the Life of Chairman Gonzalo"
Battle-cry Resounds on Every Continent
on International Campaign
Since the September 12th capture of Comrade Gonzalo, Chairman
of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP), a fierce and complex struggle
has been unfolding. On the one side, the Fujimori regime backed
by U.S. imperialism and egged on by reactionaries the world over.
On the other side, Chairman Gonzalo, the People's War in Peru,
the world's proletarian revolutionary forces centred around the
Revolutionary Internationalist Movement and a broad and growing
front of people opposed to imperialism and reaction and united
in the demand to save the life of Dr Abimael Guzmán (Chairman
Gonzalo's given name).
Chairman Gonzalo was hauled before a military tribunal with breakneck
speed. The reactionaries planned to present the people with a
settled question before much could be done about it. But on September
15th, the Committee of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement
issued a call to "Move Heaven and Earth to Defend the Life
of Chairman Gonzalo". In only a few days, a movement to defend
his life had already begun to spring up, with an unprecedented
rapidity and a broad social scope and international character.
A broad array of people from all over the world stepped forward
to form the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life
of Dr Abimael Guzmán (IEC). By September 20th, the IEC began issuing
regular bulletins and other messages by fax to the local defence
committees that were being established in Europe, Asia, Africa,
Australia and North and South America. Among them was a letter
from Alfredo Crespo, Chairman Gonzalo's lawyer, who wrote, "My
client is aware of the concern of your organization and appreciates
all of the efforts that are being undertaken."
Chairman Gonzalo himself set the tone for the resistance on September
24th when he was "exhibited" before a howling mob of
hundreds of journalists and secret policemen. The plan was to
"break the myth of the unbeatable leader", as the London
Economist wrote. He was presented dressed in a cartoon-style,
specially-made striped uniform with a large prisoner's number
on his chest, enclosed in a steel animal cage. But in the end
it was his captors who were made to look foolish and impotent.
The comrade turned this spectacle into a political setback for
them by refusing to be intimidated or distracted by the threat
of death and the screaming enemies surrounding him, and instead
delivered an historic message to the Party and the people of Peru
and the world. The contrast between his unbreakable dignity, revolutionary
confidence and high-mindedness, on the one hand, and the loathsome
treatment to which the regime was subjecting him, on the other,
was strongly felt by many people around the globe. It inspired
a number of prominent personalities to write angry protests to
the Fujimori regime and helped impel European and American lawyers
to accept invitations to form a delegation of international observers
to travel to Lima.
In Peru, despite all the hysterical publicity surrounding the
arrest, since then news of the People's War has been almost entirely
smothered. After the trial, the Armed Forces reinstructed the
media those broadcasters and publications that the military
hadn't already shut down not to carry anything about the struggle
in the countryside, where the revolution has strongholds, the
revolutionary base areas where the workers and peasants have already
seized political power.
But they could not avoid covering some spectacular actions right
in the enemy's strongholds in Lima, such as the disruption of
Armed Forces Day celebrations September 24th, and the November
6th annihilation of a top DINCOTE secret police commander. It
was also reported that the PCP led a very successful "paro
armado" (armed strike) in several provincial cities and towns
at the end of September. For 24 hours, nothing moved in the city
of Ayacucho and the surrounding countryside, a revolutionary stronghold
since the People's War began in 1980. The garrison town of Huanta
to the north was paralysed for 48 hours. The shutdown lasted three
days in Huancayo, a mining centre in the department of Junin in
the centre of the country. Major attacks on government forces
were reported in the south-central and central mountains and in
the Upper Huallaga jungle. Police patrols were ambushed in the
outskirts of the capital. And in Lima's poor districts and shanty
towns, huge quantities of a PCP leaflet entitled "Defend
the Life of Chairman Gonzalo" were given out.
Abroad, just after Chairman Gonzalo's arrest, the forces of reaction
unleashed a secondary, containment blow to terrorize and disorient
present and potential PCP supporters and politically isolate them.
Fujimori's government brandished a list of names of people in
other countries to be extradited and tried in Peru for "apology
for terrorism". This list included a few Europeans as well
as Peruvians, and in addition to PCP supporters it also named
people of varying political tendencies who had criticized the
Peruvian regime. All sorts of wild charges were made. It was claimed
that international support for the PCP could only be explained
by vast amounts of "drug money" pouring out of Peru.
