Date: Thu, 26 Dec 96 17:44:47 CST
From: "Workers World" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Organization: WW Publishers
Subject: Peru takeover spotlights poverty, oppression
Poverty & Opression Underlie Peru Crisis
Daring rebel action catches Fujimori regime by surprise
By Monica Ruiz. Reprinted from the Jan. 2, 1997 issue of Workers World newspaper
The daring and successful takeover of the Japanese ambassador's house in the capital city of Lima has focused world attention on Peru's Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA).
The MRTA, one of several revolutionary armies in Peru, took over the house on the evening of Dec. 17 in what the group called Operation Breaking the Silence.
Dressed as waiters, the rebels crashed a lavish party commemorating the birthday of Japanese Emperor Akihito. Hundreds of people, including members of Peru's ruling class and international and political elite, found their celebration transformed into an arena of class struggle.
Some 600 party-goers were captured by the guerrillas. As of this writing, the majority have been released, either for humanitarian reasons or for negotiating purposes. MRTA militants-described as young and extremely disciplined-continue to hold Peruvian Foreign Minister Francisco Tudela, 11 ambassadors, the country's top generals and the heads of Peru's political police, including Gen. Maximo Rivera, director of the National Directorate Against Terrorism (DINCOTE), and Carlos Dom Anguez, former DINCOTE director.
The MRTA is demanding the liberation of 500 of its comrades languishing in prisons throughout Peru and an end to the neoliberal economic policies of President Alberto Fujimori's regime. It also demands repeal of the amnesty law that absolves paramilitary death squads, the reestablishment of union rights, abolition of the new land law, and guaranteed recognition of the campesino community, according to released hostages.
U.S. AND JAPAN INTERVENE
Negotiations between the Fujimori government and the MRTA have been taking place in a climate of open imperialist intervention by both the U.S. and Japanese governments.
Outwardly, at least, the Japanese government has supported a more conciliatory approach toward the rebel demands, placing a priority on resolving the crisis without force. The U.S. has taken a more bellicose position, warning Peru's government not to reward hostage-takers by negotiating with them.
The Fujimori government has said it won't use force to resolve the crisis-as long as the MRTA surrenders. But it has stationed 900 police and special forces around the house and has cut off water, phone service and electricity, creating a severe sanitary problem.
The U.S. has rushed a team of "security advisers" to Lima. On Dec. 20, U.S. State Department spokesperson Nicholas Burns refused to comment on reports that the Pentagon has also dispatched a special commando called Delta Force from Fort Bragg, N.C., to Howard Air Force Base in the Panama Canal Zone for possible deployment to Peru.
The British government, working in tandem with the U.S., also sent a security team-reportedly elite Special Air Service "anti-terrorist" paratroopers.
Beneath the differences in approach to the crisis between Japan and the U.S. is their competition for hegemony in Peru.
While the U.S. remains the largest source of economic and military aid to Peru, Japan runs a close second. Japan has tried to use Peru as an economic beachhead in Latin America, making this Andean country the leading recipient of Japanese development loans in the region. Japan has an interest in keeping a modicum of peace and stability for its investments to continue flourishing.
Fujimori is of Japanese ancestry, reflecting the affinity between one section of Peru's ruling class and the growing Japanese presence in what has been for over a century within the U.S. economic sphere of influence.
The U.S., on the other hand, has tried to build stronger links to the Peruvian military under the cover of the so-called drug war. Using this excuse the Pentagon provides military helicopters and advisers to Peru-that can then be used against popular armed movements.
Another avenue for seemingly innocuous assistance is the U.S. Agency for International Development, which has been identified as a frequent conduit for CIA money. Peru is the largest recipient in South America of USAID funds.
OPPRESSED ARE EXHILARATED
The British news agency Reuter reports widespread support in the Latin American left for the MRTA action-which means that workers and peasants are celebrating this daring act.
Julio Marenales, a former leader of the Uruguayan Movement for National Liberation, known as the Tupamaros, said he felt close to any movement that wages a sincere struggle and seeks a profound change in the country.
