(en)Do People In Peru Support The MRTA's Action?

Arm The Spirit (ats@locust.cic.net)
Sun, 2 Mar 1997 08:22:53 -0500 (EST)

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"Do People In Peru Support The MRTA's Action?"

Interview With Delia Zamudio, Chair Of A Neighborhood Association In Lima And A Member Of The Street Vendors' Association (CAP)

What kind of reactions have there been from the legal left in Peru to the seizure of the Japanese ambassador's residence by the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)?

The reactions have been generally unqualified. For example, the leftist trade union association CGTP called the MRTA a group of adventurists. The unions' spokesmen would do better to remain silent on the issue, for they have not analyzed it. Because shortly before the seizure, the Fujimori government wanted to pass a bill privatizing the health and education sectors. That would have meant that the people no longer have a right to medical treatment and that poor children may not be able to go to school anymore. The seizure of the residence made things a little easier for the poor, because these plans have been put on hold for now. The government doesn't dare push them through during such a situation.

Isaac Velasco, the MRTA's European Representative, stated in an interview with Junge Welt that the Fujimori government has its back to the wall. Do you agree with that analysis?

Fujimori knows that his time in office will end, in the year 2000 at the latest. He cannot be re-elected. I can agree with Velasco to the extent that the government has lost the support of the people due to its economic policies.

Does the Peruvian left draw any distinctions between the MRTA and the Maoist-oriented Sendero Luminoso?

In the past, Sendero Luminoso attacked legal left-wing organizations. Such actions have not been carried out by the MRTA. The Peruvian left generally regards the Senderos to be terrorists, whereas the MRTA are guerrillas. Sendero never thought twice about murdering members of leftist organizations. For example, they carried out armed strike actions, burning to death taxi drivers, who need to make a living, inside their cars. The pro-government media try to distort these distinctions. Only very few papers break through this disinformation, for example La Republica.

Were other struggles going on in December when the occupation action began?

In the historic district of Lima, there were riots because the security forces tried to force out all the street vendors.

Are these struggles an expression of a broad opposition to Fujimori's neo-liberal policies?

In a general sense they can be seen as resistance to Fujimori's policies. Most street vendors don't want to do what they do. For many, it's the only way they can survive. Andrare, the mayor of Lima, promised to find jobs for the street vendors before he got elected. When he came into office, however, he created a special local police force to attack the street vendors without warning. Andrare wants a "clean" city.

Are the unions involved in these conflicts?

The labor movement in Peru used to be one of the strongest in South America. When Fujimori came to power in 1990, import tariffs were reduced, thereby making many Peruvian firms unable to compete. This led to massive job reductions and thus the unions lost their influence. Many former workers are now trying to get by as small business owners.

Are other organizations in Peru trying to pick up where the unions have declined?

The Street Vendors' Association (CAP) is gaining in strength. The CAP works together with various forces on the left, but it has avoided being associated with any particular tendency. It concenrates on the concrete political work involved with the day to day lives of street vendors.

Did the CAP organize the resistance to the "cleansing" of the historic district, or was the fighting by the street vendors in December more of a spontaneous outbreak?

The evictions happened without warning. The CAP had warned about it beforehand and distributed leaflets which called for people to defend their places of work. Many people gathered together the night before the evictions and started gathering stones to defend themselves.

(Interview by Gerhard Klas, SoZ. Translated by Arm The Spirit from Junge Welt, Thursday, Feburary 27, 1997)

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