Meeting Peru’s Most Wanted

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The Peruvian Amazon jungle has become the battleground for a war between communist insurgents and the forces of law and order. In the past few years, a group of subversive elements have inflicted dozens of casualties on the Peruvian armed forces. They are now regarded as the Peruvian government’s main enemy. But, what are the motives behind their actions? In the hope of answering this question and despite many warnings, PRESS TV’s reporter sets off on a journey to establish contact with the feared insurgents; he brings back unprecedented candid interviews with the group’s leaders. These insurgents - who call themselves the Communist Party of Peru, or PCP - are the last remnants of the Shining Path, a communist group that, back in the 1980’s, took on arms, vowing to defend the peasantry and impose a dictatorship of the proletariat. Their anti-US rhetoric and their involvement in the drugs trade that originates in Peru, has prompted the United States to step into the conflict. The US state Department recently offered a 5 million-dollar reward for the movement’s leader.

TIME CODE : 00:00_05:00

Narration:

The Peruvian Amazon jungle has become the battleground for a war between communist insurgents and the forces of law and order.

In the past few years, a group of subversive elements have inFernando Lucenaicted dozens of casualties on the Peruvian armed forces. They are now regarded as the Peruvian government’s main enemy.

But, what are the motives behind their actions?

In the hope of answering this question and despite many warnings, I set off on a journey to establish contact with the feared insurgents.

Their anti-US rethoric and their involvement in the drugs trade that originates in Peru, has prompted the United States to step into the conFernando Lucenaict.

The US state Department recently offered a 5 million-dollar reward for the movement’s leader.

Meanwhile, helicopters supplied by the US Drug Enforcement Agency are being deployed to hunt down the insurgents.

These insurgents - who call themselves the Communist Party of Peru, or PCP - are the last remnants of the Shining Path, a communist group that, back in the 1980’s, took on arms, vowing to defend the peasantry and impose a dictatorship of the proletariat.

What followed was a ruthless war between the subversives and government forces.

The Shining Path was characterized by its bloody tactics. Within a few years, they had annihilated thousands of Peruvians.

Most of their victims were the very same peasants they were supposed to be defending.

The government’s response wasn’t less brutal.

After 20 years of conFernando Lucenaict, the overall death toll neared 70,000

Clotilde Ccapchi:

We used to see the dead piled up like wooden logs, they’d be chopped in to pieces or slaughtered like goats, with their throats slashed open.

Clotilde was amongst those who suffered when the social conFernando Lucenaict swept through the Peruvian Andes.

Clotilde Ccapchi:

We opened a grocery store and we used to sell well, but that was when things were going ok, before the terrorism of the 1980’s began. After that we were always in danger, so much killing. Back then people experienced hunger and suffering. They had to leave their fields, their crops, their animals.

We were in the hands of the hands of both the military and the Shining Path. In the fields the Shining Path used to kill anyone for any reason.

Narration:

In 1992, Abimael Guzman, the infamous Shining Path leader also known as “Comrade Gonzalo”, was finally captured by the police.

Abimael Guzman:

... and this will go on, we’ll continue applying (our policies)...

Narration:

Despite his original calls to continue the armed struggle, he has since been asking for amnesty.

Fernando Lucena:

The actions of the SP triggered the 2 decade long conFernando Lucenaict which, by year 2000, most Peruvians thought extinct. However, recent events, in this region, have brought back those terrible memories.

Narration:

The PCP has shunned any link with former leader “Comrade Gonzalo” and his conciliatory calls for amnesty.

Instead, PCP leaders Comrades Jose, Raul and Alipio, have been behind the recent lethal attacks on the armed forces.

Newsreader:

Three injured soldiers as a result of the attack carried out by remnants of the Shining Path, as it was confirmed by the chief of the VRAE military region

Army Officer:

We had three injured as a result of the hostilities

Newsreader:

Only two weeks after attacking a military base in Vizcatan, Shining Path remnants carried out another gunfire attack, this time against the counter-subversive base of Union Mantaro

Narration:

The group’s activities are confined to an area known as the VRAE: the valley between the rivers Apurimac and Ene - a highly volatile jungle region, where armed forces are fighting insurgents and drug-lords.

