Interview With Norma Velazco, European Spokeswoman For The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA)
Q: Media reports claim that the MRTA guerrillas were caught completely by surprise during the storming of the Japanese ambassador's residence. Was the attack by 150 elite soldiers in fact a surprise?
No. The storming of the residence did not come as a surprise to us, nor to the MRTA commando in the residency. We always knew and said that President Fujimori, right from the beginning, was pushing for a military solution. That was proven time and again during the occupation of the residency. Even before the occupation action began, martial law was imposed on Lima and the harbor area of Callao. Many campesinos were arrested without charge and accused of being members of the MRTA.
Then in March there was the discovery of the tunnel, which the military had dug from a neighboring house. That made Fujimori's intentions clear to all the world. No, we had no illusions. All the time Fujimori spoke of a peaceful ending and the media reported how a solution was almost at hand. But we did have some bit of hope that the international public opinion in many countries would increase pressure on the Peruvian government and force them to give in. I mean in countries where, unlike in Peru, people can go out into the streets and demonstrate for their demands. But in this, we were disappointed.
Q: How do you explain the fact that during the storming of the residency, all 14 guerrillas were killed - including two teenage girls - whereas on the other side, only 2 soldiers and 1 hostage died?
The goal of the MRTA commando was not to murder the embassy prisoners. They were determined to have their demands fulfilled while providing the maximum protection for the lives of their prisoners. There was a struggle between the members of the commando and the soldiers. But most of the members of the MRTA commando were only killed after the residency had been taken, they were most likely tortured as well. Their dead bodies have not yet been shown to the public.
Q: Following the storming of the ambassador's residence, was there any resistance on the part of the Peruvian people?
Due to the total militarization of Lima, no such resistance is possible. But over the next few days, there will be actions carried out all across Peru. The MRTA is prepared for this.
Q: Was the storming of the residence a defeat for the Tupac Amaru?
Sure, this is a serious defeat for the MRTA; neither the movement nor the Peruvian people have gained anything from this. But it is not over yet. We lost the battle, but the struggle continues.
Q: A few hours after the storming of the Japanese ambassador's residence, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori celebrated in an exclusive restaurant in the San Isidro diplomatic district his most recent victory over "terrorism". It seems that Fujimori has emerged from this crisis stronger than when it began.
If one were to believe Fujimori, this action could never have taken place to begin with, since he had declared that the MRTA was dead years ago. He will do that now again, but he will be disappointed. Fujimori can celebrate his victory for the moment.
But the problems of the Peruvian people have by no means been solved by his action: A vast segment of the population still suffer from poverty, hunger, and a lack of proper medical care, and these problems are increasing. The end of the crisis at the ambassador's residence showed that Fujimori exclusively relies on military means; he always has and he always will.
The MRTA commando always stressed that it desired a peaceful solution, and many people in Peru demonstrated on the streets for that same reason. The basis for a peaceful solution would have been changes in the inhumane conditions which the political prisoners in Peru endure. But one thing is clear: There is no basis for dialogue with the Fujimori regime.
Q: The stated goal of the residency occupation was to win improved conditions for the political prisoners of the MRTA in Peru's jails. What will this new situation mean for the prisoners?
Until now, no improvements in conditions have been proposed by the regime. So we must think of new and better ways to win the release of our comrades. But the important thing now is for the international community not to close their eyes and forget the political prisoners and the inhumane treatment they receive.
[Interview by Peter Nowak, published in Junge Welt, April 24, 1997; Translated by Arm The Spirit]