Impact of the April 1992 Coup



On 5 April 1992, President Alberto Kenyo Fujimori of Peru suspended the Constitution and dissolved Congress. The coup took place less than two years after his victory over rival candidate Mario Vargas Llosa, in a run-off election in which he was able to obtain just over 50 percent of the popular vote. Backed by the military, Fujimori announced that he was setting up a government of "national reconstruction" and implementing a plan of constitutional reforms that would eventually be submitted to a plebiscite (AFP 6 Apr. 1992). In a televised address to the nation the following day, Fujimori justified his actions by accusing Congress of blocking economic and political reforms and hampering his administration's campaign against terrorism and drug trafficking:

The legislature's ineffectiveness and the judicial branch's corruption are compounded by the evident obstructionist attitude and covert plans of certain party leaders against the efforts of the people and the government (Panamericana Television Network 6 Apr. 1992).

According to the official Lima daily El Peruano, one of the reasons Congress was dissolved was that the opposition party Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana (APRA), which held the largest blocks of deputies in both legislative chambers as well as important posts in most ministries, was using its power to obstruct the government's goals (Latinamerica Press 9 Apr. 1992, 1).

2.                BACKGROUND

2.0 General

Like other Latin American countries, Peru is facing grave social and economic problems. The country is faced with 1992 debt servicing payments of US$ 900 million. More than three million children need to work in order to survive while another 200 die every day of malnutrition (Le Monde diplomatique June 1992, 18). Furthermore, it is estimated that 13 million people in Peru, out of a population of 22 million, live in conditions of "abject misery" (ICCHRLA 12 May 1992, 3). Without the revenues from coca--Peru accounts for more than 60 percent of the world's production--the country would not survive (Le Monde diplomatique June 1992, 18). The poor economic situation has created a fertile ground for the advent of political instability as well as the growth of insurgent movements.

According to leading human rights organizations, widespread human rights violations have persisted in Peru for almost a decade (Americas Watch Aug. 1990; Amnesty International Nov. 1991). In 1980, the insurgent movement Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) declared war on the Peruvian state. Since that time this group has been responsible for a large number of the atrocities committed in the country, and it has been the principal target of the government's counter-insurgency campaign (Ibid.).

In 1988, Senator Enrique Bernales created the Special Commission on Violence and Alternatives for Pacification to monitor political violence and human rights abuses in the country (Documentation-Réfugiés 20-29 June 1992, 21). The Commission, presided over by Senator Bernales, reports that of the 22,443 killings which occured between 1980 and 1991, 11,143 victims were presumed members of insurgency groups; 9,257 were non-combatant civilians, primarily from peasant communities; 1,789 were members of the security forces; and 254 were drug traffickers (Amnesty International May 1992, 28). The Commission also reports that of 3,180 killings which occured in 1991 (as compared to 3,452 in 1990), 1,395 can be attributed to the security forces, while 1,314 killings were reportedly the work of Sendero Luminoso (Ibid., 28-29).

"Disappearances" are a frequent occurence. Between 28 July 1990 and 30 April 1992, Amnesty International estimates that of 495 "disappeared" people, 80 have been released, four have been acknowledged in detention, 19 have been found dead and 392 remain unaccounted for (May 1992, 33).

An estimated 200,000 people have been internally displaced in their attempt to flee from the violence perpetrated by both security forces and the armed opposition (Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 7). Fleeing from their homes, particularly in the southern Andes, these desplazados (internal refugees) now find themselves living in extreme poverty in cities like Huamanga, Huancayo, Ica and Lima, suffering from malnutrition, disease and psychological trauma (U.S. Committee for Refugees May 1991, 3). Many lack identification papers, a particularly serious problem, for without them it is impossible to enter institutional premises or secure formal employment offers; this "ostensibly makes the conditions of isolation and poverty much worse" (Schiappa-Pietra 25-28 May 1991, 21).

2.1               Sendero Luminoso

The Communist Party of Peru, more commonly known as Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), is a guerrilla movement which often uses terrorist means to achieve its goal: ultimately the destruction of the existing Peruvian state and the creation of a worker-peasant state, or the "New Democratic Republic" (Rubin 1989, 130). A group of intellectuals led by Abimael Guzm n (known also as "Presidente Gonzalo" to Sendero guerrillas or Senderistas), a philosophy professor at the University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga in Ayacucho, founded the movement in 1970 as a result of a split in the Communist Party. Sendero has adapted the Maoist ideology and strategy of peasant revolution, which involves a prolonged war in the countryside and the eventual encirclement of the cities, carried out in several stages. Instead of encircling the cities, the movement plans to recruit so heavily in the urban areas that the government and upper and middle classes will become isolated and will collapse (Tarazona-Sevillano and Reuters 1990, 53). Sendero began its war against the state in May 1980 in the department of Ayacucho, where it still remains active. The beginning of the war coincided with the return to democracy in Peru after 12 years of military dictatorship. Since then, the movement has expanded rapidly to become what one source describes as "the most brutal, vindictive, and elusive terrorist insurgency in the Western Hemisphere" (Tarazona-Sevillano 11 Mar. 1992, 4). It is difficult to measure the extent of Sendero's presence in Peru; recent estimates indicate that the movement controls between 25 and 40 percent of the country (McCormick 11 Mar. 1992, 5), and estimates of the number of Sendero members range from 5,000 to 20,000 (Wilde 11 Mar. 1992, 2).