Hilario Huamani:

These [the subversives] are people who live hiding in the bush, because they are wanted by the government due to the type of policies they apply.

Nation-wide the VRAE has been demonized, because of drug-trafficking and terrorism.

TIME CODE: 05:00_10:00

Narration:

I continued my journey throughout the VRAE region, in search of the PCP insurgents.

Since the government designated the VRAE as an Emergency Zone, the military presence is widespread.

Soldier:

Hello. Where are you coming from? Hey, take their number plates and everything else.

Could you give me your IDs?

Come on son. Quick, quick...

Narration:

After several fruitless weeks of following false leads while traveling through the military-controlled region, I finally got a communication that seemed very promising: a reliable source suggested that a meeting with the leaders was finally possible.

Fernando Lucena:

I am at the rendezvous point where I’m supposed to be meeting the contact who is going to take me to the leaders of the insurgency. Now I’ve been told to wait on this boat I’m sitting on right now and, any time now, someone should be arriving here. This person is going to take me down the river until we get to a settlement from where we are going to start walking to a camp-site.

I wasn’t allowed to bring anyone else with me, so it’s only me and my camera now, from now on.

Narration:

A weary boatman who didn’t want to be filmed, took me on a three-hour journey heading to what I saw as a very uncertain destiny.

What followed was a day’s-long walk across coca fields. For the peasants of the VRAE, the cultivation of the coca leaf, the raw material for cocaine, is their only means of subsistence.

Towards the end of the day, I reached a wooden hut, where I met a small armed detachment of the PCP.

Fernando Lucena (off-camera): Where are they going to?

“Comrade Antonio”:

Downriver, to the town.

Fernando Lucena (off-camera): And do they need to go armed?

“Comrade Antonio”:

Of course, otherwise anything could happen.

Narration:

I had to stay at that camp overnight, while we waited to receive instructions from the movement’s high command.

Narration:

The day went by while the insurgents seemed at ease with my presence. However, being around the same people who are often described as indiscriminate killers, made me rather uneasy.

Around midday the instructions came via walkie-talkie: the PCP leadership had authorized for me to meet them.

Fearing for my safety but encouraged by the possibility of getting an unprecedented interview, I walked for several hours more.

Narration:

An army helicopter Fernando Lucenaying above us made me realise that, at any point, I could end up stuck in a crossfire.

Fernando Lucena:

The helicopter can’t see us?

“Comrade Antonio”:

No, no.

Fernando Lucena:

Why? Is it too dense?

“Comrade Antonio”:

Yes, it’s mainly the vegetation that covers us.

Fernando Lucena:

And what kind of weapon are you carrying?

“Comrade Antonio”:

This is the G-3, Heckler & Koch

FERNANDO LUCENA: And how did you obtained it?

“Comrade Antonio”:

This belonged to the anti-narcotics police

Fernando Lucena:

did you get it after a confrontation?

“Comrade Antonio”:

Machente

Fernando Lucena:

What is that?

“Comrade Antonio”:

We ambushed them [at a town called Machente]

Fernando Lucena:

Did you capture several weapons there?

“Comrade Antonio”:

Yes

Fernando Lucena:

How many?

“Comrade Antonio”:

This one and five Berettas

Fernando Lucena:

Were there any loses?

“Comrade Antonio”:

Not from our side

Fernando Lucena:

and from theirs?

“Comrade Antonio”:

Yes, six [deaths].

Narration:

I found it hard not to think of the six young lives that had been lost, and wondered what motives the PCP leaders would have to justify such thing.

Next stop was at a shed, next to a coca field that was being cultivated by a member of the PCP.

Conversation of 2 PCP members:

Insurgent 1:

We were down river, harvesting coca, when the attack started. The helicopters came in and started dropping bombs on us. Richard got injured when they dropped a bomb. His arm was left on bare bones all the Fernando Lucenaesh was gone.

Insurgent 2:

When the armed forces came in, the peasants from the area left.

Insurgent 1:

Yes, and they haven’t come back since, they left for the mountains.