Rina Bertaccini of the Argentine Communist Party charged that "The responsibility for this situation lies with the Peruvian government, which holds political prisoners in terrible conditions."
Marco Leon Calarca, spokesperson for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, stated, "The people of the world cannot sink into extreme poverty and misery without struggling. They have to defend themselves against the aggression of the neoliberal model."
By neoliberalism is meant the so-called free trade policy of the world banks that has forced so many indebted developing countries to privatize state-owned industries and open their internal markets to transnationals. This usually leads to the bankruptcy of domestic businesses and farms, with growing unemployment and misery for the people.
GLARING RICH-POOR GAP
Over 50 percent of Peru's people live below the poverty line. The poor are overwhelmingly of Indian descent. Fully 54 percent of the population is Indian, with another 32 percent mixed Spanish and Indian.
The ruling elite, on the other hand, is white. This tiny, wealthy elite lives surrounded both physically and socially by an enormous mass of super-oppressed. The rich neighborhoods where the wealthy live are surrounded by gigantic slums known euphemistically as pueblos jovenes--young towns.
This small elite has every reason to fear the world around it, given the difference in wealth, power and numbers. So they have demanded, and got, a government that delivers fierce repression of any who challenge their privileged status.
These conditions have inevitably led the Peruvian people toward armed revolutionary struggle. In 1980, the Peruvian Communist Party-known as the Shining Path-launched a military campaign against the Peruvian ruling class that had strong support in some of the most impoverished rural areas.
The MRTA, a Marxist-Leninist group that emerged in 1982, launched its first armed attack in 1984. It takes its name from Tupac Amaru II, the last Inca to lead a rebellion against Spanish colonizers in 1782.
Fujimori--a former engineer with no political background--was elected in 1990 as a reflection of the insecurity of the Peruvian elite. His election marked a break from the traditional ruling parties toward military rule administered by law-and-order technocrats. His tough, dictatorial stance is aimed at shielding the elite from the fury of the masses.
As the present situation shows, however, they can never shield themselves from the workers. It is workers who feed them, wash their clothes, cook their food, tend their gardens, and protect their palatial homes.
The revolutionaries who got into the ambassador's compound were dressed as caterers and came carrying champagne and caviar. Reports from released hostages describe them as young workers, women and men. Their leader is reported to be Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, a militant union official who was jailed in 1979 for leading a worker occupation of Cromotex, a textile plant that was being closed.
POVERTY AND MILITARY DICTATORSHIP
Consolidating his control of the country, Fujimori shut down the Congress in April 1992. He then fired nearly half the Supreme Court and assumed dictatorial powers. Fujimori recently managed to amend the Peruvian constitution so he could rule for a third term.
After years of economic policies dictated by the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, 80 percent of Peru's workforce remains either jobless or under-employed, according to a Dec. 18 Reuter report. Only one in 32 people have a telephone and millions have little or no access to medical care. Fujimori's standing in the polls has steadily dropped over the last five years.
In his campaign to decimate the revolutionary movements in Peru, Fujimori has given the military free rein. As a consequence, the prisons have been flooded with thousands of political prisoners.
In the last 18 months alone, the repressive antiterrorism laws have led to 500,000 detentions-a figure disputing Fujimori's claim that the guerrilla movements have no popular support. Anyone arrested under these laws is sentenced within 24 hours by a military court administered by a hooded judge-giving rise to the term "faceless justice." The accused is almost always found guilty and is sentenced to long or life jail terms under brutal conditions.
These repressive conditions have made the prisons centers of political organizing. The MRTA's demand for the release of its leader, Victor Polay, and 500 other comrades has already thrown a spotlight on the brutal conditions faced by the thousands of political prisoners.
No matter how the MRTA takeover ends, the Fujimori regime has suffered a significant defeat. Its claims of victory over the popular movement are now seen as mere wishful thinking. The silence has been broken as the voice of pain and anger of the political prisoners and masses of the poor has been broadcast around the world.
Their valiant action is a signal to imperialists around the world: the revolutionary forces in Peru are alive and well.
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