To conduct its warfare in the rural areas it has infiltrated, Sendero relies generally on poor peasants and students, both men and women, whom it subjects to extensive indoctrination. In urban areas, recruitment and training through indoctrination allegedly occur in secret escuelas populares (popular schools) (Tarazona-Sevillano and Reuters 1990, 32). According to Documentation-Réfugiés, Sendero has also been accused of forcibly recruiting peasants (20-29 June 1992, 22), and the magazine Caretas carried an article about a 15-year old boy who was kidnapped by Sendero and forced to undergo training and participate in attacks (24 July 1989, 37).

Long-standing economic and social deprivation in the predominantly Quechu -speaking Indian highlands of Ayacucho is generally believed to be the main factor that facilitated the emergence of the movement, which presents itself as a saviour to a people weakened by poverty and exploitation (NACLA Dec.-Jan. 1990/1991, 12). The department of Ayacucho has the smallest share of the country's gross national product (GNP). It also has the country's highest number of residents without electricity (82.86%), potable water (66.96%) and sewage removal (90.67%) (Tarazona-Sevillano and Reuters 1990, 4).

Sendero's involvement in both the drug trade and terrorist activities subsequently facilitated the group's expansion into the Upper Huallaga Valley in the departments of San Martín and Hu nuco. Here Sendero acts as an intermediary between drug traffickers and peasants. It raises money by imposing a tax on each load of coca paste destined for Colombia, and, in exchange for arms, provides drug traffickers with a regular supply of coca paste and protection from the military and police. Sendero wins peasant support by fixing a "fair" price for coca leaves and protecting peasants from intransigent drug traffickers and from the government, which attempts to deter them from coca production. Sendero, interestingly enough, forbids the use of drugs in the region (Hertoghe and Labrousse 1989, 17). Sendero also steals arms from the security forces and dynamite from mines (Libération 7 May 1991, 43) and receives international support, its main allies being the Communist Party of Turkey (TKP/ML) and the Revolutionary Communist Party, U.S.A., both part of the Revolutionary Internationalist Movement. In addition, in the past few years, underground Sendero organizations called Peru People's Movements, whose goal is to establish Maoist revolutionary parties outside of Peru, have emerged in Sweden, France, Germany, Switzerland and Mexico (The New York Times Magazine 24 May 1992).

In keeping with its objective to destroy all representatives and symbols of Peru's establishment, Sendero's main targets are peasant communities who resist the movement, state officials, leaders of peasant and labour organizations, human rights activists, journalists, educators, engineers, individuals active in political parties and election candidates (Documentation-Réfugiés 20-29 June 1992, 22). Some 575 municipal authorites have been killed and many have resigned in fear (Latin American Newsletters 23 July 1992, 4). Since 1991, members of the health profession and religious orders have also become targets; in 1991 victims included an Australian nun working in the department of Junín, two Polish Franciscans killed in Chimbote while speaking to a group of youths, and a doctor and three health technicians who were participating in a vaccination campaign (Amnesty International May 1992, 30). According to Amnesty International, Sendero members "frequently torture their captives and subject them to mock trials before killing them, in a parody of justice" (Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 1). Since mid-February 1992, non-governmental organizations (NGOs) in various parts of the country have also been targeted. Sendero's clandestine newspaper, El Diario, has described NGOs as "a safety net for social decomposition" (Andean Commission of Jurists 9 Mar. 1992, 5). Public utilities and infrastructure, police stations, research centres and institutions are also under attack (Hertoghe and Labrousse 1989, 78).

