Peru condemns groups who back Maoist rebels

December 29, 1991|By New York Times News Service

LIMA, Peru -- When President Alberto K. Fujimori visited San Francisco recently, Amnesty International organized two picket lines: one outside a hotel where he was speaking, and the other outside a Berkeley bookstore that sold propaganda for the Shining Path.

Human rights protests against Peruvian presidents are as old as Peru's 11-year-old counterinsurgency war. But the bookstore picket line reflected new concern about a growing U.S. and European support network for Peru's Maoist guerrillas.

From Berkeley to London to Stockholm, solidarity groups have formed to support a group one human rights advocate, Juan E. Mendez of Americas Watch, recently called "the most brutal guerrilla group that ever has appeared in the Western Hemisphere."

In the United States, the cause of the Shining Path is embraced by the Revolutionary Communist Party, a Maoist organization that distributes Shining Path books, leaflets and posters through Revolution Books, a nationwide network of radical bookstores.

Heriberto Ocasio, the U.S. leader of the effort, claims to have established chapters in Berkeley, Chicago and New York to "support the people's war in Peru."

In Europe, Shining Path advocacy groups called Sol Peru Committees are working in Belgium, Britain, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, the Netherlands, Italy, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.

"We are trying to explain the democratic character of the people's war in Peru," said Adolfo Olaechea, head of London's Sol Peru Committee.

Mr. Olaechea, a Peruvian, said that since organizing the committee six months ago, he had sponsored three "solidarity events," each accompanied by music from a London band called the Musical Guerrilla Army.

Offering a more conventional view of Peru's rebels, Amnesty International said in a November report that Shining Path was "responsible for thousands of civilian deaths and has frequently tortured and killed its captives."

To try to counter negative coverage of Shining Path in the U.S. and European press, the solidarity groups last year started publishing an international edition of the guerrillas' Lima newspaper, El Diario. This year the monthly newspaper started appearing in English as well as in Spanish.

The real impact in Peru of Shining Path's solidarity network overseas appears to be psychological, not material.

Most independent analysts believe Shining Path, known here as Sendero Luminoso, is self-armed and self-financed, largely by stealing weapons from soldiers and by taxing shipments of cocaine base sent by air to Colombia.

For defenders of Peru's democracy, the emergence of Shining Path solidarity groups has provoked outrage, first against the inability of Peruvian diplomats to counter the groups, and second against the unwillingness of host countries to shut them down.

"Sendero defenders in the West are basically misinformed," said Peru's sole Marxist senator, Javier Diez Canseco. "They think Sendero Luminoso is a Sandinista-type phenomenon. They are basically like Pol Pot of Cambodia."

To counter the support groups, Peru's Foreign Ministry is preparing a "white book" listing Sendero atrocities and is asking European nations to withdraw political-asylum status from Peruvians who propagandize for the guerrillas.

"Western countries are crossing a fine line between the hypocrisy of political asylum and complicity with international terrorism," a Peruvian diplomat told a U.S. visitor here. "You attack Libya, but you will not expel Sendero members."

The Sol Peru committees say they do not send money to Shining Path, an act that would violate laws of many host nations.

"The Shining Path is a disgusting group that deserves the support of no one," said a U.S. diplomat here. "But if they do not violate U.S. laws, what can you do?"

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