Insurgent 2:

They are (hiding) in the mountains, they are scared and fear another bombing might take place.

TIME CODE: 10:00_15:00

Narration:

Suddenly we got word that the meeting was on.

Narration:

I didn’t know what to expect, until we emerged into a clearing in the jungle, where I was greeted by a full military formation under the command of Comrade Alipio himself, one of the 3 PCP leaders, and probably Peru’s most feared man.

Narration:

Altogether the PCP is said to number between 3 and 4 hundred members.

Despite the innocent look on some of these faces, this very same armed column has been responsible for the worst blows that government forces have suffered in recent years.

Comrade Pepe:

My name is comrade Pepe. This weapon was captured at the Sanabamba ambush, it’s called an RPG [Rocket Propelled Grenade]. It is used to down helicopters.

Comrade Omar:

My name is Comrade Omar. This is a heavy weapon, we confiscated it at the Matuspata ambush, in Sanabamba. We didn’t suffer any losses, but we took 12 soldiers down.

Comrade Carmen:

My name is comrade Carmen, the weapon I’m carrying is an AKM, we confiscated it when ambushing the police forces in a place called Lauricocha, in Huanta.

Comrade Alejandro:

My name is comrade Alejandro. This is a MAG machine gun, we captured it on the 9th of April 2009. With this MAG machine gun we downed a helicopter in a place called Sinaycocha.

Narration:

Comrade Alipio was joined by the PCP’s political leader, Comrade Raul. I was now in front of two of the most wanted men in Peru.

After hours of conversations with the two leaders, it was agreed that Comrade Raul would give me an interview where no topics were to be considered off-limits.

Comrade Raul:

The Peruvian revolution has to have its own ideology in order to constitute an authentic and self-styled revolution.

If we’ve got the mission of conquering powering and setting off the socialist process through an armed struggle, we also respect the way in which Hugo Chavez came to power, as well as what’s happening in Nicaragua and the projects of [Bolivia’s] Evo Morales, of [Ecuador’s] Rafael Correa and of [Parguay’s] Lugo. We agree with all of them, because if we are going to talk of socialism in today’s world, it has to be from the perspective of a united revolutionary front that encompasses different kinds of positions, all of which oppose yankee super-imperialism.

Narration:

The one PCP leader who was missing, presumably for security concerns, was Raul’s brother, Comrade Jose: the man for whose capture the United States has offered 5 million dollars, after branding him a murderer and drug trafficker

Comrade Raul:

That classification comes from our main and number one enemy, the United States. My brother is a revolutionary, not a criminal. For his capture they are offering a certain amount of money, because for them, for the oppressors of humankind we, the communists, shouldn’t exist.

Narration:

Throughout the past few years, the Peruvian economy has been registering a steady growth of almost 10 per cent a year.

Comrade Raul:

The economy in Peru has grown at the expense of the exploitation of our people. The stomachs of our people today are even hungrier than before. What has grown is the economy of the rich, of the pro-yankee oligarchies, of those who sell our country, our natural resources. The poor are one day going to explode, and our party will move forward, because poverty is the fuel for the revolution.

Abimael:

Esto queda en los demas, y nunca se va a borrar, y cuando nos muramos, la historia lo va a reconocer

Narration:

Almost 20 years after Comrade Gonzalo’s predictions, I wanted to know if Comrade Raul and his followers believed history had absolved their former leader.

Comrade Raul:

We, as the leaders of the party, call for the execution of Gonzalo, for the crimes he committed against humanity, because he spoiled the direction of a revolution which would have otherwise been in a much better position to fight against the enemy and principally, against the yankee super-imperialism.

These days we cannot reach the people as the “Shining Path”, because the Shining Path previously didn’t fulfill its duty... it could have been a path that led the people towards victory, but instead all that Gonzalo gave us was a path of terrorism, not the path the people expected. This revolution can only be a peasant’s revolution. By ignoring the peasantry, as Gonzalo did while living in Lima, how could he feel the people’s suffering? How could he hear the crying of the masses when their houses were burnt down? From Lima, how could he see the peasant’s children when they were hanged? But that’s what Gonzalo did, he allowed it and he applauded it.

