Fall/Winter 1997-1998

Report on People's War in Peru

Revolutionary Worker #956, May 3, 1998

We received the following article on news about the People's War in Peru from the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP):

News reports over the past seven months show that the People's War in Peru is being carried forward in important parts of the countryside as well as in the cities. Various press reports, in Peru and elsewhere, describe how the Maoist revolution--led by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP)--is continuing to organize peasants, urban poor and others to join and support the People's War. This is happening in the face of the U.S.-backed Fujimori regime's vicious counter-revolutionary tactics, such as the extension of "emergency rule" and the formation of a special police unit to target PCP leaders.

Even though mainstream press articles are often based on Peruvian military and police reports that try to paint a favorable picture for the government, they often cannot hide aspects of the real situation. For example, numerous articles over the past six months report continuing clashes between the PCP's People's Liberation Army and the government's military and paramilitary forces. Regions where the most intense combat has been reported are the Huallaga River Valley (in what Peruvians call the northern "eyebrow of the jungle"); the Central Mountains, including the departments of Ayacucho, Huancavelica and Apurímac; and the Satipo and Ene River Valley of Junin department where large numbers of Asháninka Indians have joined the People's War. (A "department" is like a state in the U.S.)

These three regions are places where the PCP (usually called the Shining Path or Sendero Luminoso in the press) has been known to have organized revolutionary base areas--communities where peasants, workers, and their allies wield a new people's political power won through the People's War.

Recent Armed Actions
in the Countryside

One thing of note in these news stories over the past several months is the fact that Peruvian counter-insurgency "experts" and others are voicing heightened concerns about what they call the "resurgence" of the People's War. As the latest issue of the revolutionary internationalist magazine A World to Win (1998/23) points out, "The Right Opportunist Line that arose within the PCP with the call for peace accords claimed that the People's War could not continue, first because of Chairman Gonzalo's capture, and second because Fujimori had succeeded in obtaining political and economic stability. As it turns out, much of the reactionary press itself does not share that opinion." PCP Chairman Gonzalo was captured in 1992 by the Peruvian secret police, with direct help from U.S. intelligence agencies.

A Reuters wire service article dated October 12, 1997 said, "Shining Path Returns." The article reported that a column of 100 Maoist guerrillas temporarily took over the city of San Miguel, the capital of La Mar province in the Department of Ayacucho. According to Reuters, "The bold attack was one in a series of operations nationwide that have shocked the country.... It is compelling evidence that Shining Path...has reincorporated Ayacucho into a triangular power base after years of patient restructuring. The group now coordinates fighting units in Lima, the Central Highlands and the jungle of Ayacucho, and the drug-growing valley of Huallaga, according to analysts and security forces."

The article also described how a 50-man Peruvian Army unit went into the same town a week later, summoned the inhabitants and threatened them with "drastic measures." According to Reuters, Army Commander Luis Rojas "pounded his fist on a makeshift lectern" and said, "There are many people here who participated in this event [the takeover by the guerrillas], there are many collaborators, you are going to tell us who they are."

Most Lima dailies reported on October 18 that three police officials were killed and another wounded in an ambush by some 30 combatants of the People's War on the road between Tingo María and Pucallpa in the Huallaga River Valley.

An October 23 article in the Peruvian daily Expreso said that four soldiers were wounded in a clash with a column of the Maoist guerrillas in the Ayacucho jungle. According to the report, the government forces had been dispatched from the Pichari "anti-subversive military base." The same article reported that in another part of the country, a group of 15 revolutionary fighters had entered the town of Cochas in the Department of Ancash along the coast north of Lima.

The French-owned ELF oil company announced in October that it was suspending operations in the Ene River area until the government could give fuller guarantees of protection against PCP activities. In August a column of PCP guerrillas reportedly occupied an ELF oil exploration site. According to Expreso (August 18), the revolutionaries "lectured" the workers on the goals of the People's War and carried away supplies and radio equipment.

The Mexican news agency Notimex reported on November 17 that masked guerrillas "presumed to be Shining Path rebels" occupied a radio station in the city of Huancayo in Junin. The radio station later said that the group of fighters, led by a woman, played cassettes with "subversive slogans supporting the armed struggle" and then left.