(Ironically, only yesterday Fujimori was accusing some of these
same people of financing the People's War from abroad.) But plausible
or not, these accusations and threats were loudly echoed by top
government officials in several European countries and the international
media as a whole.
Goose-stepping in unison to imperialist orders, the international
press in general played their role as apologists for the Fujimori
dictatorship with the polished perfection of a concerted, centrally-briefed
propaganda campaign. This rabid crusade combined disinformation
and distortion of the People's War and Chairman Gonzalo's role
with systematic suppression of any news that didn't suit them.
Once the military tribunal had set the terms for Gonzalo's "trial"
and sentencing, in complete mockery of "human rights"
and even reactionary Peruvian law, these champions of democracy
were silent - so much so that in many countries the media did
not even cover the summary "trial" of the man whose
arrest had filled the headlines in every land a few weeks earlier.
Virtually no news of the international campaign to defend Comrade
Gonzalo's life was allowed to reach the people in most countries.
All this only showed the nature of the regime that was to try
Chairman Gonzalo as well as the multi-faceted collaboration it
was receiving from high places in the imperialist countries. In
a bold counter-thrust to efforts by the governments and their
media tools to politically encircle and criminalize the PCP and
its supporters, people from all walks of life around the world
began to come forward to oppose the threats and the farcical "trial"
facing Chairman Gonzalo.
Delegations Expose Fujimori's Crimes
The forms of struggle taken up in the international campaign to
defend his life were varied, ranging from the traditional to the
unique. Some were new to the Maoists, who found themselves facing
new demands and new opportunities. First in smaller numbers and
then in cascades, the IEC's Call to Defend the life of Abimael
Guzmán was signed by renowned lawyers, members of parliament and
former ministers and other government leaders, academic figures,
well-known musicians, writers and artists, and others from Australia,
Bangladesh, Belgium, Britain, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Denmark,
El Salvador, France, Germany, Guadeloupe, Iran, Iraq, Italy, Kenya,
Martinique, Mexico, Nepal, the Netherlands, South Africa, Spain,
Sri Lanka, Tunisia, Turkey, and the United States. Delegations
of IEC supporters and other concerned people began to visit Peruvian
embassies in many countries. Letters, telegrams and faxes protesting
the threats against Chairman Gonzalo's life began to deluge these
embassies and Fujimori's presidential palace.
The Fujimori government hurriedly convened their "trial"
on October 1st, after only two days notice. But to their great
surprise, the first international delegation organized by the
International Emergency Committee had arrived in Lima. The regime
and its sponsors were stunned that these delegates had dared confront
them in their own lair, with a strength that came not from the
backing of any government but from the fact that they represented
a just cause and an emerging mass movement of a wide spectrum
of people around the world and even within the imperialist countries.
After television interviews and front page coverage in the Lima
press, "all of Peru" knew about these people who had
come to serve as ambassadors of the hundreds of thousands around
the globe who are taking up this campaign. As lawyer and delegate
Peter Erlinder later said, "I think we made it clear to the
Peruvian government that events in Peru are of importance and
concern to people outside Peru."
The delegates were widely recognized where ever they went. Delegate
Heriberto Ocasio later reported, "When we walked around the
centre of the city, in the first days after our press conference,
people would give us the thumbs up and express their gratitude
for our taking a stand for justice. A journalist from Ayacucho
travelled all the way from this town in the Andes to Lima to find
us and tell us how we were speaking for the many who cannot openly
speak out in Peru.
"After a couple of days the government unleashed a fury of
rumours which the press loyally served to spread. They claimed
we were there to plot an escape attempt, some tabloids called
me a psychiatrist sent by Saddam Hussein, [and said I was the
one] who had masterminded the supposed escape attempt. All of
the papers tried to paint us as organized and paid by the Communist
Party of Peru. The press all repeated the government's threats
of imprisonment or expulsion. After this, we still heard from
people in the streets who supported us and from others who said
they sympathized with the revolution, but they spoke to us only
in whispers, telling us to be careful' of what opinions we expressed,
for some opinions are illegal to express in Peru'."