Since 1988, Sendero has increased its focus on Lima in an attempt to establish support bases in the pueblos jóvenes (shantytowns) to which many peasants have migrated from the countryside (Quehacer Mar.-Apr. 1992b, 36). Data gathered by the Bernales Commission indicates that, since January 1992, almost 40 percent of terrorist attacks occurred in Lima (Latin American Newsletters 25 June 1992b, 2). According to Bernales, Sendero has achieved a "significant but not total penetration of Lima's pueblos jóvenes, particularly in San Juan de Lurigancho" (Latin American Newsletters30 Jan. 1992, 6-7). Moreover, Sendero has attacked community leaders and voluntary aid projects, such as soup kitchens, in Lima to further weaken the poor population, which is dependent on aid for survival and which, in desperation, may be more likely to resort to terrorism (Andean Commission of Jurists 9 Mar. 1992, 5). Two notable cases are the assassinations by Sendero of Juana López de León in Callao in August 1991 (Caretas 9 Sept. 1991, 30) and María Elena Moyano, known as Lima's "Mother Courage," on 15 February 1992 in Villa El Salvador, one of Lima's most organized shantytowns (Amnesty International May 1992, 31). López was the coordinator of the free "Glass of Milk" programme, and Moyano, deputy mayor of Villa El Salvador, was one of the programme's former presidents.

Recent bombings in Lima may signal a new phase in Sendero's campaign. Car bombs have been detonated in residential areas, killing and wounding large numbers of civilians (Andean Commission of Jurists 17 July 1992; Inter Press Service 17 July 1992). According to one report, Sendero leader Abimael Guzm n has recently ordered a major escalation of the fight in the capital (Reuters 21 July 1992).

2.2                Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA)

Much smaller than Sendero Luminoso, the Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement or MRTA) was reportedly founded in the mid-1970s but did not conduct its first armed attack until June 1984 (Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 24). The MRTA differs significantly from Sendero in doctrine and tactics; it rallies support from the most impoverished sectors with "military-populist methods," and, while its urban activities are terroristic, it uses open combat in rural areas (Schiappa-Pietra 25-28 May 1991, 14). Its actions were originally concentrated in urban centres, particularly Lima, but, by the end of the 1980s, the MRTA was operating in rural areas as well, particularly in the departments of Junín, Pasco, Húanuco, San Martín and the western department of Lima. It is now believed to be active in 14 of Peru's 24 departments (Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 24-25). The MRTA controls the Central Huallaga region, where, like Sendero in other areas, it "taxes" drug traffickers to finance its operations (Americas Watch Sept. 1991, 29). One source points to the emergence of certain links between Sendero and the MRTA (Nef and Vanderkop 1988, 68), although others have noted that the two groups often compete for supporters and occasionally clash, the MRTA generally coming off the loser (Americas Watch Sept. 1991, 29; Caretas 6 Feb. 1989, 38-41; Staar 1989, 142).

While it tends to act more moderately than Sendero, the MRTA does engage in assasinations, kidnappings (Schiappa-Pietra 25-28 May 1991, 14) and extortion. According to the Peruvian police's anti-terrorist directorate, Dircote, some 2000 companies have paid "protection money" to MRTA (Andean Report 15 June 1992). According to Amnesty International, the organization is also engaged in "sabotage, the occupation of towns, villages and public buildings, and armed attacks on police and army patrols" (Nov. 1991, 25). In 1991, the MRTA placed bombs near government buildings and police barracks in areas with heavy civilian traffic (Americas Watch Sept. 1991, 30). In the same year, in protest against the war in the Persian Gulf, the MRTA dynamited several Mormon churches, American fast food concessions in Lima and the Embassy of Italy, and fired grenades at the Embassy of the United States (Ibid). According to the Bernales Commission, the MRTA was responsible for 139 deaths, four percent of the total number of violent deaths in 1991; in comparison, some 40 percent of the deaths were attributed to Sendero Luminoso (Andean Commission of Jurists 10 Feb. 1992, 6). It is generally believed, though, that internal problems have recently weakened the MRTA and have affected its image as a movement (Ibid.).

2.3  Security Forces, Paramilitary Groups and Civil Defence Patrols

In the military's campaign against insurgency, security forces have also committed a large number of human rights violations, particularly against peasant farmers in remote mountain areas. Detentions, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions of peasants attributed to security forces have been periodically reported following attacks from armed opposition groups like Sendero Luminoso (Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 7). Until 1988, "disappearances" and extrajudicial executions were reported almost exclusively in emergency zones. In 1988 such violations were also reported in areas not under emergency regulations, and police units and paramilitary groups were allegedly responsible (Ibid., 13). The vast majority of human rights violations perpetrated by security forces since 1983 have not resulted in the conviction of those responsible (Ibid., 44).

Armed attacks by paramilitary groups began in July 1988 with the appearance of the Comando Rodrigo Franco (CRF), which a parliamentary commission found to have links with top members of the then ruling APRA party of Alan García Perez (ICCHRLA Jan. 1992, 7). Paramilitary activity increased in 1991 when a number of other groups, such as the Anti-Terrorist Liberation Command and the Anti-Terrorist Alliance of Peru, began to engage in activities characteristic of death squads (Ibid.). Paramilitary groups' targets have included human rights activists, lawyers, journalists and others critical of government policies (Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 19-20). According to various sources, at least some of the groups are tolerated by and even involved with security forces (Americas Watch Sept. 1991, 17; Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 20).

