Peru: Political Prisoners Reported on Hunger Strike

Revolutionary Worker #1095, March 18, 2001, posted at

As the U.S.-backed rulers in Peru continue to be shaken by scandal and infighting, there is new focus on the situation of Chairman Gonzalo of the Communist Party of Peru ( Dr. Abimael Guzmán) and other political prisoners. On February 2, Peru's Minister of Justice Diego García Sayan claimed in a press conference that Abimael Guzmán, Oscar Ramirez Durand (Comrade Feliciano), and other prisoners being held at the naval base at El Callao had ended a six-day hunger strike. García described the hunger strike as a "protest action" against prison conditions and other issues. According to the Peruvian newspaper La República, prisoners at Callao who were on hunger strike also included Elena Iparraguirre (Comrade Miriam) of the PCP and Peter Cardenas Schulte of the MRTA.

The Peruvian paper Correo reported that Peru's interim ombudsman, Walter Alban, attributed the following demands to the prisoners at Callao: "The hunger strikers have demanded that their convictions by military trials with faceless judges be nullified, a changing of laws, an end to sentences of life imprisonment, that their lawyers be allowed to enter Callao Naval Base, and solidarity with the struggle of all political prisoners."

Chairman Gonzalo was taken prisoner in 1992 in a secret police operation directly led by the CIA. He was convicted by masked, faceless judges in a military tribunal. His lawyer was then tried and sentenced to life in prison himself. The last verifiable public contact by Chairman Gonzalo was on September 24, 1992, when the Fujimori regime tried to humiliate him by placing him in a cage before the international press. But Chairman Gonzalo delivered a powerful speech calling for the continuation of the People's War led by the PCP. He has been held in cruel conditions of isolation since then at the specially built prison at the Callao naval base.

Comrade Feliciano, who led the PCP after Chairman Gonzalo was taken prisoner, was arrested in 1999 and also convicted by faceless military judges. And he has been held in isolation at the same specially built prison.

After Chairman Gonzalo's capture, Fujimori and his regime declared that they would soon put an end to the People's War. Fujimori also claimed that Chairman Gonzalo called for peace accords to end the People's War. And in 1993 the regime released videos and letters attributed to Chairman Gonzalo and Comrade Miriam, calling for peace accords with the government. But the Fujimori regime--notorious for its murders, lies, and torture of political prisoners--continued to keep Chairman Gonzalo under extreme conditions of confinement. Under such circumstances, the indirect and unverifiable communications attributed to Chairman Gonzalo cannot be taken as representative of his thinking. The Peruvian regime must be compelled to end the isolation of Chairman Gonzalo.

The PCP has continued to wage People's War--combating the government's brutal counter-insurgency (closely backed by the U.S. in the name of the "war on drugs") as well as a Right Opportunist Line that arose within the party calling for peace negotiations and an end to the People's War.

In the last few months, political turmoil in Peru has forced the U.S. to dump Fujimori and his right-hand man, Vladimiro Montesinos, and seek replacement puppets. Infighting and scandal within Peru's ruling class have led to new exposures of the vicious crimes of the Fujimori regime. However, the interim regime currently in place has made no move to end the isolation of Chairman Gonzalo or reverse the injustices carried out under Fujimori.

The recently released Emergency Bulletin No. 61 from the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Dr. Abimael Guzmán (IEC) includes a brief report on the Peruvian government's claim about the hunger strike at the Callao prison. The IEC points out: "We cannot accept anything coming from the Peruvian state at face value. The IEC has stated time and again the Peruvian state has a long history of distorting fact, and as such it cannot pose as a reliable source of information regarding Dr. Guzmán and the other prisoners. The Peruvian authorities must stop acting as spokespersons for Dr. Guzmán. While Dr. Guzmán's isolation continues, the authorities are well aware that their statements and claims are completely unverifiable. However, these allegations clearly contribute to the urgency of ending the isolation, specifically as they directly relate to the issue of Dr. Guzmán's health."

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