The Perils of a U.S. Puppet
Revolutionary Worker #1072, October 1, 2000
We received the following article from the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru (CSRP):
On September 16, Peru's President Fujimori appeared on television to make a sudden and unexpected announcement: that he plans to step down from the presidency and call for new elections in which he will not be a candidate. He also announced that he has decided to "deactivate" Peru's hated secret police, known as the National Intelligence Services (abbreviation in Spanish: SIN).
Fujimori's announcement came on the heels of a new scandal over a video that shows Fujimori's right-hand man, SIN director Vladimiro Montesinos, paying a $15,000 bribe to a Peruvian congressman. In exchange, the congressman became one of 19 members of the Peruvian Congress who have switched sides to Fujimori's party since May, assuring Fujimori's control of the congress. It is unclear at this point exactly how the video of Montesinos became public. But Montesinos has long-time connections to the CIA, and the leak of the video raises a question: who watches the CIA's man in Peru? This whole affair is surely full of behind-the-door intrigues, deals, and back-stabbing. Fujimori and Montesinos look like the next in the line of a long line of puppets around the world who have been propped up by the U.S.-and then overthrown by coups, thrown out by engineered elections or scandals, or assassinated when they no longer fit U.S. imperialist interests. It's no fun being a running dog of U.S. imperialism!
As we go to press (September 24), the Peruvian press is reporting that Montesinos has left Peru for Panama, which has granted him asylum.
What is behind this sudden turn of events in Peru, and what does it mean for the people?
Peru's economy and basic people are clenched in the jaws of a hungry beast-U.S. imperialism. The misery and suffering of the people have given rise to a powerful revolutionary alternative-the People's War launched in 1980, led by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP). Combating this revolution and keeping Peru safe for exploitation by global capitalism, especially U.S. imperialism, have been Fujimori's two main claims to fame. But Fujimori's regime is now reeling from instability. And the revolution continues in the face of the brutal U.S.-directed counterinsurgency.
While the cameras focus on the controversy over the Montesinos video and other scandals involving the regime, Fujimori's real crime sheet has been his reactionary reign of terror in service of his U.S. masters. In 1992 Montesinos helped Fujimori organize a military coup. Fujimori set himself up with dictatorial powers that allowed him to act with more impunity against the people and the Maoist-led revolution. Fujimori and his U.S. backers and advisors unleashed an intense campaign of brutal and sweeping repression in an attempt to defeat the People's War.
Almost exactly eight years ago, the regime, with U.S. advice and help, took PCP Chairman Gonzalo prisoner. Fujimori tried to humiliate Chairman Gonzalo by presenting him in a cage before a crowd of reactionary journalists. But Chairman Gonzalo turned the tables and delivered a powerful speech heard around the world, describing his own capture as "only a bend in the road." The regime proclaimed this capture would mean the end of the People's War, but events have proven them wrong. The PCP has defended and maintained the People's War. And, together with people all over the world, the PCP has exposed the regime and continued to defend the life and demand an end to the isolation of Chairman Gonzalo.
Today in the streets of Lima, young protesters are carrying effigies of Fujimori and Montesinos. The effigies are dressed in striped prison uniforms and locked in steel cages-reminiscent of what the regime did to Chairman Gonzalo eight years ago.
The Fujimori regime has been notorious around the world for "disappearances" of activists, mass arrests of thousands of people off the streets, political railroads by inquisition-like trials with hooded judges, sponsoring and pardoning of death-squads, imprisonment of lawyers who defend political prisoners and journalists who dare to report on the struggle of the people. For many years, Fujimori and Montesinos were the ideal "made in USA" men for the job.
Fujimori and Montesinos have loyally carried out every economic policy dictated by the U.S. through the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. The results: tremendous profits for global capitalists and a handful of rich in Peru, and immense suffering for the people. During Fujimori's decade in power, the number of Peruvians living in poverty has doubled. 85 percent of workers are without full time work. 36,000 children die every year from diseases of poverty, with 25 percent of children under age five suffering stunted growth from inadequate food. 90 percent of peasants in the mountain highlands live in critical poverty; most are landless, and those with land are unable to secure loans and support needed to cultivate their land.