In an attempt to curb political violence, the state has been arming rondas campesinas (civil defense patrols). Not to be confused with the autonomous and often effective grass-roots peasant patrols formed to protect livestock and property against thieves in rural communities of the Andean highlands (Americas Watch 1987, 8), these newer state-armed patrols have sometimes been successful in the fight against Sendero but also provoke armed confrontation between rival peasant communities (Andean Commission of Jurists 13 Jan. 1992, 5). According to Americas Watch, these patrols have contributed to the escalation rather than the control of violence, "and patrollers have themselves often been responsible for abuses" (Americas Watch Sept. 1991, 15).

2.4           The Judiciary

In Peru, the judiciary, the principal forum for human rights protection, has been under-funded. Prosecutors and judges have been driven from areas of conflict by Sendero and, when engaged in human rights investigations, by military pressure (Americas Watch Sept. 1991, 32). Although most Peruvians believe the judicial system is corrupt and judges are not trustworthy (Americas Watch 1988, 33), Supreme Court Justice Guillermo Cabala, who sees no evidence of corruption on the part of judges, claims that the biggest danger to the judiciary stems from threats by insurgent groups (Andean Commission of Jurists 9 Mar. 1992, 6). As an example, Arturo Zapata Carvajal, one of the judges who deals with prisoners in Lima's Castro jail, claimed that his house had been under machine gun fire and that he had received threats. Zapata Carvajal later became notorious for granting freedom to more than 100 detainees accused of terrorism or involvement in drug trafficking (Ibid.). One analyst relates that judicial capitulation in the face of intimidation and bribery has led to a perception of judicial ineffectiveness in the fight against insurgency and an attitude of "don't take prisoners" on the part of the military (Cameron 13 July 1992).

The judiciary has been threatened by the military as well. On 4 June 1991, thirty soldiers broke into and searched the house of Dr. Moisés Ochoa Girón, a judge acting in the case of army officers accused of involvement in the 1988 murder of journalist Hugo Bustíos Saavedra. The soldiers claimed that they were looking for "subversives" as ordered by higher ranking officers (Amnesty International Nov. 1991, 62). This kind of intimidation has led to a climate where "the civil courts have generally failed to take action to protect the rights of detainees in police or military custody or to hold the military and police accountable before the law for criminal abuse of human rights" (Ibid., 59).

2.5     Fujimori in Power

Campaigning on a platform to help Peru's impoverished and focusing on the plight of the native Indian population, Fujimori was elected in June 1990 and took office on 28 July of the same year (Le Monde diplomatique June 1992, 15). Once in power, he quickly adopted the very neo-liberal policies he had opposed in his electoral campaign by implementing one of the world's most severe economic stabilisation programmes (Ibid.). Imposed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), this programme represented an attempt to fight inflation, reinsert Peru into the international financial network and attract foreign investment (Le Monde diplomatique June 1992, 18).

Lacking a majority in both houses of Congress, Fujimori has governed largely through presidential decree (The Globe and Mail 7 Apr. 1992, A11). Since his inauguration, there has been tension between the executive branch he leads and the legislative and judicial branches. His outspoken criticism of the latter two branches and his self-described leadership style of "do first, tell later" put him at odds with Congress, which increasingly obstructed his reforms (Quehacer Mar.-Apr. 1992a, 10).

On 3 June 1991, Fujimori was granted legislative powers in Law 25327 to issue special decrees for a period of 150 days on such items as national pacification, the generation of job opportunities and private investment (Andean Commission of Jurists 10 Dec. 1991, 5). In the days preceding 17 November 1991, the expiry date of this law, Fujimori issued a large number of decrees, some of which gave the military greater powers and institutionalized civilian participation in the battle against insurgency by allowing peasant patrols to bear arms and subordinating them to military command in the areas under emergency regulation. Critics of some of the decrees said they could be used to restrict fundamental rights and liberties in non-emergency situations and that they apparently threatened freedom of expression and the right to privacy (Ibid., 5-6). Congress had only 30 days to accept, modify or reject the decrees before they automatically became law. On 29 November 1991, anticipating Congress' negative reaction to the decrees, Fujimori stated, "I am hoping for a conscientious, responsible and mature attitude on the part of the Congress. We can't wait 10, 20 or 40 years to change the country" (Ibid., 6). By 4 December 1991, Congress had passed a bill that either repealed or modified a number of Fujimori's decrees, but this bill had to be, in turn, be reviewed by the president (Ibid.).

