From: Luis Quispe <email@example.com>
Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 02:21:13 -0400 (EDT)
RE: PCP WEB PAGE http://www.blythe.org/peru-pcp
Simon Strong Tracks the Peruvian Communist Guerrilla Group to its Web Site.
It was never easy to obtain official documents from Shining Path, the Peruvian guerrilla group which launched its war on the state in 1980. They had to be obtained from activists who tended not to be available for very long -- death or asylum were usually just around the corner.
Possession was also a risk. By 1992, after about 30,000 lives had been lost in the war, the government's repression of the guerrillas had become so random and draconian that one man spent six months in jail as a suspected terrorist after being caught making a photocopy of my book on the subject.
Last month, however, Shining Path launched a Web site on the Internet. The official documents of the Communist Party of Peru -- Shining Path's real name -- became instantly accessible worldwide. Distributors and readers alike need fear reprisals no longer.
The Web site address arrived by e-mail in response to my own e-mail inquiry to a US pro-Shining Path magazine, New Flag, with whose address (firstname.lastname@example.org) I had in turn been provided by somebody close to the organization.
Yet attempts to access the page through Compuserve failed. "Either Compuserve is denying access or it is being denied by the page," a hotline assistant said. After more consultation, he blamed the page format. He denied there was censorship.
Netscape, however, proved no problem. Portraits of Marx, Lenin and Mao emerged like faded ghosts on to my aged black-and-white screen. Five buttons offered routes to "Frequently Asked Questions" about the "People's War", as well as to the party's documents in Spanish and English, to back issues of New Flag and information on "President Gonzalo" -- the nom de guerre of Shining Path's founder and leader, Abimael Guzman.
For any analyst of the Peruvian guerrilla war, the Web site is a remarkable find. Party documents confirm, for instance, that Shining Path believes that Guzman's letters and videoed TV appearance in 1993 -- when, in an extraordinary jail cell volte face, he appeared to admit defeat and call for peace talks -- were an elaborate hoax.
In the free-market fiesta of President Alberto Fujimori's Peru, such an interpretation of the incident is heresy. When I raised it on a radio news-show, the interviewer hung up. But woe betide Peru if it were right.
However, not only does the Web site provide Shining Path with a means to combat the state's well-executed psychological warfare. It also has a more sinister side. The documents, turgid and propagandist as they are, convey neo-Maoist political guidelines to supporters worldwide. One page still under construction bears the ominous title "Instructions".
Elsewhere on the Net, Shining Path activists engage in flame wars -- verbal lacerations -- that range from the farcical to the deadly. These occur mainly on Marxism discussion lists managed, it would seem by the address, from the University of Virginia in the US.
"Harriet" is one of the main protagonists. Whether the discussions concern Shining Path's attitude to gay rights or "snitches" -- revisionists/informers -- Harriet bashes everyone with garrulous and articulate delight.
Yet Harriet, who signs her letters with his real name, Adolfo Olaechea, goes beyond merely justifying the murders of leftwing Peruvian leaders. Those who defy Olaechea's perceived call to support the killing of Michel Azcueta, a district mayor in Lima who has survived several attempts on his life, are warned of the grim inevitability of Shining Path's final triumph and the retribution to come. "I was simply presenting an orthodox marxist point of view," says Olaechea.
The marxism@virginia [as printed] discussion lists are high-volume. Within a week of my subscribing, Compuserve telephoned because my message basket was bloated and blocking up its system. To the infuriation of many participants, the lists are swamped by Harriet and his cohorts.
According to Olaechea -- who in absentia has been sentenced to life imprisonment in Peru -- his country's intelligence service participates, too. "They sucked in messages on one Peru list in such a way that mine and others' were then lost in cyberspace," he says. "Also, they have used an account in Germany to send death threats in my name to try to create rifts."
Although the high-velocity Net communication seems in itself to fan endless splits among Shining Path's international supporters, this is small consolation for Azcueta. Like the party's Web site, he could be hit anytime.