Interview with Peruvian General Luis Cisneros (Part II)

hariette spierings hariette at
Sat Sep 28 08:02:27 MDT 1996

>Thanks very much for translating that interview, Adolfo; very interesting
>How representative is this guy of the army and/or the Peruvian ruling
>class? Is their analysis of their own culpability as sophisticated as his?

I will be translating some other interviews.  They are all from the most
influential generals (the ideologues of the various tendencies in the armed
forces) vis a vis the anti-insurgency strategy of the Peruvian ruling class

This is part II of an interview - from the same book - with the recently
departed Grl Luis Cisneros, former Minister of War at the time in which the
Armed Forces first went directly in to fight against the People's War (under
Belaunde's government, 1980-1985): (Continues from Part I).

GC- .......Under those conditions is very difficult to act and up to know
the only ones paying the cost are the military.  It is one thing not to
justify actions, and another thing is that one should understand them.

Q.- In waht sense, or at what point, do you believe that the violation of
Human Rights should be understandable?

GC- When you are sent into the war zones and you see your soldiers die, I
believe, that sychologically, you are not going to be able to live as easyly
with the same capacity for rational action like those of us analysing (the
war) from Lima.  No. You would be a man living with a total insecurity
regarding your life.  You would be a man every day counting the hours that
you still have to serve before you can get out of that raging fire.

I do not know if you are aware that the people from the Sierra (Highlands)
are very different.  Firstly, they never talk, in favour or against.
Decondly, the Shining Path people are from their same race, they are their
own family, and therefore they are not ready to inform on them.  Besides, do
you know who are those who are recruited into the military service in Peru?
Those who cannot evade it: the lowest classes.  And it is among those lowest
classes where Shining Path's strenght is.  It is within that mileu that you,
as an officer, have to live and work.

That is why when an officer has to face enemies he does not know who they
are nor when they are going to attack - and nevertheless his soldiers are
killed - he becomes more conditioned to act first and reason later.  And
then he is not capable of knowing if what he is doing is an excess or not.
Here the question is who survives.  Who kills first.

Q- But the reports about Human Rights violations show that even women,
children and the elderly have been assassinated by the armed forces.

GC - But.... Are you aware that the children, the women, the elderly are
also used by the subversives?  Look here.  The subversives have imitated
(the situation in ) Argentina in seeking two kinds of women: those over 60
and those pregnant.  Why?  Because it is evident that when one sees one of
these women one rather feels like helping them. No one thinks that a
pregnant woman is going to be carriying a bomb.  No one would think that an
elderly woman coming from the market place would be carriying grenades in
her shopping basket.  At least it is difficult to think like that.

As it was the case with those former examples (Argentina, Chile Uruguay), in
this war one already sees elderly women as the enemy.  One already sees
young pregnant women and also children as the enemy, therefore, one loses
that social and ethical aspect (restraint).

That is why, when one hears that the Army kills little babies and elderly
people, it is true, I can not deny it. However, I can not say that it is
always like that.

Q-  But the Army and the Government, have they asked themselves why these
people support the rebels?  Why would an elderly woman decide to carry
grenades in her shopping basket?

GC - Here we are mixing up two different things.  In Peru, a country with
big underdevelopment problems, there is a lot of misery and injustice.

I have held debates in numerous round table discussions and said that one
thing is to try to convince the population that the subversives are evil,
and another thing is to try to convince them that this democratic system is
good.  Why? Why all this misery, illiteracy, infant mortality?  Who brought
it about?: the democratic system.  Humans want to possess, and when the
system does not give them anything, rebellion offers them an alternative.

This is not an ideological alternative because to understand it from an
ideological standpoint you would need a bit of culture, which the rank and
file of Shining Path does not have.  This rank and file mass has the hope of
a better life, and that is the alternative that the Shining Path offers them.

Q- We have visited some shanty towns (new settlements) where the Army is
distributing water, candy, medicines, implementing civic-military campaigns.
Have you achieved any kind of rapport and obtained the support of the
population with this kind of action?

GC - Look here.  I have my doubts about these campaigns.  This is because I
believe that both the Army and these people are walking among ruins.  And I
believe that if the Army is today implementing civic-military actions, and
brings them food, medicines, the people receive them with satisfaction.  But
this a circunstancial kind of support, because if tomorrow who will make
these distributions is a different party, the same people will support them
with equal satisfaction.

This is because the people do not distinguish, they do not calculate, they
are hungry, they will follow those who give them food.  That is why I
believe that civic-military action is alright if it can be complemented with
education.  But if it is only a question of bringing them food or painting
their homes, when other do the same, they are going to support them.

GC - Tell us, General.  Concretely, what are your criteria for the
pacification of Peru?  What are your criteria for your side to win the war
against Shining Path?

GC- If one wants to pacify the country, we need development.  However the
most pesismistic among the experts speak of needing 90 years for the
achievement of the minimum objectives of basic welfare standards.  The more
optimistic ones believe that it would take no less than 30 years.  Another
criteria for pacification is that Shining Path and the MRTA must be
eliminated, because they are the cause generating this situation.

I do not agree with this last position.  Because if we are not able to give
a solution to the problems of development, Shining Path and the MRTA may
dissapear, but others would take their place.  That is why I believe that
the problem of pacification must be approached with both criteria.

When the people would see better standards of life, they will began to
isolate the rebels and will come closer to our side.  We can also begin to
act in those zones where the subversives have not taken root yet, creating
small development programs who would include the participation of the local
population, so that they can see in the short term achievable objectives.
Now, in the zones where the subversives are rooted, one must act militarily.
Once this is done, immediately, we must begin to organise the people.

I was opposed to President Belaunde's opinion of investing 500 million
dollars in Ayacucho (A Peruvian Department, craddle of the insurgency).  I
insited in that the rebellion had to be smashed first.  This is because if
one pours money first, we would be demonstrating to the whole of Peru that
the road to development is by means of rebellion.  That people have to
rise-up for the resources (money) to be allocated.

GC- And what is the role of the peasant rondas and the urban rondas  (army
created para-military formations) in the pacification strategy?

GC- In general terms, these are positive factors, since these are
organisations composed by individuals from the ranks of the people, people
who know the lay of the land very well and know who is who (in their
regions).  To have this support is very good. But I disagree with the way
these organisms have been implemented.

I think it is dangerous to supply them with weapons, because we could end up
arming the hole of Peru, and for these people the system is an open
question.  They can turn against us at any moment, and we have already seen
how Shining Path attacks them and takes away their weapons.  To this
strategy for a solution we are contributing more blood and more corpses.  We
have to act in a different fashion.

Q- General, and in the cities, what is the tactic that is being implemented
against the Shining Path?

(To be continued in part III of this interview)


Hi Vladimir:  I have taken note of your questions and these are all very
pertinent.  Unfortunately to answer them know would detract from the time
needed to translate this book.  Moreover, the whole point of the book is
precisely that people can draw their own conclussions from the whole of the
spectrum of opinion.  After this section on the military - where also other
schools and the current official line are reflected (in other interviews and
documents) we shall go into the vision of the legal left, the Ngos, the
Church, the government, and those who would reflect the views of the
Communist Party of Peru itself.

Patience then?  I am happy to oblige at the appropiate moment.


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