20 Years of Continuing People's War
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
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
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
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.