3. THE 5 APRIL 1992 COUP

Against this background of escalating tension, Fujimori suspended the Constitution and dissolved the Congress of Peru. His announcement was followed by the arrest of a number of congressional leaders, opposition political figures, union officials and ex-police chiefs. Senate head Felipe Osterling Parodi, who had issued an appeal for civil disobedience (AFP 6 Apr. 1992), and head of the House of Representatives Roberto Ramírez del Villar were put under house arrest for 15 days. The ex-president and member of the opposition APRA party, Alan García Perez, was ordered to be placed under house arrest, but, although his house is heavily guarded, his whereabouts are unknown (Latinamerica Press 9 Apr. 1992, 1). The military also temporarily took over news agencies and radio stations. The radio station Antena 1, for example, was closed down after broadcasting a call for civil disobedience, and the offices of the magazine Caretas, which among political affairs magazines, has the country's highest circulation, were briefly occupied (Index on Censorship May 1992, 12).

In a statement issued the following day, the military officially confirmed its support of Fujimori, claiming that it was "imperative" to achieve economic reforms, put down drug trafficking and corruption and rebuild inefficient government institutions (Radio Programas del Peru Network 6 Apr. 1992). Some have noted, however, that the military had strong interests in a clamp-down on Congress because the majority opposition bloc had been stalling a number of decrees intended to enhance the power of the armed forces (Index on Censorship May 1992, 12) and because the military wanted to rid itself of civilian control in order to combat insurgency "in its own way" (Le Monde diplomatique June 1992, 18). Others have alluded to a possible "drug coup" carried out to protect the military. The daily Expreso stated that, according to unconfirmed reports, the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs, Bernard Aronson, had just a few weeks before the coup handed Fujimori a list of 170 military officers involved in drug trafficking (Latinamerica Press 16 Apr. 1992, 1).


4.1 Violence

Shortly after the coup, Sendero put up posters in some Lima shantytowns stating that Fujimori's actions illustrate the failure of the attempts of the existing order to reinforce bureaucratic capitalism, restructure the state and put an end to the insurgency (Caretas 20 Apr. 1992, 41). According to Caretas, the President's move plays right into the hands of Sendero, which will attempt to take advantage of the closure of democratic channels to win new support and which will try to block a return to democracy. Moreover, the magazine claims, Sendero will use the coup to show the world that it has legitimate reasons for its actions (Ibid., 34). Indiscriminate repression may be an objective of Sendero's attacks, which, since 5 April 1992, have become more violent (see also Section 2.1). Within two weeks of the coup, there were 15 attacks in Lima leaving 24 dead and 60 injured (Ibid., 33). On 30 April 1992, the day President Fujimori announced the introduction of legislation imposing stiffer penalties for terrorism, Sendero carried out a series of attacks in Lima, including the killing of a deputy school headmaster, the bombing of a store and an explosion in a park facing the Embassy of the United States (Latin American Newsletters 14 May 1992, 2). According to one source, Sendero's principal targets are now the state and security forces as well as members of Parliament, who no longer enjoy state protection (Caretas 20 Apr. 1992, 41-42). Sendero has also sought to attract international attention with its violent attacks, capitalizing on the arrival of the foreign press in Peru following the coup (Ibid., 41).

The level of violence reached new heights in May 1992; according to the Bernales Commission, 413 people were killed, the highest number since June 1989, and there were 123 terrorist attacks, 112 of which have been attributed to Sendero Luminoso (Latin American Newsletters 25 June 1992b, 2).

In June 1992 a bomb attack directed at television station Channel 2 killed five people and prompted the government to speed up its plans for anti-terrorist urban civilian patrols (Latin American Newsletters 25 June 1992b, 2). There was some dispute at first as to who was behind the attack (Latin American Newsletters 18 June 1992, 10), but recent reports attribute the bombing to Sendero (Inter Press Service 17 July 1992; Reuters 21 July 1992).

4.2          New Decrees

On 6 May 1992, the government published Decree Law 25475 (Andean Commission of Jurists 11 May 1992, 7). Among other things, Article 3 of the Decree mandates life sentences for leaders of subversive movements and 20-year terms for "terrorist collaborators"; Article 7 provides for six-to-twelve-year sentences for individuals found guilty of "terrorist collaboration"; and Article 22 repeals Article 323 of the Penal Code, which once mandated 15-year prison sentences for security forces members guilty of "forced disappearances" (Latinamerica Press 14 May 1992, 1). The Decree also allows for incommunicado detention of individuals for up to fifteen days; defence lawyers are not allowed to intervene until the interrogatory is prepared by the police (Andean Commission of Jurists 11 May 1992, 7). Furthermore, the Decree institutes a system whereby the identities of judges are hidden in trials dealing with subversion. According to the Andean Commission of Jurists, this system of "faceless judges" is a serious threat to human rights protection because it effectively eliminates controls on who Fujimori appoints to the bench and whether they are impartial or indeed judges (Latinamerica Press 14 May 1992, 1). Supreme Court Justice Guillermo Cabala has claimed, however, that judges need to be protected and that court hearings involving terrorism should be heard in private (Andean Commission of Jurists 9 Mar. 1992, 6).

