A WORLD TO WIN    #26   (2000)

20 Years of Continuing People's War

Encirclement and Counter-Encirclement in Peru

During the last year, the People's War in Peru has continued to undergo twists and turns, suffering hard blows, whilst also striking hard at the enemy and successfully defying all attempts to wipe it out.

For Peru's ruling classes and their imperialist backers, the high point of this period was the 14 July 1999 capture of Comrade Feliciano, who had led the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) Central Committee since the 1992 capture of Chairman Gonzalo. After seven years of outflanking one government offensive after another, Comrade Feliciano finally fell into enemy hands in "Operation Encirclement", involving several thousands troops and armoured aircraft in the eastern valleys and hills of Junin. In early July, government troops swarmed through the region, raping, beating and murdering the Quechua-speaking peasants in their path, killing their chickens and cows and stealing their crops, in an effort to prevent the Maoists from being able to draw on the people for strength and sustenance. Numerous peasants were carried off to military bases where they were threatened and tortured in an effort to obtain information, which only produced widely-voiced protest and hatred.

Since his arrest had been falsely announced so many times before, the regime felt obliged to display their captive to the press. He was exhibited behind a thick layer of soundproof, one-way glass, so that he could not repeat the humiliation Chairman Gonzalo inflicted on them when he gave his famous "cage speech" in similar circumstances. For extra measure, music was played loudly in the military auditorium, as waiters plied the reporters with alcohol. Comrade Feliciano stood calmly under the heat of intense spotlights, raising his right fist in a clear signal to continue the People's War. Like Chairman Gonzalo, he was sentenced to life in prison for treason by a military tribunal that met in secret.

One particularly dramatic manifestation of the outrage that welled up against this crime came from Umraniye prison in Istanbul, Turkey, where 78 political prisoners signed their names to a letter hailing "Comrade Feliciano's revolutionary fist" and declaring the continuing People's War, led by the PCP, an inspiration to "resistance and revolution" in Turkey, as around the world.

Shortly after, it was announced that Comrade Julio had assumed the responsibility of leading the Party.

Peruvian President Fujimori's joy and predictions of following up with a quick and decisive military victory were shattered within a few months, when the government's subsequent "Operation Annihilation" offensive against the revolutionary army in Junin and Ayacucho was resoundingly defeated. In this "hammer and anvil" operation in October and November 1999, the enemy had tried to confine People's Liberation Army (PLA) units within a 100-kilometre radius centred on the Ene river valley so that air power and troops could "hammer" them toward the "anvil" of military bases and fortified strongholds. But the PLA fought and won a series of fierce battles and finally broke through.

The worst single blow suffered by the reactionary armed forces since 1992, according to Fujimori's own admission, came when PCP-led guerrillas blew up an M-17 transport helicopter stuffed with high-ranking officers. They killed a colonel who had participated in the operation against Comrade Feliciano, three other officers and a sergeant. The government denied initial reports that four soldiers died as well. Many of the other 26 personnel aboard were wounded, including General Fournier, who was in charge of intelligence during Comrade Feliciano's capture. Fournier was missing - wounded and hiding in the jungle - for several days before being carried back to government lines. Fujimori's right-hand man, the former CIA agent and present head of the Peruvian secret police, Vladimiro Montesinos, was personally directing what he thought was going to be the televised surrender of PCP-led fighters. The helicopter was landing when the expedition literally exploded in their faces, turning it into a personal humiliation.

A November 1999 ambush near the Ene river in Vizcatan, in the province of Huanta in the northern part of the department of Ayacucho, left a captain dead and eight soldiers wounded after a long battle. In another ambush, guerrillas shot at and incapacitated a helicopter that had landed to evacuate a soldier wounded by a bamboo booby trap. These were part of a series of battles in Junin and Ayacucho during November that sealed the defeat of "Operation Annihilation". The government relied heavily on armed helicopter gunships, but its troops were unable to successfully confront the guerrillas on the ground.

Although few details are available, another series of revolutionary actions were reported before and during the April elections in the river valleys and mountains of this region, from low-lying Satipo in south-eastern Junin to Huanta and La Mar in bordering north-eastern Ayacucho.

PCP-led forces also mounted a series of actions during this period throughout the extensive Huallaga river valley, including the departments of San Martin, Huanuco and Ucayali. In early April 2000, a police patrol was put to run and their vehicles destroyed in a battle on a main road near Tingo Maria, an area where PCP-led armed forces have long been strong. Another police patrol on the motorway to nearby Aucayacu was ambushed and destroyed at the end of the month. Also in April, clashes took place further north in the Huallaga valley in Tocache and Uchiza, and on the right bank of the Huallaga river in Ucayali.

