A WORLD TO WIN    #30   (2004)


Injustice Times Two:
New Trial Scheduled for Chairman Gonzalo

Chairman Gonzalo (Abimael Guzman) of the Communist Party of Peru (PCP) and other Party leaders and members are scheduled to be retried in March 2004. If the Peruvian regime is staging new trials for those it has held in its dungeons for more than 13 years, it is not to finally allow justice but to commit new injustices. The Peruvian government and its main international backer, the US, intend to use the trial to try to turn the spotlight away from their own crimes, to put rebellion itself on trial and to throw confusion and demoralisation into the hearts of revolutionary-minded people.

Particularly, they hope that after the long years of isolation from the Party's collective life and deep roots among the people, some prisoners may have lost their revolutionary bearings and be prone to reactionary manipulation. In following the news of this trial and fighting what the reactionary rulers of Peru and the world are trying to achieve, it is extremely important never to lose sight of the central fact: the aims and acts that Chairman Gonzalo and the others stand accused of.

In 1980, under Chairman Gonzalo's leadership, PCP members and supporters began the arduous process of awakening and organising Peru's forgotten and despised, the poor peasants and others who in normal times have no voice whatsoever, in an armed rebellion. Because these Maoists relied on nothing but the people themselves, the people's war they launched began with relatively small numbers, but it gradually grew into a raging torrent, a mass upsurge with the support and participation of millions. Latin America had never seen anything like it. In fact, the whole world has witnessed far too few examples of such a war. Battalions of the poor took on not only their immediate oppressors and the state that represents them, but also world imperialism, aiming to free themselves as part of the world revolution to free humanity from all forms of oppression, exploitation and inequality and bring about communism, a global classless society. For that reason they became a bright torch and won support from people everywhere, bringing great prestige to Maoism and helping the launching or preparation of new people's wars.

This "megatrial", as the Peruvian press has labelled it, is the result of a decision last year by Peru's Constitutional Court that overturned some aspects of the presidential "anti-terrorist" decrees authorising secret military tribunals before "faceless" (hooded) judges held under the deposed and discredited president, Alberto Fujimori, now a fugitive from corruption charges. His replacement, Alejandro Toledo, anxious to distance himself from Fujimori's decade-long hated rule by personal decree and open terror, found himself obliged to accept the ruling of the Inter-American Human Rights Court in Costa Rica that these trials were contrary to international law. So far, the courts have ruled that 1,136 people sentenced by "faceless" judges and 295 imprisoned for "treason to the fatherland" by secret military tribunals are to be retried.

The Peruvian Constitution prohibits a sentence of life imprisonment with no possibility of release. It has long prohibited the death penalty as well, although the armed forces have gunned down unarmed captives (including in several notorious prison massacres), and Fujimori apparently planned to have Chairman Gonzalo killed with no trial after his October 1992 capture. A strong international movement to "move heaven and earth to save the life of Chairman Gonzalo" was one factor that stopped Fujimori. Instead, three hooded Navy officers sentenced Chairman Gonzalo to life in prison in a secret travesty of justice. His lawyer was given the same penalty. Fujimori bragged that the PCP leader would never emerge alive from the underground dungeon he called Chairman Gonzalo's "tomb".

Now this seems to be Toledo's intention as well.

Although some of the approximately 100 who have already been retried have been acquitted, the Peruvian press has not expressed the slightest doubt that the 11 to be tried in March will be convicted. The only question being debated is the sentences: 25 years from the time of conviction or life sentences with a court hearing in 35 years. Either way, the intention is that Chairman Gonzalo and the other leaders never emerge from their captivity alive. The trial is to take place at the Callao military prison, where Chairman Gonzalo and other PCP leaders have been held in underground cells.

Chairman Gonzalo's 1992 trial was held with such arrogant disdain for legal niceties that it lasted only a few hours and even the exact charges were never revealed. This time they have been: a series of armed actions during the course of the People's War that began in 1980 until the day the PCP chairman and others were captured in Lima. The eleven people to be tried have been accused of either being responsible for these actions as Party leaders or of having carried them out. They are Chairman Gonzalo, Comrade Miriam (Elena Iparraguirre), Zenon Vargas Cardenas, Martha Huatay, Carlos Inchaustegui, Laura Zembrano, Elvia Zanabria, Nancy Ruiz, Roberto Pizzaro, Carmen Carhuapoma and Maritza Garrido Lecca.

Comrade Feliciano (Oscar Ramirez Durand), who assumed responsibility for leading the PCP after Chairman Gonzalo's arrest until his own capture, is also being held at Callao prison. Although the Lima press has not named him as a defendant in the March trial, reactionary commentators have expressed their hope that unconfirmed contradictions between Comrade Feliciano and Chairman Gonzalo can be used to turn this trial into an ugly spectacle and throw dirt on the very concept of revolution.

