Interview with Peruvian General Sinecio Jarama (Part II)

hariette spierings hariette at
Thu Sep 26 08:00:51 MDT 1996

>From the book "Peru - The Possible Paths" by Colombian journalist  Hernando
Calvo Ospina and Belgian journalist Katlijn Declecq.

(Taken at random from the Chapter "The military - concrete like concrete is
their power" - Continuation - 2nd Installment)

"GJ- And to all this, there is no one who has an answer.  Not even the Left
knows what to do.

Q- And this People's Guerilla Army (today the People's Liberation Army -
PLA, General Jarama is speaking in Mach 93) do you analyse it as a regular army?

GJ- No.  It is not an army as we see in the barracks.  They speak of an army
with two columns, some here, some there.  An army that melts away, reforms.
They have a complete system.  They are the ones who do the assassinations,
the sabotages, they enter the towns.  But they also serve to unfold their
ideological work.  Later, building upon that ideological work, the bases of
support who are in charge of establishing their new government arise.
However they still lack something very important: The front. That is the
social base to give support for the revolution.

Q- Other people have already commented on that fact saying that Shining Path
has difficulties in establishing the Front, but they also said that they are
working in that direction.......

GJ- In the country-side they have many difficulties because of the bloody
character of the war that has developed.  That is why the process of
establishing the Front they are undertaking it in the cities.  In the large
urban centers they carry out industriously working like bees in that regard.
For that they use between 25 to 30 generated organisms which are organs of
intellectual support, People's Committees, Support Committees for their
prisoners, and all those who work through their Revolutionary Movement of
Popular Defence.  It seems easy, no?

How do they do it?  Little by little, towns, little villages.  But they are
doing it, they are setting up the Front.  They have not wavered in their
strategical line not even in a millimiter.  They are intensively working on
this, especially during the last two years.  Some analysts believe that
Shining Path has abandoned their strategy of "from the countryside into the
cities" and has embarked itself upon the conquest of the cities.  That is
not the case.  Shining Path has not abandoned anything.  They have been
conquering the backbone of the Andes, while aiming also their efforts to the
conquest of the big cities.

Q- General.  It seems to us that pesimism has taken hold of you.  It is the
case that you, as a military man, have no confidence in your army, which is
supposed to be one of the strongest in Latin America?

GJ- Look here.  Even you - without realising it - have fallen into the same
trap.  You should understand that this is not a military war.  Shining path
is presenting a proposal for the transformation of society.  That is all.
And it does not do that by the weapon.  Shining Path says that they must
destroy piecemeal the old power in order to sow the new power in its stead.
That is not a military war.  The question that Shining Path would use the
military instrument to unfold their political construction and to defend the
terrain that it has won, is a question of a different order.

Listen, here: It is not a question of having 50 Divisions.  A General said
once:  "We should not worry to much about the Shining Path, we have not yet
used our tanks, our Mirage airplanes, nor our warships".  When I read those
statements I said to myself:  "Maybe we will not have a need to use that
hardware because we will be by then unable to do so, if we continue acting
with this indiference and with this erroneous approach of trying to
counterpose a military war against a political proyect".

Q- Would you say that Shining Path is a guerilla organisation which is
different from those that exist in Latin America or in the rest of the world?

GJ- If we look into how the process of the armed movements in Latin America
during the last 50 years has unfolded, we can see that these were posited
>from the top down.  Nearly all these movements were imposed and
transplanted. We had this experience in 1965, when a group of people from
the coast went into the Highlands.  They did not go far although they were
Peruvians.  There in the Andes, they were foreigners.  They did not know the
idiosincracy of those peoples (the Andean people).

Shining Path is different.  Abimael Guzman was a very intelligent man from
the provinces, very clever, very seriously studious. He goes to Ayacucho
University and uses it as a great lever.  He would bring in the peasant
youth to the University and then would send them back to their home towns.
In that way he handled Shining Path's work of developing consciousness,
slowly sowing their revolutionary credo.  With that degree of identification
with the people of these zones - completely relegated zones sunk in misery.
That is why Shining Path's revolution has its own characteristics.

Q- General, in several opportunities Shining Path has decreed armed strikes
in various regions and even in Lima itself.  Could you explain this to us
and how it fits into Shining Path's strategy?

GJ- The political authorities have been unable to fully grasp the
significance of an armed strike within the frame-work of the subversive
strategy of Shining Path.

An armed strike is an action geared to a confrontation of political and not
of military strenght.  Its aim is to measure the capacity of each side of
the contest to be listened to among the popular forces.  When Shining path
calls for an armed strike, they are not calling for people to come out into
the streets.  They are calling for people to stay put.  When none of us even
leave their homes, we are obeying the armed strike, we are playing into the
hands of the rebels.  And the leaders of the political parties simply remain
idle looking around to see what the government - that is the Defence
Ministry and the Ministry of the Interior (Security) will do.