On the surface, Fujimori's battle against insurgency seems to be having some success. Not only was the leader of the already weakened MRTA, Victor Polay, recaptured in the first half of June 1992, but on 14 June 1992 it was reported that marines had destroyed a series of Sendero Luminoso base camps in the Upper Huallaga Valley (Latin American Newsletters 25 June 1992b, 2). According to APRA congressman Alberto Valencia, however, some "radicalized and politicized" members of APRA and Izquierda Unida (United Left), the largest coalition of legal Marxist parties in Peru, were considering joining the clandestine struggle against Fujimori, a move that is ostensibly not sanctioned by APRA. In the words of Valencia, the trend is towards "ever more open struggle against Fujimori" (Ibid., 3).

4.3              Legal Rights

According to Amnesty International, a number of measures undertaken by the new Government of Emergency and National Reconstruction effectively suspended the right to habeas corpus (Amnesty International May 1992, 11). On 8 April 1992, Fujimori issued Decree Law 25419 ordering the closure for 10 working days of all judicial branch offices throughout the country except for criminal courts and the offices of the district attorney (Radio Programas del Perú 8 Apr. 1992). In the following days, several attempts to submit writs of habeas corpus before the courts were unsuccessful because security forces blocked entry to court buildings and officials refused to receive petitioners. This contravened an Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruling that the right to habeas corpus cannot be suspended, even in a state of emergency (Amnesty International May 1992, 11). The subsequent government removal of a number of judges and prosecutors from office, coupled with the fact that, by the end of April 1992, the judiciary and the Public Ministry remained virtually at a standstill, has, according to Amnesty International, "seriously undermined the structures and procedures by which the Peruvian state makes provisions for the protection of human rights" (Ibid.).

On 10 April 1992 the Asociación Nacional de Centros de Investigaciones, Promoción Social y Desarrollo del Perú (National Association of Centres for Research and Social Promotion and Development of Peru) described the coup as follows:

It generates a scenario of illegality which favours terrorist forces, particularly Shining Path. It leaves citizens, in particular the political, social, labour, peasant, neighbourhood and basic needs organizations, without any legal protection (ICCHRLA 12 May 1992, 7).

4.4                Proposals for a Return to Democracy

On 21 April 1992 Fujimori put forward a timetable for a "return to democracy." The timetable would include draft proposals by his cabinet for constitutional reform to be subject to a national plebiscite on 8 November 1992 (Latin American Newsletters 25 June 1992a, 1). At a meeting with the Organization of American States (OAS) in the Bahamas on 18 May 1992, however, Fujimori expressed his willingness to hold elections for a new congress to redraft the country's 1979 Constitution (The Globe and Mail 19 May 1992, A7). After meeting an OAS mission headed by OAS Secretary General Joao Baena Soares (AFP 2 June 1992), Fujimori announced to the nation that the reform of the Constitution would be the responsibility of an 80-member constituent assembly to be elected on 18 October 1992, and that this assembly would act as a legislature until a new congress was elected the following year (Latin American Newsletters 25 June 1992a, 1; Radio and Television Networks 2 June 1992). He also stated that the election of the constituent assembly would be supervised by representatives of the OAS (Radio and Television Networks 2 June 1992). On 25 June 1992, however, Fujimori announced the fourth change to the timetable for democratic reform of the country (Latin American Newsletters 9 July 1992, 8). The constituent assembly, now to be elected on 22 November 1992, will not be superseded by a new elected congress until the end of Fujimori's mandate in 1995 (Ibid.). On 8 July 1992, in a speech to an assemblage of regional military commanders, the President suggested that municipal elections, originally scheduled for November of this year, should be postponed for "perhaps one or two years." The association of municipal governments would, however, have to agree to this postponement (Latin American Newsletters 23 July 1992).


President Fujimori has all along justified the events of 5 April 1992 and his subsequent actions to rid the country of corruption, inefficiency and violence by pointing out that he had no alternatives, and that the people of Peru clearly supported him. In his own words, he is "trying to find a way to turn Peru into a real democracy, even though it seems to be paradoxical. [...] It is a necessary transition phase" (Der Spiegel 25 May 1992). Popular support for the 5 April 1992 coup has dropped from 71.7 percent in April 1992 to only 40.9 percent in June (Latin American Newsletters 23 July 1992), and the current situation begs the question whether the President's actions have only made conditions worse.