The basic point of orientation is this: if anyone wanted to talk about real justice, the men and women who led the struggle against an oppressive social system and US domination would be free, and the leaders of the Peruvian government responsible for intolerable injustices would be on trial.

The US played a crucial role in arming and advising the Peruvian government in its bloodthirsty war against the peasants and other poor people who dared fight for a future as fully functioning human beings. The International Monetary Fund and the World Bank gave their unreserved support to the Fujimori regime, which is now universally admitted to be a criminal conspiracy against the interests of the Peruvian people. The US government vigorously defended Fujimori against international criticism when he seized all power in his own hands through a "self-coup" in 1992, and it explicitly refused to distance itself from the "hooded judges", the death squads and the rest of the campaign to put down revolution through terror. Today, international reaction is equally supportive of Toledo, who, although in a different form, is following that same path, no less dedicated to squeezing the lifeblood out of the common people and no less broadly hated, despite the fact that he does not owe his office to a military coup. The new trials are an attempt to make people forget all that. But these are crimes Peruvians and people all over the world are not about to forgive and forget.

The Revolutionary Internationalist Movement, the embryonic political centre of the world's Maoist parties, has defended Chairman Gonzalo and other revolutionary prisoners of war and political prisoners in Peru because it supports the people's war they are being tried for leading. In the upcoming trials, the fundamental issue remains the assertion - age-old but still central to the politics of the rulers of today's world - that revolution itself is a crime.

In defending Chairman Gonzalo's life, the Maoists have been joined by a great many people around the world, from prominent political and human rights figures to ordinary justice-loving men and women, who do not necessarily agree with the People's War Chairman Gonzalo led or the politics and ideology it represents but passionately agree with the stand taken in 1992 by the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Dr Abimael Guzman: "No knowledgeable and truthful observer of Peru, regardless of their political beliefs, can deny that Dr Abimael Guzman is the recognised leader of millions of peasants, workers, students, intellectuals and others of various walks of life in Peru. In no way can the 12-year long war he has been leading be dismissed as 'acts of terrorism'. In no way can Dr Guzman be denied the stature of a captured leader of a revolutionary party and army. Dr Abimael Guzman merits the broad international support that all imprisoned opponents of imperialism and reactionary regimes have always benefited from."

The new trials are very likely to be remakes of the 1992 trials: a travesty of justice.

No one who has been appalled by the injustice of this whole affair can accept any attempt to continue keeping Chairman Gonzalo and the other prisoners from publicly expressing their views. On 24 September 1992, when Fujimori tried to parade him triumphantly before the international press, Chairman Gonzalo turned the tables on his captors and gave a famous speech. He said that the Peruvian revolution would continue on the path of people's war despite this "bend in the road". (For the full text see A World to Win 2002/29 posted on www.awtw.org.) The following year, Fujimori claimed that Chairman Gonzalo and Comrade Miriam had reversed this view and signed a letter asking for peace accords. A right opportunist line arose from within the Party that argued that because of Chairman Gonzalo's capture the revolutionaries had to abandon the People's War and disband their army and the People's Committees where the peasants held political power in much of the countryside.

The PCP Central Committee denounced the Right Opportunist Line and declared that the Fujimori regime had engineered a 'hoax' by attributing the call for peace accords to Chairman Gonzalo.

The international movement in Chairman Gonzalo's defence, which among other things sent seven international delegations to Lima over the course of the decade, has focused on the demand that Chairman Gonzalo, Comrade Feliciano and the other political prisoners and prisoners of war be given free and direct access to lawyers, relatives, friends and the international media so that they can freely explain their views. Their contact with the outside world has been severely limited.

It is possible that the Toledo regime will try to continue the policy of keeping Chairman Gonzalo and the others isolated. New laws permit the state to ban video and audio recordings during trials. In some retrials of other accused revolutionaries during the last year, reporters were restricted to pens and notebooks. The purpose of this policy is to keep the people from seeing what goes on at these trials and to effectively gag the prisoners, so that they cannot make their politics known to the public. It is intolerable that the criminals holding Chairman Gonzalo and the other prisoners be allowed to control and manipulate their communications with the world. The lack of complete public access to these trials would be just another indication that the only purpose of the new trials is to justify the criminal nature of the first ones.

According to the Lima daily La Republica, Chairman Gonzalo's lawyer has said that he does not intend to co-operate with this unjust trial. The people must continue to defend Chairman Gonzalo and other imprisoned leaders against the charges the reactionaries are levelling against them. Whatever happens at the trial, Chairman Gonzalo must be allowed to give his views freely and publicly.

What is at stake in this trial is not only how the people understand the past but what they do in the future, and particularly, whether or not it is right to rebel against oppression.