The delegation's formal request to Peru's Supreme Court that they
be allowed to attend the trial as observers was denied at once
in an unsigned reply issued by the military. Two delegation lawyers
attempted to accompany Dr Crespo to the island of San Lorenzo
on the day the trial opened, but Naval officers allowed only Dr
Crespo to board the boat. This ban on legal observers may have
helped keep the details of the proceedings secret, but it only
underlined the fact that this "trial" was a complete
violation of the principles and specific guarantees of international
law. It shocked and helped to galvanize many people, including
in the legal profession.
Peru's Prime Minister threatened to jail the delegates for a term
of six months to twelve years for "insulting the president
and defending terrorism". In a late-night visit to their
hotel, Peru's chief prosecutor told them that he "could not
guarantee their safety". Exactly what he meant was made clear
by a government-organized band of a dozen "civilians"
who assaulted the delegates in the streets.
In his report to the IEC, delegate Martin Heiming described the
role of the imperialist government embassies: "In this situation,
I call up the German ambassador and leave him my name, just in
case. Baron von Mentzingen uses this, as I learn the next day
from the newspaper, to have minutely detailed information on me
sent over from Germany. One day after that I can read the result:
The German lawyer Heiming specializes in terrorism, his most recent
case was Kurdish terrorists. At the same time, the U.S. embassy
delivers an exhaustive dossier on Dr Ocasio, which is also fed
to the press."
After leaving Peru, this delegation released a report analysing
the legal issues. Because the trial was being "conducted
in flagrant violation of both Peruvian and international law",
they concluded that any verdict or sentence should be considered
null and void.
Just how much this first delegation hurt the Peruvian regime became
evident several weeks later. Worried about his image, Fujimori
had at first announced that international observers would not
be interfered with. Apparently he thought that the extra-legal
threats made on the first delegates would be enough to keep away
any others. Perhaps he also thought that the verdict closed the
question, though he himself continued to publicly threaten Chairman
Gonzalo's life. The regime received a rude surprise October 27th,
when a second delegation of Italians, Americans and a German appeared
in Lima at a press conference along with Dr Crespo. Despite Fujimori's
fine words, television reports showed machine-gun toting officers
hauling away the delegates as soon as they began to speak. They
were taken to the headquarters of the DINCOTE political police.
According to the Reuters press agency, "the decision to deport
the six, who entered the country on tourist visas, had been taken
in a meeting at police headquarters attended by high-level police
officials and consular officials of the three embassies".
In order to stifle a new round of protest against this, on October
28th the U.S. State Department announced that the delegates had
been released and were free in Lima. In fact, they were still
in police custody. The following day they were put on a plane
and expelled to Miami, in the U.S.
But the damage to the reactionary regime was already done. Peruvian
television, radio and press were saturated with the news. The
delegates gave a successful press conference on their arrival
in Miami. Millions of people in Peru and across the world
became aware of this political battle. Although the delegation's
planned mission was cut short, their mere presence in Peru was
an unmistakable sign that new contingents were enlisting in the
expanding movement to defend the life of Chairman Gonzalo. The
verdict had no more closed the question for the people than it
had for the enemy.
In little more than a month, the campaign had taken root and spread
to all continents. From the initial phase of contacting initiators
of the Call and organizing a first international delegation, various
forms of activities had started to mushroom in a number countries.
These included sending delegations to present demands at Peruvian
embassies, street marches, vigils, public meetings, graffiti writing,
protests against the press and collecting money for newspaper
advertisements. Early on, a large, spirited march and demonstration
was held in Kathmandu, Nepal that targeted the UN office of human
rights, with many people wearing "Release Comrade Gonzalo"
T-shirts. Thousands of protesters marched the following day in
New Delhi. In Germany 20,000 posters went up on the walls in three
languages. In Istanbul a local IEC press conference successfully
took the word of the campaign out to broad numbers in Turkey.
And in Colombia, numerous human rights and other organizations
were mobilized to register their protest to the Fujimori regime.