TIME CODE : 15:00 _20:00

Comrade Raul:

Communists are forged by the popular war, amidst the heat of the combat; but when did that Gonzalo ever pick up a riFernando Lucenae? He is a peace-time leader and I respected him when I was a combatant. I used to defend Gonzalo’s doctrine but, since the events of Lucanamarca, my conscience developed into what I am now, a defender of my people.

Narration:

In the year 1983, tired of the threats from the Shining Path, the peasants of Lucanamarca, an impoverished Andean village, killed a Shining Path commander.

As retaliation, Comrade Gonzalo ordered the Shining Path to carry out the brutal massacre of 69 peasants.

Comrade Raul and his brother, PCP leader Comrade Jose, took part in the atrocity.

Comrade Raul:

I also participated, and so did Comrade Jose. We were both combatants and we fulfilled our revolutionary duties. If we committed excesses in Lucanamarca, if we annihilated children and women, it was because those were the party’s orders. In summary, since Lucanamarca, a proletariat conscience has been developing within us and we started assuming a new position, maybe at the beginning in a silent manner, because to assume a position against Gonzalo, against his methods, meant instant death.

Fernando Lucena:

In the confrontation between your fighters and the armed forces, many of the casualties are these young men who come from the most impoverished classes of Peru but, despite this, they end up being the ultimate enemy of the revolution. How can you justify this?

Comrade Raul:

If they come into combat, what else can we do? But, whenever there is a soldier wounded, we respect his life. If there is a soldier who deposes his weapon and surrenders, we respect that, because the soldiers are our class brothers, they are our same blood, but it is these enslaving laws which are the causes that make these sons of the people fight for the State instead of serving their people. Why aren’t the sons of the rich serving in the army and defending their own interests? They are cowards and exploit our people in their own interest, but this has to stop. We make this war in order to end further wars of oppression.

Narration:

In the 1980’s, during the worst years of the conFernando Lucenaict, the government armed the peasantry against the Shining Path. Organized in to “civilian defense committees”, in many cases they proved to be a tougher enemy than the armed forces.

Commander Wagner:

I’m going to tell you an anecdote, from when I was patrolling the region in year 1984.

We set off on a mission, 30 of us, members of the Civilian Defence Committees, and 30 members of the army.

A little insect called “chahuaco” bit the army lieutenant. So this lieutenant felt a bit of pain and, from then on, we had to carry him on a stretcher.

That’s not how patrolling is meant to be.

Around that same time, once I got bitten by ten of those same insects; my head was hurting but we carried on patrolling.

I didn’t need a stretcher or anything else.

We don’t look for excuses to hold back the patrols, we just keep going.

Comrade Raul:

My father was retreating when he got captured, they found out he was our father, so they dismembered him, cut him in to pieces. Despite killing my father I am not resentful nor would I wish to fight against the Civilian Defence Committees, because they acted legitimately, they had to organize the peasantry against our party because our party behaved like criminals, we behaved like criminals, like terrorists, but these days we’re not terrorists anymore.

Commander Wagner:

Those cowards only ambush and then ran away.

I have been publicly and outspokenly threatened by Comrade Jose.

The subversives have taken the upper hand and have received a boost from their links with the drug-traffickers.

Narration:

While it is common knowledge that the PCP protects the coca farmers in the region, according to the US Government, the armed group is also heavily involved in the multimillion dollar cocaine trafficking business that originates in the VRAE.

Comrade Raul:

Are we supposed to annihilate the peasants because they grow coca or smuggle drugs?

Drug-trafficking is a social problem that we cannot solve by our revolution.

Fernando Lucena:

And what is the relationship between the PCP and the big drug-lords? By this I don’t mean the coca farmers or the people who produce raw cocaine in a rural jungle laboratory, but the big international drug-traffickers.

Comrade Raul:

None, and no one will be able to prove otherwise; not even the biggest drug-trafficker from Mexico or the biggest drug-trafficker from any other place, whoever they are.