On November 23 most Lima dailies reported that eight government soldiers and six guerrilla fighters were killed when a column of PCP-led fighters took over the town of Aucayacu in the Department of Huánuco, just south of the Huallaga River Valley.

According to a January 30, 1998 article in the Peruvian newspaper La Republica, PCP guerrilla fighters entered the city of Tingo María and killed a retired Army officer who had been a member of "Counter-Subversive Battalion No. 313."

According to an official communique from the "Political-Military Command of Ayacucho" (which represents the government under "emergency rule"), there was a clash between Army troops and PCP fighters in the region of Vizcatan, in the department of Ayacucho, in the early morning of March 12 (El Comercio, March 14, 1998): The government communique claimed that 10 guerrilla fighters were killed, while one government soldier was killed and six injured. But the report also said that "an Army helicopter was not able to land and rescue the [government's] injured because of the inhospitable and difficult access" and because the revolutionary forces "were firing continuously on the military aircraft."

On April 22, La República reported that a column of about 40 PCP fighters carried out two temporary takeovers of towns near Tingo María in the Huallaga River Valley within a week. The guerrillas called people to meetings and painted slogans.

According to calculations by Carlos Tapia (known as one of the leading bourgeois "experts" on the People's War in Peru) there were some 500 armed actions by the PCP in the second half of 1997. The majority of these actions were in the department of Ayacucho, resulting in "150 deaths" for government forces. Tapia said the figures "demonstrate that the group is clearly in a process of reactivation." (Agence France Press, January 2, 1998)

Armed Actions in Lima

Armed actions attributed by the press to the PCP have also been reported in Lima, the capital city. Last year, two days before the May 17 anniversary of the launching of the People's War, the police station in the poor neighborhood of Ate-Vitarte came under attack. According to various news reports there was a firefight, and then a car bomb exploded in front of the station and destroyed it. Leaflets headlined "Long Live the 17th Anniversary of the People's War!" and "Long Live the Street Vendors' Struggle!" were left behind.

On November 5, two offices of the Peru Telephone Company (owned by a Spanish transnational corporation) were simultaneously attacked with explosives during the nighttime hours. And on December 28 a car bomb reportedly exploded near the offices of the privately owned electrical company Luz del Sur (El Comercio, 12/29/97).

The Government Counterinsurgency

The Fujimori regime is making renewed efforts to organize Army-led paramilitary forces called rondas--especially in parts of Ayacucho department and in the Satipo and Ene River Valley. The ronderos (as the members of these squads are called) are usually led and organized directly by the Peruvian military. In cases where the ronda leaders are said to be "civilians," they are often retired military and police or local pro-government lackeys. Sometimes the government refers to these rondas as "self-defense committees." What they are defending is the government and their whole repressive apparatus.

El Comercio reported on November 12 that the rondas in the jungle province of Satipo are using Asháninka Indians as guides and frontline cannon fodder against other Asháninkas who are organized and fighting on the side of the People's War.

The same newspaper reported on November 20 that "in the face of a resurgence" of the People's War, "some 2,500 ronderos of Ayacucho received an allotment of arms and cases of munitions from the high military command." A house was built to house and assist members of these rondas at the Peruvian military base in the city of Ayacucho. According to the report "the weapons were blessed by Monseñor Juan Luis Cipriani, Archbishop of Ayacucho."

Another aspect of the government's counter-insurgency, reported on November 27, was the extension of the "state of emergency" in nine regions of the country--including Lima, Callao, Ayacucho, Huancavelica, Cusco (in the South), Junin (where the Satipo River Valley is located), Pasco (the principal mining region), Huánuco, and San Mart[n and Loreto in the Northeast Amazonian region.

Meanwhile, the Fujimori regime created a new special police unit to capture PCP leaders. La República (Nov. 7) reported: "In an effort to destroy the nucleus of Sendero leadership, which has maintained the armed struggle five years after the capture of Abimael Guzmán, the government has authorized the formation of a special command of the anti-terrorist police, similar to the one that captured `Presidente Gonzalo'... The objective is to stop Oscar Ramírez Durand, `Comrade Feliciano'--the man that intelligence services say has been able to reorganize Sendero... The Army in particular has failed numerous times in operations to capture Feliciano in the deep forest of the Apúrimac Valley, in the heights of Razhuillca, and in the mountains of the Ene River Valley."