Already high levels of violence could escalate even further with Fujimori's measures, which have led to an increased militarization of the country. Security forces have been given broad powers in dealing with insurgent groups while the civilian population is also being armed and actively drawn into the conflict. Moreover, according to several human rights organizations, the human rights abuses the security forces are accused of are not being dealt with adequately. In fact, while Fujimori has often stated his concern for human rights, he has been critical of the efforts of such national and international organizations investigating and documenting human rights in Peru (Andean Commission of Jurists 10 Dec. 1991, 4-5; Human Rights Internet Summer 1992).

While Fujimori has had some success in fighting insurgency, his measures may not be able to dismantle groups like Sendero Luminoso. Some sources claim that past counter-insurgency moves have ended up strengthening Sendero, and the combination of harsh political and economic measures and human rights abuses by security forces could win the movement support (Caretas 20 Apr. 1992, 41; Le Monde diplomatique June 1992, 18).

As the violence continues to escalate and pessimism about the future of the country grows, exit may become more common. Lima, once a safe haven for people fleeing from rural violence, has become, increasingly, the focus of Sendero's strategy and a locus of violence. If Fujimori is unable to eliminate Sendero, and the violence is not brought under control, a greater number of Peruvians will decide to flee the capital for a safer haven. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), anticipating possibly large numbers of people fleeing the country, has already discussed a contingency plan with Bolivia to deal with a number of different refugee scenarios (UNHCR 13 July 1992). A representative with the UNHCR in Ottawa states that one of the biggest factors in deterring refugee movements in the past has been the fact that the topography of Peru has made access to neighbouring countries very difficult, particularly for peasants without a conception of leaving the country or for poor people without the means to afford a plane ticket. Such factors may, however, become less of a deterrent if the situation worsens (Ibid.).

No one in Peru today is immune from political harassment, including the upper or business classes, which have usually been insulated from violence. Threats and extortion in the form of "protection" are being aimed at an increasing number of people who are neither peasants nor members of Peru's working class (Ibid.). Given that they are no longer immune from the conflict, those with the means to afford access to countries such as Canada will most likely consider leaving the country if they have not already done so.


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Amnesty International. November 1991. Peru: Human Rights in a Climate of Terror. (AI Index AMR 46/56/91). New York: Amnesty International Publications.

Andean Commission of Jurists, Lima. 17 July 1992. Telephone Interview with Researcher.

Andean Commission of Jurists, Lima. 11 May 1992. Andean Newsletter [Lima]. No. 66, pp. 5-7.

Andean Commission of Jurists, Lima. 9 March 1992. Andean Newsletter [Lima]. No. 64, pp. 4-6.

Andean Commission of Jurists, Lima. 10 February 1992. Andean Newsletter [Lima]. No. 63, pp. 5-6.

Andean Commission of Jurists, Lima. 13 January 1992. Andean Newsletter [Lima]. No. 62, pp. 5-7.

Andean Commission of Jurists, Lima. 10 December 1991. Andean Newsletter [Lima]. No. 61, pp. 4-7.

Andean Report [Lima]. 15 June 1992. Vol. 19, No. 10. "The Week in Peru."

Cameron, Maxwell. Associate Professor of International Affairs, Carleton University, Ottawa. 13 July 1992. Telephone Interview.

Caretas [Lima]. 20 April 1992. "Golpes Salvajes."

Caretas [Lima]. 9 September 1991. "Sendero contra el Pueblo: Pateando la Olla."

Caretas [Lima]. 24 July 1989. "Arrepentidos--Versión Directa."

Caretas [Lima]. 6 February 1989. "Financistas del terror."

Documentation-Réfugiés [Paris]. 20-29 June 1992. No. 187. "Le Pérou."

The Globe and Mail [Toronto]. 19 May 1992. "Fujimori Promises Elections."

The Globe and Mail [Toronto]. 7 April 1992. "Peruvian Coup Draws Condemnation."

Hertoghe, Alain and Alain Labrousse. 1989. Le Sentier lumineux du Pérou : un nouvel intégrisme dans le tiers monde. Paris: Éditions la Découverte.

Human Rights Internet. Summer 1992. Human Rights Tribune [Ottawa]. Cardenas, Susana. "Peru Defenders."

Index on Censorship. May 1992. Vol. 21, No. 5. "Fujimori Does It His Way."

Inter Press Service. 17 July 1992. "Peru: New Guerilla Offensive Leaves 13 Dead and Over 100 Wounded." (NEXIS)

Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (ICCHRLA). 12 May 1992. The April 5th Coup in Peru: A Cure Worse than the Illness? Toronto: ICCHRLA.

Inter-Church Committee on Human Rights in Latin America (ICCHRLA). January 1992. 1991 Annual Report on the Human Rights Situation in Peru. Toronto: ICCHRLA.

U.S. Committee for Refugees. May 1991. Kirk, Robin. The Decade of Chaqwa: Peru's Internal Refugees. Washington: The U.S. Committee for Refugees.