Even though the U.S. has tried to give Fujimori's dictatorship a "democratic" face, the elections, the congress and the courts have all been tightly controlled by Fujimori and Montesinos. This reality was even more sharply exposed during the presidential elections this summer. To begin with, Fujimori violated his own laws in order to run for an unprecedented third term. Montesinos's goons from the National Intelligence Service attacked opposition candidates, closed TV stations, and threatened journalists. The tactics by Fujimori and Montesinos during the campaign prompted the leading bourgeois opponent, Alfredo Toledo, to withdraw from the elections in protest.
While the fighting between Fujimori and Toledo was a struggle between two pro-U.S. reactionaries, these developments gave an opening for the masses to express their rage and hatred for the crimes of the regime. The people not only boycotted the elections in large numbers but also took to the streets around the country-clashing with police in fierce and violent protests that took things way beyond the limits that the bourgeois opposition wanted to set. In Lima, the protesters overturned police cars, threw gasoline bombs at the presidential palace, set fire to three government buildings, and burnt down the National Bank.
For the past ten years the U.S. has stood behind, advised, and publicly supported Montesinos and Fujimori. U.S. Drug Czar General Barry McCaffrey has often lauded the Fujimori government as a staunch ally in the so-called "war on drugs," which the U.S. uses as justification for intervention, especially in Latin America. On his trips to Peru over the last two years, McCaffrey has been openly meeting with Montesinos. McCaffrey knows full well that Montesinos has been connected to international drug traffickers, but Montesinos has continued to be the CIA's point-man in Peru. (See background article for more on Montesinos.)
However, the widespread anger and protest over the blatantly rigged elections last July was clearly disturbing to the U.S. imperialists. They were worried that the current Peruvian regime's "democratic" façade was getting too shabby-and that this would affect not only "stability" in Peru but U.S. interests around Latin America.
There were also recent allegations that Montesinos and his cohorts in the military were involved in an arms-smuggling ring that sent high-powered rifles from Jordan, meant for the Peruvian armed forces, to the anti-government guerrilla forces in Colombia. This scandal broke out as the U.S. has been preparing a major escalation of military support for the government of Colombia-and it could have played a part in the U.S. decision to move toward a change of puppets in Peru.
Since the elections, the U.S. has been working through the Organization of American States (OAS) to push Fujimori to work with the bourgeois opposition to restore a façade of democracy. The U.S. is now clearly maneuvering for an "orderly" transition from Fujimori to another pro-U.S. regime. The day before Fujimori's announcement of a new election, U.S. Ambassador to Peru John Hamilton "advised" Fujimori to take "clear and energetic steps to restore public confidence in the intelligence services." Madeline Albright, the U.S. Secretary of State, also reportedly met with Fujimori shortly before the announcement. After years of firmly backing the regime, the U.S. is now scrambling to distance itself from Montesinos and the recent corruption scandals. Immediately after the bribery video was aired, the OAS demanded that the government "respond with quick and severe actions which result in the suspension from public duties of those accused."
After Fujimori's TV appearance, millions in Peru were joyous. Thousands spontaneously poured into the streets in celebration-many carrying pictures of Fujimori with the word "WANTED" printed across his forehead.
How the developments in Peru will unfold is unclear. Fujimori is still in power and, at this point, still has the backing of the armed forces. The rulers in Peru-and their U.S. backers-are scrambling to stabilize the situation. Fujimori has called for the new elections to take place next March. Most of the bourgeois opposition wants elections sooner, and other possibilities, such as a coup, could arise.
The U.S. imperialists say that a new, "clean" election is the answer for the people in Peru. But whoever takes over for Fujimori will still be representing the exploiting classes in Peru and acting on behalf of the imperialist dominators of Peru. We can only expect that they will do everything to preserve the current system-and that can only mean continued misery and suffering for the people.
The Communist Party of Peru has put it this way:
"Do the people need to go to the polls? Is voting in the people's interests? Looking at the experience of Peru, what revolutionary transformation have the people ever won through elections or parliament? Every gain has been a product of the people's struggle."
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)