Thursday, 5 April 2012

Peru: Gorriti on 5 April 1992

It's 20 years since Alberto Fujimori dissolved Congress in Peru in what is known as the "autogolpe" (self-coup). There's not many people around who know more about that period than Gustavo Gorriti and he has written a piece for Caretas which is well worth reading in full for the Spanish speakers. I'm just going to translate a couple of extracts which I think are particularly relevant to this blog (emphasis mine):

Was there a real reason for the 5 April coup? Just one, and it was to take Power and never give it up. [Vladimiro] Montesino's plan, of which he convinced Fujimori as early as December 1990, was to use the emergency which Peru was experiencing as a result of the economic debacle caused by [Alan] Garcia and the rise of the Shining Path insurgency in order to overturn the democratic system and replace it with an "iron fist" regime based on the right-wing military dictatorships of the 1970s, with two important differences: 1) a civil leaders, based less on [Juan] Bordaberry than on Kagemusha, but without even a trace of the ultimate noblity of that personality; 2) the central organ of government would not be the armed forces, but rather the national intelligence service, which would have a puppet as its official head and another, actual leader. [...]

Was the 5 April coup necessary to defeat Shining Path? This is perhaps the biggest fallacy among the arguments put forward to justify the coup.

With regard to the Shining Path insurgency, 1989 was a crucial year. The actions of the civil war were covering almost all the country and it was obvious that the climax was coming. Sendero was proclaiming that it had achieved strategic parity and declared that the following decade, the '90s, would see its "takeover of power". The security forces, for their part, were concentrating on planning and controlling operations with the Joint Command. The system was highly imperfect but, with hindsight, it turned out to be the integral reponse to the national insurgency.

The same year, in a much quieter and more modest way, the small GEIN unit was set up within Dircote. Even though it was quite modest, it was a bold concept in the struggle against Shining Path, initiated by the minister Agustín Mantilla and police chief Fernando Reyes Roca, with a background from the experienced officials of the Dincote of the 1980s, such as Javier Palacios, and in the methodology of the first GEIN, the anti-drug squad led by general Edgar Luque in the 1970s.

With the limited amount of help provided by a government in the midst of economic crisis, GEIN started work and some months later, in June 1990, while Alan Garcia was still president, it broke into the house in Monterrico and found a veritable treasure trove of documents, which it was able to analyse quickly and well, and this changed the course of the war.

With firm clues and an impeccable methodology, GEIN carried on dismantling the apparatus of Shining Path without giving them any respite, and soon the police team had turned into the best hope of victory.

In 1991, Montesinos and the one who signed the orders, Fujimori, were trying to penetrate or invade the GEIN with the Colina group, their special action force. When, inevitably, the crisis erupted between the two groups, the GEIN was saved by the intercession of the then station head of the CIA, who had seen its effectiveness. Montesino's desire to reestablish a close relation with the Agency (which he managed) saved the GEIN from reprisals and permitted it to continue operations.

Shortly afterwards, Abimael Guzmán was captured in the move that decided the war, which neither Montesinos nor Fujimori had a part in. What they did do was to take the credit for victory and present it as the result of their supposed strategy. As Fujimori was the government, peple believed him and the result was that the achievement by the police which demonstraged the force of democractic methods ended up being exploited by a corrupt and dishonest dictatorship in order to hang on to power for years.

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