Luis Arce Boraa is the editor of El Diario, a pro-Sendero
newspaper published in Lima. He was interviewed in Bel-
gium, where he lives in exile.
Are you a member of Sendero Luminosoa?
Sendero Luminoso is a pejorative term, used by the
foreign and bourgeois press; the correct name is Communist
Party of Peru, PCP. I arajournalist, editor of El Diario. My
political convictions coincide with those of the PCP or, I
would rather say, I can express the PCP's ideas correctly. I
have had the privilege ofinterviewing Dr. Abimael Guzmin,
the leader of ade PC, and have had the opportunity to study
its documents. But I do not consider myself an official rep-
resentative of the Communist Party.
Our perception is that Sendero is a revolutionary movement
of the Peruvian people, which seems to commit indiscrimi-
nate acts of violence against that same people. Could you
clarify this at ledst apparent contradiction ?
Not a single revolution has come about without having to
fight against the gigantic publicity machine of the major
imperialist powers and the establishment. To give a historical
example, when the Bolsheviks took power in 1917, the
Western press not only said they tortured the Russian people,
but even accused them of eating their children.
As part of its counterinsurgency policy, the Peruvian
government distorts the realities of the Peruvian guerrilla
struggle. It seeks to influence international public opinion, to
prevent the guerrillas from finding support among the peoples
of the superpowers. Therefore, it is not surprising that a lot is
opment did bring massive dislocation of peasants, and
peasant mobilization against the usurpation and despolia-
tion of communal lands, forcing the government to initi-
ate agrarian reform in the 1960s. As in a number of other
nations, the agrarian reform efforts only sharpened class
divisions and accelerated political conflict in the country-
One-third of Peruvian families are now headed by
women, and this statistic is much higher in most rural
areas.' Besides assuming the primary burden for main-
taining subsistence agriculture, many women are entre-
preneurs or contract workers in the "informal economy,"
or have some income from wages but not on a regular or
full-time basis. Neither the government nor the country's
major union federations have offered women consistent
support in any of these roles. Many poor women, there-
fore, tend to be skeptical about the possibilities for real
change short of rebuilding social and economic life liter-
ally "from the ground up." Shining Path provides them
with a vehicle for pursuing such a radical vision and has
welcomed women's leadership in the process.
While women's economic interests have become
sharply differentiated from those of men in many commu-
being said and written against the PCP. It has been said that
it murders peasants, that it enlists peasants for guerrilla
fighting at gunpoint, that the Peruvian peasant is stuck
between the army and the guerrillas. But we ought to ask
ourselves: If the PCP is and does all the bourgeois press
accuses it of, how can we explain its growing support? How
could this guerrilla army, which started in 1980 with nothing
but sticks, have come to dominate more than 80% of Peru's
territory? To say that the PCP murders peasants is really abig
lie, and neither the bourgeois press nor the army has been able
to prove it.
Confrontations between the guerrilla forces of the PCP
and combined forces of the army, the police and peasants
recruited by them do occur. In such cases, it is possible that
some peasants fall victim to PCP bullets, but these are a sort
of paramilitaramilitary group within the army. Even the PCP's
opponents have had to recognize that the army is using
thousands of peasants as cannon-fodder. But one cannot
accuse the PCP of going to the villages to commit the horrible
kind of killings of which the army and the police are culpable.
Nevertheless, isn't it a fact that Sendero Luminoso has killed
trade-unionists and left-wing politicians?
In terms of logic, no guerrilla army can grow and develop
if it kills its own people. That is impossible. It is certainly true
that there are executions by the PCP of elements of the army,
the police, of paramilitary groups, of corrupt authorities and
of activists of the United Left, which hasn't been a real Left
Where do you draw the line between complicity with the
establishment and, for example, neutrality?
There is aclear distinction between neutrality, complicity
and opposition to the revolution. The PCP recognizes that
peasants can be neutral, because the progress of the revolu-
tion can be slower or faster according to circumstances. Even
though in the last elections we called for a boycott, we
haven't begun to kill all the people who voted for Fujimori.
But the people from the United Left are not neutral; they
are accomplices in the drama the Peruvian people are living.
They helped bring Fujimori to power, just as they supported
Alan Garcia for the past five years. Can we consider this
neutrality? No, there is a war going on here. Executions of
these elements is not like killing ignorant or innocent people.
Their activities are financed by the state and by foreign
powers because they all live from NGO money.
Selective executions of United Left, police, members of
paramilitary groups, government functionaries, foreign offi-
cials, yes, all that happens. There is no alternative. Whoever
thinks that a war can be fought with rose petals is wrong. But
massacres of peasants only occur at the hands of the army in
the areas liberated by the guerrillas.
Isn't there a contradiction between Fujimori's overwhelm-
ing electoral victory and your assertion that the PCP con-
trols 80% of Peruvian territory?
