Montesinos: The Trail of Blood from Peru to Washington

Revolutionary Worker #1110, July 15, 2001, posted at

In June, Vladimiro Montesinos—who was the de facto head of the notorious Peruvian secret police until last fall--was arrested in Venezuela and extradited back to Peru. Montesinos fled Peru in October amidst widespread protests calling for his arrest and trial for corruption and other crimes, and his exact whereabouts were supposedly unknown. He now faces dozens of charges ranging from money-laundering to murder.

In the version of events widely presented in the bourgeois media, the FBI is credited with a central role in capturing Montesinos. According to these reports, the FBI worked closely with Peruvian authorities--bypassing the Venezuelan government--to track down Montesinos and bring him back to Peru to "face justice." Clearly, the operation received attention from high levels of the U.S. government. During a recent visit to Washington, D.C., Alejandro Toledo--the incoming president of Peru--thanked U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell for the arrest of Montesinos.

Some others have a different take on the events. A columnist for the Peruvian newspaper La Republica, for example, says he believes the U.S. knew where Montesinos was all along--and that his arrest was the result of a decision by the U.S. that the time had come to bring him in.

Whatever the real story behind the capture may be, the whole Montesinos affair--from his heyday as the former dictator Alberto Fujimori’s right-hand man to his downfall--highlights the role of U.S. imperialist dominators in Peru.

Montesinos has a long and sordid history as a CIA "asset," and throughout the 1990s, he and Fujimori headed up the brutal Peruvian regime. (See accompanying article, "CIA Hitman in Peru," for more background.) As long as the U.S. considered Fujimori and Montesinos to be effective caretakers for its imperialist interests, these two henchmen received U.S. backing and protection. The Washington Post reported last year that U.S. officials repeatedly helped shield Montesinos from charges of involvement with narco-traffickers and death squads. According to the Post, "Montesinos had come to be seen by many U.S. officials, even outside the CIA, as indispensable." And whenever the U.S. had problems getting something done in Peru, "U.S. officials would ask the CIA station in Lima to seek the assistance of the man they called ‘the doctor’ and the problems would disappear."

Much focus is now placed on the deeply corrupt activities of Montesinos, who is reputed to have hundreds of millions of dollars stashed away in bank accounts around the world. The U.S. was quite aware of what Montesinos was doing. For example, the FBI reportedly kept close tabs on Montesinos’s attempts to tap one such bank account in Miami while he was in Venezuela.

But the crimes of this CIA hitman go far beyond collecting bribes from narco-traffickers. Montesinos played a central role in the Fujimori regime’s reign of terror involving mass arrests, "Vietnam-style" military operations, forced "confessions" through torture, secret military tribunals, and outright murder and disappearances--mainly targeted at the Maoist People’s War led by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) and the masses who support the revolution. And as the regime carried out this savage U.S.-backed counter-revolutionary war and repression, international capitalists profited enormously from exploiting the people and resources of Peru. Working closely with the World Bank and the IMF, the Peruvian government carried out a "privatization" program that sold state-owned companies cheaply to foreign investors--while the number of Peruvians in poverty doubled during the 1990s.

By last year, however, the U.S. imperialists began to see Fujimori and Montesinos as more of a liability, as infighting within the Peruvian ruling class greatly intensified and increasingly came to the surface. Fujimori declared himself president through a blatantly fraudulent election--orchestrated by Montesinos and characterized by outright attacks on bourgeois opponents. Mass protests broke out in the streets of Lima and other cities. It became clear that the U.S. wanted to carry out a housecleaning of the Peruvian regime and a change in the lineup of their lackeys. U.S. Secretary of State Madeline Albright and National Security Advisor Sandy Berger reportedly signed a directive ordering a sharp reduction of U.S. ties to Montesinos.

Shortly after the stolen election, the Fujimori regime was hit with a major scandal. The scandal broke after the surfacing of videos showing Montesinos bribing and extorting congressmen, judges, journalists, television station owners, and others. Over the years Montesinos had collected a huge library of such secretly filmed videos for use in his shady activities. How the videos ended up in the hands of the Peruvian media is unclear--but these developments had the marks of a CIA dirty trick.

As the Fujimori regime’s position crumbled, the U.S. moved in to direct a "peaceful transition" of its puppets. U.S. officials met several times with Fujimori and his generals to press the point that a coup was unacceptable. Eventually, Fujimori was allowed to fax in his resignation from Japan, where he is safe for now from extradition back to Peru. As for Montesinos, the U.S. first tried to arrange exile for him in Panama. When this did not work out, he was permitted to fall out of sight for months--until his arrest in Venezuela.

With the arrest of Montesinos--and the recent election of Alejandro Toledo, the presidential candidate most favored by the U.S.--the U.S. imperialists are declaring that there is a "renewal of democracy" in Peru. And they are trying to whitewash the role they played in backing the extreme brutality and corruption of the Fujimori-Montesinos rule.

Montesinos and Fujimori are truly war criminals with blood on their hands. But the trail of blood leads right to Washington. These two murderers were not some rogue thugs acting on their own; they were representatives of the comprador bourgeois and big landlord classes in Peru which are closely tied to U.S. imperialism.

The U.S. now promotes Toledo--with his Indian roots and "humble" background--as someone different from Fujimori, Montesinos, and the whole discredited ruling establishment in Peru. But Toledo’s background has prepared him to serve as the new caretaker for U.S. imperialist interests in Peru--including training in imperialist economics at Harvard and Stanford and experience as an executive at the World Bank and in running a business that advised multinational corporations in the best ways to rake in profits in Peru. International capitalists expect Toledo to continue the Fujimori regime’s policies--and carry them even further. According to the Washington Post, Wall Street investors are saying that Toledo "must pick up the pace of privatization launched by Fujimori."

In short, the U.S. is attempting some cosmetic makeovers in the face of the ruling regime in Peru--but the basic class nature of that rule remains unchanged. Peru is still a country where conditions cry out for revolution--where half of the population of 27 million people live in deep poverty, where 32,000 children die every year of malnutrition and preventable diseases, where thousands of political prisoners remain locked up in inhumane prison conditions. The People’s War led by the Communist Party of Peru continues to be the only real hope for liberation for the oppressed masses of Peru.

The shadowy "mastermind" of the Fujimori regime has been brought down from power. But the main master criminal in Peru--U.S. imperialism--still dominates the country and causes immense suffering for the people of Peru.

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