Peru's `Shining Path' Presses War in Capital As Public Doubts Grow
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Most Peruvians seem to agree. In a weekend opinion survey by the respected Lima-based research organization Apoyo, 48 percent of those polled disapproved of the government's anti-subversive policy; just 40 percent approved. More effective control of terrorism was a major justification for Fujimori's April 5 self-coup. His popular support - down to 60 percent from a post-coup high of 82 percent - is sliding along with his perceived ability to exert that control.Skip to next paragraph
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Fujimori introduced no new anti-Sendero measures in his speech Tuesday, and human rights groups fear Peru's countersubversive strategy will become still more militaristic. Since the coup, "the countersubversive dynamic has been extremely short-term, with an emphasis on quick and spectacular results," says Enrique Bernales, former head of the Senate Commission on Violence and Pacification. "The degree of militarization is far greater than late last year, and it can be assumed that the excesses of the past
could be repeated."
Mr. Bernales says his figures show "disappearances" by the security forces continue at around pre-coup levels, but the number of subversives killed in armed clashes has risen sharply. Despite government claims that it is controlling subversion, more Peruvians - nine a day - died in political violence in the first six months of 1992 than in the corresponding period last year.
Vociferous public demands for a hard line have been partially satisfied by Fujimori's announcement last week that those charged with terrorism will now be tried as traitors by military courts. The death penalty, presently applicable only in cases of treason during "external" war, may be extended to internal terrorists.
But many Peruvians consider the military solution inadequate. "The military are like watch-makers," says former presidential advisor Hernando de Soto. "They know how to assemble and fix the mechanical parts but they have no concept of time."
Mr. De Soto says Peru's vulnerability to Sendero springs from the total discrediting of its institutions. Current Sendero strategy, he adds, focuses on finishing off an already weakened and corrupt state. Brutal methods may temporarily alienate mass support but "Abimael [Guzman Reynoso, Sendero's leader] has time on his side, and he has the advantage of understanding society. Fujimori doesn't."
"Sendero is a political party," says Tapia. "Today, with maybe 100,000 committed people, it has greater capacity for action than any other party. And you can't stop a political party by detaining a leader or two."
Which is why Peruvians and the international community are concentrating on promoting a speedy return to a functioning democracy.
The next month will be crucial. By late August the ground rules should be laid for November's election of a "democratic constituent congress" to write a new constitution. In announcing the election Tuesday, Fujimori said members of the assembly would be banned from running for political office for 10 years.
"Sendero correctly asserts that the Peruvian state does not represent its people," says De Soto. "That's why it's so important to create a system that is truly representative."