassy crisis--and that they planned from the start to kill most or all of the MRTA guerrillas. According to the February article in La República, the intervention plan stated, "It cannot be assured that a military action will be clean; there could be numerous...losses." La República wrote that the plan could lead to as many as 75 percent of the hostages being killed. And the newspaper also reported that one of the plan's goals was "neutralizing"--in other words murdering--the MRTA members.

The MRTA called off the talks with the government in March when they reported hearing loud noises coming from beneath the floor of the ambassador's residence. Peruvian newspapers confirmed the MRTA suspicions, reporting that the police were digging tunnels underneath the building. The police tried to cover up the noise from the digging by playing loud music over loudspeakers and carrying out noisy tank maneuvers through the nearby streets. Clearly, it was Fujimori's murderous plans for a military assault, not MRTA's "unwillingness to negotiate," that led to the breakdown of talks.

As it turned out, the tunnels seem to have played a key role in the April 22 assault. According to news reports, several explosives were set off in the tunnels directly underneath the ambassador's residence, instantly killing several MRTA members and creating an opportunity for the commandos to rush the building.

The Realities of Peru under U.S.-Backed Fujimori

The bourgeois media reports that the commando assault has boosted Fujimori's "popularity" among the "Peruvian people." But a closer look shows a revealing truth. According to the PBS Lehrer News Hour, a poll taken in Lima after the storming of the ambassador's residence showed that public opinion definitely divided along class lines. The upper classes were very happy with Fujimori, but working class people and the poor were saddened by the killing of the MRTA rebels.

For the masses of people in Peru, the Fujimori regime has meant nothing but increased hunger, disease and brutality. The number of Peruvians living in poverty has doubled since Fujimori became president in 1990. Every year 36,000 children die before their fifth birthday due to starvation or preventable disease such as cholera.

Meanwhile, the U.S., Japan and other imperialist powers have taken advantage of Fujimori's economic "liberalization" policies to steal more of Peru's resources and more intensely exploit the people. Foreign corporations, like Newport Mining from the U.S., are making hundreds of millions of dollars from mining gold and other minerals--while polluting Peru's rivers and land with poison. Only a small elite in Peru benefit from this imperialist penetration--the kind of people who were mingling with foreign diplomats and business executives at the Japanese ambassador's home when the MRTA broke up the party.

Those who dare to resist this vicious and oppressive system come face-to-face with Peru's U.S.-backed military, police and death squads. Over 4,000 Peruvians were "disappeared" by the armed forces and death squads between 1983 and 1992. Many thousands have been charged with "terrorism" and railroaded to long prison terms by secret military tribunals. The police detained over half a million people last year--nearly 2 percent of the population.

The main target of the regime's fascist repression has been the People's War led by the PCP. This revolution has mobilized millions of Peruvian people--peasant farmers deprived of land and the means of livelihood, urban poor living in huge shantytowns, students and intellectuals sick of how the Peruvian rulers have sold out the country to the big powers. 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 MRTA has a different strategy from the road of Maoist protracted people's war. They have seen armed actions as a tactic in pressuring and negotiating with various ruling class parties and forces.)

In February, as the embassy takeover continued in Lima, the U.S. moved to step up its backing of the Peruvian regime's counterrevolutionary war. The Clinton administration announced major new military moves in eastern Peru--in areas where PCP guerrillas have been active. The U.S. plans include regular visits to the Peruvian jungle by Navy Seal and Green Beret teams and supplying the Peruvian military with more than 100 river patrol boats and satellite-linked tracking and communications gear.

The killing of the 14 MRTA members was a premeditated massacre--another bloody crime committed by the U.S.-backed Peruvian state against the people of Peru. Now, this massacre is being used in a sick attempt to bolster Fujimori's image--so that this butcher can carry out more criminal activity on behalf of the ruling elite in Peru and the imperialist powers.

Such an outrage cannot be allowed. All those with a sense of justice must condemn and expose the Lima embassy massacre. And this latest crime by Fujimori must become a spur for people in the U.S. and around the world to step up support for the just struggle of the oppressed in Peru against the reactionary regime and for liberation from imperialist domination.

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