TIME CODE : 20:00 _25:59

Narration:

The group’s activities are certainly funded by the coca-leaf trade and, in the past, the PCP’s leadership has admitted to collecting two dollars for every kilo of drugs that crosses their territory.

However, after witnessing their living conditions and seeing that all their weapons had actually been stolen from government forces, the US’s branding as “drug kingpins” seemed exaggerated.

Narration:

An issue that, in the past, has generated serious controversy, is the presence of several dozen children within the ranks of the PCP.

There have been suggestions that some of these children had been kidnapped by the group.

PCP video

PCP Children:

We need to organize and militarize ourselves, to completely stop yankee super-imperialism which is the invader of our country...

Comrade Raul:

No one will ever prove that we have kidnapped a single child. Our children were born in our bases, our children are not involved in combat actions, they are just the sons and daughters of our combatants and there isn’t a single one of our children who cannot read and write. But, objectively, if I am a revolutionary, I need to educate my child in understanding the revolution. That child needs to know why he suffers from hunger, why when he goes to the city, he sees himself dressed in a certain way while the sons of the rich are dressed in a different way.

Narration:

While I was interviewing Comrade Raul, he received information of an 80-strong military detachment heading in our direction. Immediately he and Comrade Alipio began to plan what actions to take.

Comrade Raul:

Is it going to start?

And now what?

We’ve got to take immediate measures.

And what [do we do] about the helicopter?

Narration:

My presence in their camp at that precise moment proved to be a rather unfortunate coincidence.

Comrade Raul:

There is enemy movement in the area and you have to understand that we want to put forward to you this concern from our part. We wanted to ask if this is because of a plot between you and the enemy?

Fernando Lucena:

They have been asking me if I have been talking to someone or if I’ve had any kind of device switched on that might have helped the army to track us.

I think they by now understand I’ve had nothing to do with this, but they are a little bit weary...

Comrade Alipio:

What’s for certain is that the enemy is on the move.

Combined forces with navy, police and army units.

Comrade Raul:

Basically, they have somehow found out that in the past few days some units of our army have been moving around this area. We have to figure a way out of this tight spot, because it’s very likely that an armed action will take place here soon.

Fernando Lucena:

Besides the main leader, comrade Jose, every other important member of the organization is in this same camp-site right now, so this would be Christmas day for the armed forces if they were to get us here...

Comrade Alipio:

We’ve got a unit that is on stand-by to proceed with an ambush at any moment.

Narration:

Shortly after, another group of combatants left for a place where they expected to ambush the armed forces.

Due to what seemed an imminent armed confrontation, the movement’s leaders told me to spend a further night at their camp. It wasn’t clear if this was for my own safety or because they were still suspicious of me.

Narration:

Throughout my journeys in the VRAE, I had noticed that the civilian population refers to the insurgents in rather affectionate terms.

Fernando Lucena:

Would you tell me why is it that the people call you “the uncles”?

Comrade Raul:

“The uncles” was something that originated in a spontaneous way. There was no reason to call us terrorist anymore.

(That term) came up when we started to apply our policy of self-criticism in the villages we passed by.

It was the best way the people found to differentiate us from the past history.

Narration:

Fortunately, the next day I learnt that the armed forces’ detachment had headed in a different way and the ambush had to be called off.

After saying goodbye to the remaining PCP members, four insurgents escorted me on a very long walk out of the emergency Zone.

Fernando Lucena:

After 4 days and 4 nights with these guys, I’m finally on my way out. We’re getting out of this place through a different route, because the one we took in order for me to get to the camp-site where I met Comrades Alipio and Raul is right now apparently impossible to go through, because there is a huge army movement around there.

Narration:

Back in the safety of Peru’s capital, Lima, the recent wealth created by the implementation of Washington-promoted policies was very obvious, as well as the contrast between this and the extreme poverty in which millions of Peruvians live.

What also became became clear to me is that the issue of the ever increasing gap between rich and poor needs to be addressed.

However, despite all the explanations I heard from the PCP leaders, I could find no logical reason whatsoever to justify the taking up of arms in a democratic nation like Peru.

The insurgency in the VRAE just seemed like a senseless and tragic loss of life.  

   

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