The Situation Of MRTA Political Prisoners In Peru

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Wed, 1 Jan 1997 17:48:13 +0100 (MET)

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The Situation Of MRTA Political Prisoners In Peru

Translated by Arm The Spirit from Angehoerigen Info #183

1. The Maximum-Security Prison At The Callao Marine Base

Those held as hostages of the dictatorship in this maximum-security prison include comrade Victor Polay Campos, member of the national leadership of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) and Comandante General of the Tuparmaran Popular Army (EPT); Maria Lucero Cumpa Mitanda, member of the national leadership and comandante of the guerrilla, and Peter Cardenas Schulte, member of the national leadership. They were all convicted in front of speedy military tribunals and sentenced to life in prison on charges of "terrorism" and "treason" under the Fujimori dictatorship's tightened security laws. These security laws are in violation of international treaties and agreements which Peru's Congress has approved and signed on to, as well as other international conventions on human rights and torture, and even parts of Peru's own Constitution.

Prison Conditions In Callao

The Callao prison was constructed in March 1993 by the Fujimori dictatorship and is the greatest example of their inhumanity and ignorance of human worth. It is located inside of the Peruvian marine base at Callao in Lima. This prison, once described as a "living grave", was built with the aim of physically and psychologically destroying our prisoners. It is also supposed to psychologically affect all men and women, warning them of the consequences should they dare to rise up against the neo-liberal policies of the Fujimori dictatorship. The construction of this prison was an integral part of a plan developed by the military and the secret service. It's aim is, through fear, to prevent any revolutionary consciousness from developing within the Peruvian people, and it was accompanied with a series of measures of control and repression which they called the "psycho-social campaign". This prison-grave consists of 8 reinforced cells (made of cement and iron) which are located 8 meters under ground. This serves the purpose of destruction: physical isolation, acoustic isolation, visual isolation, darkness, cramped conditions, total observation and control. The prison is outfitted with sound sensors and motion detectors, alarm systems, mines in the cellars and crawl spaces, and continually-filming video cameras. The cameras are controlled in a central watch center, and the guards towers around the prison walls are staffed with military personnel with FAL long-distance rifles.

The Cells

The cells are rectangles, 3 x 2 meters in area. There is a reinforced metal door along one of the walls which is double-locked and which can't be opened by the guards, whose keys are in the possession of military officers. There is a small rectangular window in the middle of the door which is used to pass in food. It is constructed in such a way as to prevent contact with other prisoners or even the guards. Each cell has a sink and a toilet, but the flow of water is controlled from the outside and is only allowed at certain times. The cells do not have their own artificial light, so there is a perpetual state of half-darkness. Above the door on every cell, about 2 meters up, is a type of cellar window, a slit 15cm wide, which is opened for a few minutes each day to allow in some direct sunlight. The cells are arranged so that there are 4 across from 4, separated by a small hallway. Again, these 8 cells are located 8 meters underground. When our comrades were transported to this prison-grave, they were drugged with sedatives so that they would lose their sense of time and would not have a sense for the exact location of the prison. Each and every prisoner was subjected to a full year of total isolation with no visits and no time to walk in the yard.

30 Minutes Per Day In The Yard

Following this period of total isolation, prisoners are allowed a 30-minute period each day outside in the yard. These breaks are taken alone so that there is no contact between prisoners. Inmates can use this time to walk in circles around the tiny yard, read the Bible (given to them by the guards), or watch pre-approved videos in a TV room monitored from the towers.

Possibilities For Letters And Information

All letters, including those written by our comrades as well as those sent to them, are studied thoroughly by secret service agents, the same people who decide which letters may be received and which may be sent. There is no right to privacy and no guarantee of confidentiality. The prisoners have no access to books, newspapers, or magazines, and they may not watch TV or listen to the radio.


Visiting hours last for a total of 30 minutes per month. Only immediate family members (parents, children, partners) are allowed to visit. No physical contact is allowed during these visits, and all conversations take place through super-thick glass via a speaker system, with security personnel present. All conversations are recorded and analyzed later. Family members visiting our comrades may not bring them clothes or food. These can only be given via military personnel, who search the goods thoroughly and then decide whether or not to give them to the prisoners. Visiting family members are transported to the visiting center in fully-closed vehicles, so that they cannot discern where exactly the visits are taking place.

Attempt To Force A "Peace Agreement"

After they detained our comrades in total isolation, the government, by means of its "psycho-social campaign" and its spokesman Vladimiro Montesinos, tried to trick them by promising eased prison conditions if they sign a "peace agreement". This means a dialogue with the dictatorship and swearing off the armed struggle. This offer, brought personally by Montesinos to our comrade Comandante General Victor Polay Campos, was rejected immediately. This decision angered the government representative, who then threatened to shoot our comrade. All the comrades imprisoned in Callao rejected the dictatorship's offer. The dictatorship responded by worsening the prison conditions, making the rules even more strict. Those people who accepted the government's conditions, however, have since been given certain advantages in prison treatment.

