From IEC, London

Yanamayo Prison Rebellion

Revolutionary Worker #1046, March 12, 2000

The following statement, dated February 15, 2000, is from the International Emergency Committee to Defend the Life of Abimael Guzmán (IEC-London). See RW Nos. 1043 and 1044 for previous coverage of the Yanamayo prison uprising.

On Sunday, 6 February 2000, a group of political prisoners and prisoners of war at Peru's notorious Yanamayo prison in Puno refused to return to their cells and seized and held the prison guards. After several hours, the authorities sent in armed squads to put down the protest. The prisoners, who are charged with belonging to the Communist Party of Peru (PCP), fought back fiercely, forcing a retreat after a furious battle in which one of the prisoners was reportedly killed.

Although the Peruvian government denies it, news reports give detailed accounts of negotiations that the government was then forced to conduct with the prisoners. The prisoners demanded an end to the isolation of Abimael Guzmán (Chairman Gonzalo), that he be presented publicly and that the special prison at Callao, where he and other leading PCP prisoners are being held, be closed. They also demanded recognition as political prisoners and prisoners of war; an improvement in the harsh conditions of imprisonment they face, and more humane prison conditions for all prisoners; and the presence of Red Cross and human rights officials to ensure their own safety.

The conditions in Yanamayo, like all Peru's prisons, are notoriously cruel. But in addition it is located 4000 metres high in the mountains, in bitter cold, and far from Peru's population centres, making visits extremely difficult. The cells are 2 x 3 metres, the windows are tiny, and often lack glass so that the wind sweeps through, and the water is so cold that prisoners' fingers turn purple when they wash. The food is rotten, insect-ridden and generally inedible, and the prisoners have little access to medical care and medications. (For more, see IEC Emergency Bulletin 60, the article on Peru's prisons in A World To Win No. 1996/22 and the interview with an ex-prisoner of war in AWTW No. 1999/25.)

For months tension had been gathering in Yanamayo. In November the political prisoners had issued a set of demands, but in January the once-monthly family visits were denied, and other punitive measures taken. The final spark to the rebellion was reported to be an incident when 60 to 70 guards, armed with teargas and shotguns, stormed a prison block, killed one prisoner and wounded 20 others, and then tried to blame the prisoner's death on the prisoners themselves.

After rising up and seizing the prison block, the prisoners repulsed several attempts to retake it, and held firm in their demands. Eventually, on Monday 7 Feb, the authorities agreed to take no reprisals against them and to transmit their demands to the highest level of government. The following day, although the prison was entirely surrounded by army reinforcements from "special operations units," journalists reported that the prisoners raised red flags, and in an organised fashion, chanted their slogans to get their message out to the world and demanded that the government comply with the negotiated agreement.

The prisoners' struggle selflessly raised the need to break the isolation of Chairman Gonzalo, a just and necessary demand raised by people all over the world. He has been held in complete isolation for almost seven years now, in violation of international law and the government's own legal undertakings. The isolation must be ended. Their demands for an end to the inhuman treatment suffered by Peru's prisoners also deserve the support of people everywhere. The IEC has long sought to expose the vicious practices of the Fujimori regime, which are aimed in particular at breaking the prisoners' steadfast support for the People's War.

Indeed, their heroic struggle under the extreme conditions they face gives heart to all those struggling against oppression everywhere, and urgently cries out for support. So does the People's War itself, which the PCP has continued to lead forward through the twists and turns of recent years, despite repeated claims that it has been defeated by Fujimori and his U.S. imperialist backers.

We call on people around the world to back the prisoners' struggle and to protest against the Fujimori regime and its continued isolation of Chairman Gonzalo in whatever ways possible. We also call on people to be alert to further manoeuvres by the regime. As of 13 February, press and human rights observers have still not been allowed into the prison, and the regional hospital had been put on alert in case of casualties "of a great magnitude." Indeed, the political prisoners have warned against the possibility that the Fujimori regime might repeat a massacre like the one that took place in 1992 in Canto Grande prison, or the massacre in El Frontón prison in 1986, when 300 political prisoners were killed after a heroic struggle. The Fujimori regime has been widely condemned for its violations of human rights, and it has openly declared that it refuses to recognise rulings of the Organisation of American States Inter-American Human Rights Court.

The political prisoners have risen up, at enormous risk, to raise their voices against the U.S.-backed tyranny imposed on their country. They need your support. Please bring this matter to the attention of anyone you can, including prisoners' rights organisations, human rights organisations and others, and send letters of protest to:

Commission on Human Rights of the Congress
Fax (51-1) 4263201

Ad Hoc Commission for Law 26655
Av. Nicolas de Pierola No. 1065
3er Piso, Lima 1, Peru
Fax (51-1) 4 264900 or (51-1) 4 270519

Please send copies of letters or faxes to the IEC-London at:
27 Old Gloucester Street, London WC1N 3XX, U.K.
Fax/Phone 44-171-4820853

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497
(The RW Online does not currently communicate via email.)