During the last year news reports have filtered out about important military actions in other areas of the country, including Ancash in the north.

Another milestone in the People's War occurred in February 2000, when PCP-led prisoners at the notorious Yanamayo facility in Puno seized the prison for several days in what they called "a great political, military and moral victory for the Party and the Revolution". A riot squad sent in against the prisoners murdered one of them before they themselves were cornered and trapped. With this action, the prisoners successfully resisted what they denounced as an incursion meant to force them into punishment cells, transfer them to even worse prisons and otherwise break and kill them. They pressed demands that they be recognised as prisoners of war and treated like human beings. They also added their strength to the continuing struggle to defend the life of Chairman Gonzalo, held in extreme isolation in an underground dungeon at the Callao naval base. Comrade Feliciano is being kept in the same complex of subterranean tombs. The prisoners demanded that it be closed. These demands were echoed by support demonstrations and other activities on several continents.

On 7 February, the first day of the uprising, the prisoners released a statement that brought their "revolutionary greetings to the national proletariat and the Peruvian people… and the international proletariat and the peoples of the world". They emphasised that their action was meant to expose and oppose not only the Fujimori government and the prison administration, but also the "revisionist and capitulationist line that calls for a peace accord" and seeks to trade the blood spilt by the Peruvian people, including hundreds of prisoners, for what they denounced as "amnesty and enlistment" - a release of prisoners in return for their political acquiescence to the continued domination of Peru by the imperialists, bureaucrat capitalists and landlords. This is particularly important because this Right Opportunist Line, as the PCP calls it, has been concentrated in the prisons. The stand against it, in words and deeds, taken by these prisoners who are in the hands of the enemy and yetcontinue to turn these hell-holes into "shining trenches of combat", is particularly significant and inspiring.

The Yanamayo action set off a chain of prison rebellions in Peru in the following weeks, mainly by common prisoners (revolutionary prisoners there are always kept in separate buildings or sections). The country's whole enormous and horrific prison system was in ferment. One of the most notable of these was among common prisoners in the Chorrillos prison for women in Lima. In May 2000, women prisoners in the northern city of Huaraz rose up. Reportedly, this heroic protest against intolerable conditions involved prisoners in the special pavilion for "subversives", as well as the rest of the women.

Of course, the Fujimori regime's ultimate weapon is, and always has been, US support. In August 1999, US "drug czar" General McCaffrey visited Peru to hold official and off-the-record talks with Fujimori and Montesinos. This was highly ironic since Montesinos' last job was as a lawyer for Peru's drug cartel bosses and the Fujimori regime has been repeatedly exposed for its involvement in the narcotics trade. McCaffrey's office issued an explicit denial of reports in the opposition press that he had highly praised both men. Recently, an investigative reporter revealed that, while serving as a US Army general during the Gulf War, McCaffrey ordered his troops to pour massive amounts of artillery and gunfire upon retreating Iraqi soldiers … after the US had declared a cease fire and fighting had halted. This apparently made him well qualified to head up the US "war on drugs", which is no less bloodthirsty. During "Operation Annihilation" in October, the US Ambassador inaugurated a new police base in Palmapampa, in the jungle region of Ayacucho near the Apurimac river, which has been particularly bitterly contested by both sides since the early days of the People's War. The police base was paid for by the US out of its "anti-drug" budget.

The first round of the presidential elections in April 2000 took place amid intense scandals (a million names on the registration petition for Fujimori's party turned out to belong to dead people). Strikes and violent demonstrations against Fujimori broke out throughout the country. During the vote counting, districts under military control were reporting close to unanimous returns for the president, who had fired the country's supreme court for ruling him ineligible for a third term. Just as Fujimori was about to announce a dubious victory, a US government spokesman publicly warned him to allow a second round of voting. Clearly, the US does not want their lackey regime and the imperialist-dominated system in Peru to stand naked. But the Clinton administration has proposed an unprecedented amount of military aid for the governments of Peru and Colombia, exactly because the US has no intention of failing to protect its interests and American guns have long been decisive in that.

This 17 May marked the twentieth anniversary of the beginning of the People's War in Peru - 20 years that our red flag has been flying there, in the hands of country's downtrodden, held aloft by the People's Liberation Army under the leadership of the PCP, itself forged in the revolutionary line developed under the leadership of Chairman Gonzalo. With proletarian revolutionary optimism, sacrifice and hard struggle, the PCP has confronted what Chairman Gonzalo, in his "cage speech", referred to as only a "bend in the road" - a judgement that more than ever haunts the reactionaries who stand in the way of the masses as they continue their unstoppable march on that road.