2. The Maximum-Security Prison In Yanamayo

This high-security facility was constructed in 1990 in Puno province in southernmost Peru. It is located in the Andes Mountains at an altitude of 3,800 meters. The climate is very cold, and even in the summer months the temperature lingers near 15 degrees Celsius. The rest of the year it is minus 10 degrees. The prison complex was built in the middle of the Andes on a lonely, high plateau. The complex is about 10,000 square meters in size. On the outside, it is guarded by a group of 100 elite army troops. The troops are lined up in trenches and they patrol the perimeter in armored vehicles, as well as trucks, pick-ups, two helicopters, and even a mine field. A group of 300 elite national policemen are responsible for security inside the prison. The prison is constructed with concrete and consists of different pavilions, each with its own yard. The comrades of the MRTA are located in pavilion 4A. The cells are 3 x 3 meters and house two persons each. They have sanitary facilities, but the use of radios or TVS is prohibited. No cooking is allowed. The windows have no glass, so our comrades suffer from poor health due to the cold and strong winds. Many now suffer from respiratory illnesses. According to a rule issued by the dictatorship, all prisoners brought to this facility must spend one year in total isolation. After this period they are granted 30 minutes each day in the yard. In other words, prisoners are in their cells for 23.5 hours every day. During the 30 minutes of yard time, prisoners can do a bit of exercise or sit in the sun. No magazines or newspapers are allowed into the prison, only books which must first be censored by the authorities. Books brought to our comrades by family members are not allowed to stay in the possession of the prisoner, rather they must be stored in the library. In the cells, work can only be done which does not require tools, because tools are forbidden. Guards are allowed to punish our comrades at will, sometimes forcing them to spend 48 days in a dark 2 x 1 meter cell. Or they revoke the prisoners' visitation or yard rights. As for food, the prison allocates only 60 centavos (100 centavos = 1 dollar) per day per prisoner, and the quality of the food is very poor. We know of many prisoners who have lost very much weight or contracted digestive disorders or tuberculosis. Family members are allowed to bring in food during their visits, but the difficulty of traveling to this prison makes it nearly impossible to transport food. Furthermore, some family members can only make it to the prison twice a year, because the journey is very expensive. Visits are only granted to immediate family members who have applied for and received visitation papers. No physical contact is allowed during visits, but people can talk to one another. The comrades are behind two layers of bars, and guards are always present during visits.

3. The Maximum-Security Prison Castro Castro

This prison is located in the suburbs of Lima and was constructed as a high-security facility, until an MRTA commando was able in 1990 to liberate our comrades by means of a 315m long tunnel. Under the Fujimori dictatorship, the exterior of the prison was reinforced with military troops. The national police control the interior. Many of the guards are masked so that they cannot be identified. Many problems have arisen in this prison due to overcrowding, since three prisoners must share a 6 x 2 meter cell for 23.5 hours every day. This situation is made worse by the fact that all three share the same sanitary facilities in the cell. Many illnesses have been attributed to these poor conditions. Comrades are not given medical treatment, and the bringing in of food is severely restricted. Only pre-cooked food for immediate consumption may be brought in by relatives, and no fruit whatsoever may be brought in. Inside this prison, like in the others, one room is designated as a court for speedy trials. The prisoners are brought in with their heads covered and are often treated poorly or tortured.

4. The Maximum-Security Prison Chor-Rillos

This prison is located in the center of Lima and is a women's prison for women charged with terrorism crimes. Some of the guards are women, but a security detachment in charge of most functions is comprised solely of men. That is the biggest difference between this prison and the others, because the reality of repression which reigns in the other prisons is exactly the same here. The facility consists of three pavilions, each three stories high. There are rows of cells one next to the other. A tiny window at the end of the hall has a view into the yard. The cells, 3 x 2 meters, have two wooden planks on one side, a sink and a toilet on the other. "Prisoners are not allowed to have hair combs, mirrors, photos, letters, radios, or TVS; it is against the rules to discuss politics or anything contemporary; they're not allowed to read, to write, to smoke..." reported a member of a Red Cross delegation who visited the prison.

These are just some examples of the conditions in Peruvian prisons, in Cajamarca, Arcquipa, Huancayo, Huancavelica... Because of these prison conditions, these violations of human rights, we call on solidarity groups, NGOs, and political organizations to protest this repression and violation of human dignity.

Berlin, May 1996

----------------------------------------------------------------- Arm The Spirit is an autonomist/anti-imperialist information collective based in Toronto, Canada. Our focus includes a wide variety of material, including political prisoners, national liberation struggles, armed communist resistance, anti-fascism, the fight against patriarchy, and more. We regularly publish our writings, research, and translation materials in our magazine and bulletins called Arm The Spirit. For more information, contact:

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