Crashing the Palace Gates
Revolutionary Worker #982, November 15, 1998
On September 30, Peru's U.S.-backed dictator Alberto Fujimori looked out the window of his Presidential Palace and saw a scene that must have shook him to the bones. Hundreds of protesters, mainly youth, had used sledge hammers to break the chains on the tall metal gates and rushed into the Palace grounds. Groups of workers burned tires under the stairs leading to the Palace, and others threw black paint against the main gate. Some demonstrators broke into the Palace guards' office and took away various things, including guns and ammunition. The Palace itself was painted with graffiti denouncing the Fujimori dictatorship. Some of the graffiti said "PCP"--the Communist Party of Peru (known as the Shining Path in the media).
The police eventually struck back after a half hour, firing live ammunition into the air, beating people and shooting tear gas. Some 100 protesters were detained and many others injured. But the reactionary rulers of Peru were deeply disturbed by what happened at the Presidential Palace, the seat of their political power. The bourgeois media branded the youth who broke into the Palace grounds as "hooligans" and demanded that they be prosecuted as "terrorists."
The protesters at the Presidential Palace were part of one of the largest and most militant anti-government protests in years in Lima, the capital of Peru. A number of different opposition groups called for the "National Day of Struggle" to demand "democracy, jobs, sovereignty, justice, and decentralization." A general strike was also called for the same day by several of Peru's largest unions.
Protests and pickets at various work sites and schools began early in the morning. Then a march headed towards the main square in the center of the city, across from the Presidential Palace. Along the way, teachers, high school and college students, merchants, and workers from different industries joined up. Schools in Lima were reportedly 90 percent empty, and commerce was at least partially shut down in Lima and other cities.
The march was 30,000 strong by the time it reached downtown.
Outside the Presidential Palace, people chanted, "Down with the dictatorship!" "We are no longer afraid!" and "No to the re-election!" (referring to Fujimori's plans to run for a third term in the year 2000). Other slogans included "Democracy yes, dictatorship no," "Workers and students, united in struggle," and "Fujiharto, Fujiharto, ya nos tienes harto"--or "Fujimori, we're sick of you!" Then hundreds broke into the Palace grounds.
Meanwhile, about 2,500 people demonstrated in front of the Congress, which has rubber-stamped everything Fujimori has done. The people threw rocks at the Congressmen and fought with the riot police. Anti-Fujimori marches also took place in other cities in Peru. And the next day, students marched again to demand the release of those who were detained.
These protests have involved various political forces. Some, like the Civic Committee for Democracy, represent the bourgeois opposition to Fujimori who are unhappy with the monopoly on power held by Fujimori and his clique. They especially oppose his intention to run for a third term, even though the Constitution that Fujimori himself drew up after the 1992 coup only allows two. They hope to control and use the protests as a pressure tactic to force a change of faces in the government through elections. But the bourgeois opposition, like Fujimori, deeply fears the masses of people and hates the Maoist People's War. After the September 30 march, the official leaders were quick to join the ruling class chorus denouncing the "excesses" of those who had broken through the gates of the Presidential Palace.
But the events of September 30 and other recent protest reflect real and widespread anger among the masses of people in Peru against the Fujimori regime. In 1992 Fujimori and his generals staged a coup, dissolving the Congress and dismantling the existing legal system. This enabled Peru's U.S.-backed ruling class to step up the vicious counter-insurgency against the People's War and repression more generally. Since 1992, thousands of people accused of supporting the People's War have been imprisoned, and hundreds of thousands have been detained and tortured. Those arrested are denied almost all legal rights, given no opportunity for a legal defense and thrown into dungeons with horrendous conditions. Over 5,000 have been convicted by secret trials with judges wearing hoods to hide their identities.
Fujimori's economic program of "privatization" and "liberalization" have benefited the imperialists and a small number of wealthy in Peru--while the living standards of millions of Peruvians, especially working people and peasants, have been under intense assault. Recent studies show that, taking inflation into account, wages are one-third what they were in 1980. Well over half the people are not fully employed. And 55 percent of those who do work earn only half what it takes to support a family.
The repression and economic hardships have given rise to a growing number of militant protests. On September 22, the first demonstration in many years by relatives of those disappeared by the government took place in Lima. They demanded that the government investigate the over 5,000 cases of people disappeared since the early 1980s. The demonstrators, mainly women, included many peasants from the Andes regions that have been at the center of the People's War. One Peruvian newspaper obtained a secret government intelligence report warning that spontaneous protests are becoming more widespread. These developments expose the hollowness of the Fujimori's claims that he has brought "stability" to Peru and a better life for the people.
The protests in Lima and other urban areas give rise to a favorable situation for the real road to liberation represented by the PCP and the Maoist new democratic revolution. The PCP Central Committee is leading the continuing People's War, centered among the peasants and following the protracted strategy of surrounding the cities from the countryside. As the internationalist magazine A World to Win (1998/23) pointed out earlier this year, "The regime's strategy towards the poorest masses who make up the country's vast majority has been to combine gunpoint repression with efforts to demoralize and paralyze them politically and above all to try and isolate them from the PCP. But the continuation of the People's War under difficult circumstances shows that it continues to draw on the protection, support and participation of exactly that sector of the people. At the same time, the regime's efforts to mobilize a part of the somewhat better-off classes in its favor have not fared well, which has given the poorer urban masses more political breathing space and room to act. Throughout the last year there have been daring, combative and large marches, demonstrations and streetfighting in downtown Lima by striking workers and others --a common sight during the 1980s and 1990s but one that Fujimori seemed to have consigned to the past until recently."
For more information about the People's War in Peru, check out the Web site of the Committee to Support the Revolution in Peru at www.csrp.org. News of the People's War can also be found on the RW Web site at rwor.org.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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