On the day of Chairman Gonzalo's sentencing, October 7th, the
IEC called for an International Day of Action that was widely
taken up: 200 people demonstrated in Stockholm, 300 at Kent State
University in the U.S. and a couple of days later 1000 (mainly
Turkish immigrants) in Bonn. Other actions took place in Mexico
City, in San Diego, San Francisco, and New York in the U.S., in
London, Paris, Berlin, Hamburg and other German cities, and in
Copenhagen, Denmark. Even the Peruvian Embassy in The Hague, Netherlands
was not spared. In South Africa, students protested outside the
U.S. Consulate in Durban and held a meeting in Capetown, and in
Asia there were demonstrations in several cities in the Indian
state of Kerala, as well as in Dhaka and other parts of Bangladesh,
and in Canberra, Australia. U.S. and other flags as well as effigies
of Fujimori went up in flames in a number of these actions, such
as the lively march through Kreuzberg in Berlin, which has declared
itself a sister city with Ayacucho. Huge banners were strung across
the highways in Hawaii as motorists went to work. A radio call-in
show in Hawaii invited U.S. soldiers who resisted the war against
Iraq to discuss U.S. intervention in Peru.
The gathering of signatories to the Call also took on an increasingly
mass character. In Nepal, a goal of a million signatures has been
set and many thousands have been collected already. A notable
exception outside Peru, many Nepalese newspapers have reported
on the events surrounding Chairman Gonzalo. In Turkey, after an
initial letter of support from 78 political prisoners on hunger
strike in Izmir, a veritable movement began to spread inside Turkey's
dungeons. Many organizations in Turkey have enthusiastically
taken up this campaign, and human rights groups are actively protesting
to the Peruvian regime and to their colleagues in Amnesty International
for not intervening decisively. Major advertisements have appeared
in the Turkish-language press in Europe. This outpouring of support
from Turkey provoked the Lima press, no doubt dutifully responding
to direct military command, to slander Gonzalo's Turkish supporters
abroad as "morally corrupt" and "drug-dealers"!
In Bangladesh, numerous ordinary people and prominent personalities
have signed. Thousands of leaflets have gone out in Pakistan,
and campaign graffiti have begun to appear on the walls of Karachi.
An open debate went on in the Mexican press after protests hit
the offices of La Jornada for its biased coverage of Peru; when
the event was reported in its pages, a group of reactionaries
wrote a letter against the protesters, and in turn prominent people
associated with the campaign there published an advertisement
signed by many intellectuals, members of parliament and artists.
A number of newspapers in Mexico, including the leading daily
Excelsior, also published a letter to the Peruvian regime written
by ten members of parliament condemning the violations of international
law in Abimael Guzmán's case.
A strong contingent waving a "Free Chairman Gonzalo"
banner took part in the October 12th demonstrations in Mexico
City against the 500th anniversary of the European invasion that
began with Colombus. As the contingent entered the city's central
plaza, people already assembled there began to chant spontaneously,
"Peru Yes, Yankees, No!"
In Hamburg, Germany, on November 3rd, demonstrators occupied the
Peruvian Consulate office, holding a huge banner with the comrade's
picture and the slogan "Move Heaven and Earth to Defend the
Life of Chairman Gonzalo". For an hour, Consulate officials
were reduced to helplessly and foolishly trying to defend
the trial's legality.
In some places Peruvian ambassadors have been so offended by actions,
letters of protest or signatories adding their names to the Call,
they have taken to trying to intimidate new supporters by counter-attacking
them in writing, visiting them at their homes, or organizing threatening
calls to establishments that have hired out public rooms for campaign
The appeal from the International Emergency Committee for "One
Day's Wages to Defend the Life of Dr Abimael Guzmán" has
touched a deep chord among working people in many countries. Several
dozen day labourers in the city of Cochin, in Kerala, India, were
among the first to make this pledge. There was a strong response
from Turkish workers and other immigrant workers in Europe. Like
the People's War in Peru itself, this campaign has relied on the
self-sacrificing support of labouring people. Without it, the
delegations and other work would not be possible. The call for
"One Day's Wages" not only helped draw proletarians
and other poor and exploited people into this campaign, it also
helped make their support and internationalist solidarity a material
The launching of this vigourous international campaign in a brief
period of time, in the face of the united efforts of the world's
reactionary powers, has not yet stopped their heinous and criminal
schemes but it has already stung them badly. As the Peruvian regime
and its masters continue to hatch new conspiracies to kill Chairman
Gonzalo, new waves of people are stepping forward in what is certain
to be an increasingly fiercely-fought battle to defend his life.