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 14 May 1992. Vol. 24, No. 18. "Fundamental Rights Threatened in Post-Coup Peru."

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 16 April 1992. Vol. 24, No. 14. "Tense Calm Reigns in Peru After Presidential Coup."

Latinamerica Press [Lima]. 9 April 1992. Vol. 24, No. 13. "Fujimori Takes Control of Peru."

Latin American Newsletters. 23 July 1992. Latin American Weekly Report [London]. "Mayors at Risk," "Fujimori Again Moves Goalposts" and "Postscript: Peruvian Public."

Latin American Newsletters. 9 July 1992. Latin American Weekly Report [London]. "Fujimori Makes Yet Another Change."

Latin American Newsletters. 25 June 1992a. Latin American Regional Reports: Andean Group [London]. "Fujimori 'Adjusts' Return to Democracy Under External Economic Pressures."

Latin American Newsletters. 25 June 1992b. Latin American Weekly Report [London]. "Major Successes in Counter-Insurgency."

Latin American Newsletters. 18 June 1992. Latin American Weekly Report [London]. "Curfew and Rondas Follow Car-Bombs."

Latin American Newsletters. 14 May 1992. Latin American Weekly Report [London]. "Tougher Penalties for Terrorism."

Latin American Newsletters. 30 January 1992. Latin American Weekly Report [London]. "How the War Has Been Changing in Peru."

Libération [Paris]. 7 May 1991. Thomas, Gérard.

McCormick, Gordon H. 11 March 1992. "Prepared Statement before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, Committee on Foreign Affairs, US House of Representatives," Washington, D.C.

Le Monde diplomatique [Paris]. June 1992. Pablo Paredes. "Les blessures sanglantes du Pérou."

North American Congress on Latin America (NACLA). December-January 1990/1991. NACLA: Report on the Americas [New York]. Vol. 24, No. 4. "Fatal Attraction: Peru's Shining Path."

Nef, Jorge and J. Vanderkop. 1988. Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies [Montréal]. Vol. 13, No. 26. "The Spiral of Violence: Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Peru."

The New York Times Magazine. 24 May 1992. "Where the Shining Path Leads."

Panamericana Television Network [Lima, in Spanish]. 6 April 1992. "Fujimori Dissolves Congress, Deploys Military." (FBIS-LAT-92-066 6 Apr. 1992)

Quehacer [Lima]. March-April 1992a. No. 76. Hernando Burgos. "Crónica de choques y desencuentros."

Quehacer. March-April 1992b. No. 76. David Montoya and Carlos Reyna. "Sendero: Informe de Lima."

Radio and Television Networks [Lima, in Spanish]. 2 June 1992. "Fujimori Addresses Nation, Reviews Events." (FBIS-LAT-92-106 2 June 1992)

Radio Programas del Perú Network [Lima, in Spanish]. 8 April 1992. "Government Publishes First Four Decrees." (FBIS-LAT-92-069 9 Apr. 1992)

Radio Programas del Perú Network [Lima, in Spanish]. 6 April 1992. "Armed Forces Support Fujimori." (FBIS-LAT-92-0666 6 Apr. 1992)

Reuters. 21 July 1992. AM Cycle. Paul Mylrea. "Peru President Pulls out of Iberoamerican Summit After Bombs." (NEXIS)

Rubin, B., ed. 1989. The Politics of Terrorism: Terror as a State and Revolutionary Strategy. "Terrorism as a Revolutionary Strategy: Peru's Sendero Luminoso." Washington, D.C.: The Johns Hopkins Foreign Policy Institute.

Schiappa-Pietra, Oscar. "Internal Refugees in Peru: A Challenge to Contemporary Refugee Law." Symposium "Obligations and their Limits: Refugees at Home and Abroad," Toronto, 25-28 May 1991.

Der Spiegel [Hamburg, in German]. 25 May 1992. "Fujimori Discusses Coup, Democratization Plans." (FBIS-LAT-92-104 29 May 1992)

Staar, Richard F., ed. 1989. Yearbook on International Communist Affairs 1989. Stanford, CA; Hoover Institution Press.

Tarazona-Sevillano, Gabriela. 11 March 1992. "Prepared Statement Before the Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere Affairs, Committee on Foreign Affairs, U.S. House of Representatives," Washington, D.C.

Tarazona-Sevillano, Gabriela and John B. Reuter. 1990. Sendero Luminoso and the Threat of Narcoterrorism. New York: Praeger Publishers.

United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), Ottawa. 13 July 1992. Telephone Interview with Legal Officer.

Wilde, Alexander. 11 March 1992. "Testimony before the Subcommittee on Foreign Affairs, US House of Representatives," Washington, D.C.


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