In September, the Fujimori regime tried to clean up its image by announcing that the system of "faceless" judges will be eliminated. Under this system, people accused of "terrorism" were railroaded to long prison terms by military judges wearing hoods to hide their identity. According to La Republica (10/2/97), the President of the Lima Superior Court noted that "it is positive for the country's image abroad that this system be ended."

However, civilians accused of "treason" will still be tried by non-hooded military judges. And others will still be tried in civilian courts by non-hooded judges for "apology for terrorism"--defined as saying or doing anything that can be construed as sympathetic towards the People's War.

And the end of trials by hooded judges will not change the status of the over 4,000 who are already imprisoned after being convicted by these outrageous secret tribunals. El Comercio reported on September 25 that the National Police arrested nine people and accused them of belonging to the "People's Intellectual Movement of the Huancavelica zone." These teachers were accused of trying to win over students to solidarity with the People's War. Among them was the Secretary General of the Huancavelica section of the national teachers union (SUTEP).

The hooded judges sent people to jail right up to the official October 30 suspension date. El Comercio reported on October 8 that "a Special Military Tribunal convicted six people" for "treason to the fatherland" while another received a life sentence. The president of the Women's Federation of the shantytown of Villa El Salvador (on the outskirts of Lima) was accused of "terrorism" for allegedly helping the PCP organize among people (La Republica Oct. 25).

Recently, the U.S. made a significant escalation in its support for the Fujimori regime. According to the April 21 Washington Post, 30 "specialized U.S. military instructors" were sent to Peru in March--to supplement a force of 35 U.S. troops already stationed on a permanent basis at an important U.S. radar base there. According to the Post, the 30 troops are made up of 15 Navy SEALS, nine Army Special Forces, four Marines and two Coast Guard officers. The official story is that they will train Peruvian troops in "drug interdiction." But the "war on drugs" has long been a cover for U.S. counter-insurgency in Latin America, especially in Peru. The U.S. "trainers" will instruct and deploy Peruvian forces in "riverine operations" in the Huallaga River Valley and the Satipo/Ene River Valley--areas of fierce contention between the PCP and the Fujimori regime.

Overcoming the
"Bend in the Road"

Reviewing the news about the People's War in Peru brings to mind the September 1995 document from the Central Committee of the PCP, Overcome the Bend in the Road, Developing the People's War. The document analyzes how the PCP has persevered in the People's War in order to overcome great difficulties since the capture of Chairman Gonzalo in 1992. The document quotes from Mao Tsetung:

"The existence of serious weaknesses in the War of Resistance may lead to many setbacks, retreats, internal splits, betrayals, temporary and partial compromises and other such reverses. Therefore it should be realized that the war will be an arduous and protracted war. But we are confident that, through the efforts of our party and the whole people, the resistance already started will sweep aside all obstacles and continue to advance and develop." (Selected Works of Chairman Mao, Vol. II, p.121)

In their September 1995 document the PCP Central Committee expressed the same kind of confidence that the "bend in the road" in the Peruvian revolution will be overcome through persevering in protracted people's war. The document declared:

"It is important that we recognize and give a heartfelt salute to the extraordinary Heroism and Great Firmness on the part of the Base Areas in withstanding suffering and sacrifice. These masses are an example to all the Peruvian people and they deserve our great respect and admiration: together with the People's Liberation Army and the Communist Party of Peru, they struggle shoulder to shoulder to maintain the New Power, whatever the cost; developing a new economy, new politics, new culture.

"Also we salute the heroic militants and combatants of the Communist Party of Peru and the People's Liberation Army, who by putting politics in command, being always guided by Marxism-Leninism-Maoism, Gonzalo Thought, have won victory after victory, overcoming all difficulties, always holding high the banners of the people's war, always fighting against imperialism, reaction and revisionism."

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