They do not understand that the armed strike is not a military or police
problem, but a political challenge to society, to the whole of the ruling
class of the country.  That is why our reaction should be a total political
mobilisation.  All the armed strikes that Shining Path carries out have the
aim of evaluating the situation.  They want to see what are the different
political responses.  Unfortunately, up to now, these are the very responses
that the rebels have already foreseen.  We are doing exactly what they want
us to do:  They handle their own strategy and they handle our own as well.

Q-  General: There is much controversy about the question of whether there
is or not a war in Peru.  If this is or not a popular war?  What is your

GJ- I have already told you.  Here in my country the politicians have been
very careful in not admitting that we are at war.  They fear to say this
because they feared to give the subversives a reason to demand their
recognition in accordance to the Geneva Convention that recognises internal
wars and the status of belligerent forces.

Also, maybe, because they are innefectual.  They fear facing up to a larger
problem - one which their excersise of political power has them totally on
the spot: the resolution of the fundamental problems which are social and
political in character.  That is why they only speak of terrorism. In order
to use force. The politicians stimulate the military officers self-regard,
then they place their own puny bodies behind the railings while the beasts
fight it off among themselves.  In that way they do not make the issues
their own and wash their hands of responsabilities.

However. It is not a popular war.  The fact that Shining Path may say that
it is a popular protracted war from the countryside into the cities does not
mean that it is so. This is because the population has not followed a
process of conscious and voluntary ideologisation and belief in their cause.
It is rather a forcible process.

Q- But we have the impression that they (Shining Path) have grown very much
and we doubt that this has been achieved in the course of these 12 years
bsed on force and terror........

GJ- The fact of the growth of their ranks has three root causes:

First, because they carry out an ideo-political work.  Second, because there
is also an elemnt of compulsion.  And third, because there is a crisis to
which no one can find a way out.

J- Then we are here before a process which is no merely compulsion.....

GJ - True.  There is also their ideological and political work.  And this
crisis which has become too acute in the last few years.  A crisis in which
the critical level of poverty has gone from 10% to 40%, and the poor, who
were 40% of the population have now become 80% of it.  How can anyone find a
quick solution to all that?

Q- General:  If we have understood you well, you are opposed to the merely
military response that has been applied to Shining Path.  Can we ask then
what is your alternative solution?

GJ- Exactly.  We need a qualitatively different response.  Because today
Shining Path is all over the country and if you want to military cope with
all that territory you would need a very great capacity.  If after 12 years
we have not been able to defeat them militarily, what we have to cary out
now is a process of denying them resources, so that then the movement would
die of itself.

When we can achieve that less Peruvians join their ranks, that less young
people perceive that in this country there are no horizons nor a future for
them, at that moment it would begin to wane.  With that method you deny them
a social audience, the swelling of their ranks becomes restricted.  At that
moment, it would be possible to apply repressive force selectively. And we
would have the means to allow us to consolidate the system.  But, for the
kind of war that Shing Path has posited, I do not want military people.  The
military cannot handle these things in those terms.  They do not know how to
do it.

Q-  But, General, for example......

GJ- Let me tell you a real life situation so that you may understand what I
am saying.  A captain arrives to an emergency zone and begins to patrol the
area, clearing it of the terrorists who he captures or destroys.  And then?
What?  He can stay there a month, two months, three months.  But then what?
What comes after?

Besides, this captain knows nothing about the local population, most times
they do not even speak their language.  In that fashio it is impossible to
foster the participation of the population in helping to resolve the
problems of their region.  The state can only reach them with the gun.  But
the gun can only serve to back up something.

Then the captain leaves and the terrorists return to punish the authorities
for having given the military succour.  And then the captain returns, again,
to restablish order.  But by then he begins to ask himself, looking at the
local population:

"And here. Who is who?.  It is logical.  It is natural.  This is how this
war is developing.  However, at the same time the captain says to himself:
This town has not changed one iota.  It continues sunk into the same
poverty.  What am I doing here?  What am I defending?  What democracy?"

Would you not also think along similar lines?

J- Yes. Especially to understand what kind of democracy one is defending......

GJ- As things are going, the Army is being used for something we are not
fashioned for.  This is because now the civic action programs are taking the
form of temporary assistentialism.  Because now the depth of the crisis is
so huge that these do not matter at all, these (programmes) are like a drop
of water in an ocean of sand........

Besides, it is not the army which should carry out these actions, it must be
the native authority, the own elected authority which should promote the
organisation of the people.   And to that purpose the state's support must
reach there, the support of the political parties, so that the population
actively and truly would participate in resolving their problems.  But that
has not yet been posited in those terms.

Besides, from my own point of view, I see that these actions are
(equivalent) to the political use of force.  And force should not be used in
those terms.  Force is for the protection of society.

(This interview, to be continued in Part III)

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