No, there is no such contradiction. First, the most bloody
regimes have held elections in Peru, as in the rest of Latin
America. They have never been the democratic expression of
the people, not once in the whole history of Latin America.
In the last elections in Peru about 10 million Peruvians were
eligible to vote. More than 3,660,000 did not vote. Fujimori
obtained 24% of the six million cast in the first round, a
ridiculous amount. In the second round, with two candidates,
sure they voted for him. It does not mean the people opted for
a third way; it means that within the manipulative electoral
system, people always have some hope that one candidate or
another will change something. But there is no real choice.
Fujimori, Vargas Llosa and the United Left are all part of this
folkloric tinglado [spectacle] that takes place every five
years in Peru. That's why the PCP didn't push too hard for the boycott. It said boycott as far as possible.
ButI can very well imagine that many Peruvians are sick and
tired of war and killing, and want some peace and quiet.
The masses always want peace, but in Latin America they
have never had any. How can you have peace with millions
of children dying of hunger, or with women killing their own
children because they can't feed them? How can you talk of
peace when peasants hang themselves because they can't
bear to go on living?
Ten years ago, when the war began, the PCP said the
feudal system had to be destroyed, and the feudal lords with
it. So they came into the villages, took the gamonal, called in the population and said: "We are going to have a people's court. Speak up about all the gamonal has done." And the peasants testified how he raped their daughters and killed their husbands. The Peruvian legal system is incapable of punishing these crimes, so the PCP does it. The punishment is execution. This is how the PCP avenges the peasant, and begins to do justice. Because before, if a peasant dared to go to court and denounce these crimes, he ended up in prison accused of theft or something. Sendero Luminoso intends to put an end to such abuses. And it is making progress, killing gamonales, corrupt authorities, judges, mayors, etc. The peasant sees justice done, for the first time in 400 years, since the time of Tdpac Amaru. The rural masses in Peru have always used violent methods to punish crimes and offenses. Always. And then the army comes in and kills half the village. That's how it works in Peru. The Peruvians are different frdm the Nicaraguans or the Salvadorans, because the feudal system has hardly changed since the time of Spanish domination. In a war with such extremely ferocious opponents, you are not going to find softer ways to punish people like the gamonales.
What is going to be left of Peru after this war? A nation
It's impossible to tell what the future will bring. What we
can foresee is that the violence will develop further. The
economic resources are being destroyed just like the Europe-
ans did in their struggle against Hitler, as part of the military
strategy to weaken the establishment. That is the same in
every war. The real problem is what is goingto happen in case
of a large-scale U.S. military intervention. That is what ought
to preoccupy the democratic press abroad. The point is not
what will be left of Peru after the guerrilla struggle, but what
the disastrous consequences of the economic policies of this
government will be. The people cannot bear it any longer.
There is no other way out but the revolution.
The PCP calculates that in the coming two to three years
the war will escalate to the hilt, as will U.S. intervention. You
can count on the number of victims reaching 100,000 people
in the next two years. That is worrisome, but how can it be
avoided? By negotiating like the guerrillas did in El Salva-
dor? Impossible, it doesn't achieve a thing. Or by handing
overpowr to the imperialist bourgeoisie like the Sandinistas
did? That is betraying your people and the blood that has been
shed in40 years of struggle. Or by handing in your weapons
in exchange for a post as health minister, like the M-19 in
Colombia? What does that solve? Or like the Peruvian
MRTA that wants to negotiate about the war? What for? To
try to humanize the war? I don't know in what sense a war can
be humanized: a war without bullets? If there are no bullets,
there will be knives and spears. I may sound like an apologist
for war, but there is no way to avoid the confrontation
between the Peruvian people and the U.S. interventionist
How do you see the recent experience of socialist revolu-
A lot of people say that the Eastern European experience
proves the failure of socialism. But all that has failed there is
a military caste, a dictatorship, a regime of state capitalism.
It is not the failure of socialism but the failure of the usurpers
of the people's power. The same happened in China when
Deng Xiao Ping rose to power after the death of President
Mao. Now 50 million Chinese peasants live in poverty-that
never occurred when Mao was in charge.
Our party, learning from the Chinese, Soviet and Eastern
European experiences. knows it has to develop a permanent
cultural revolution-a struggle between bourgeois ideas and
the proletarian ideas of the masses. It is the only way to keep
the bourgeoisie from returning to power. Even if you take
away its power, its army, its state. the bourgeoisie will
continue to exist. You need a very intense cultural revolution.
You have to fight ideas with ideas, and you have to fight hard.
I don't mean to say that you have to murder everybody with
bourgeois ideas because coming from a bourgeois system all
have been influenced, we all have bourgeois tendencies.
People have said that after the Nicaraguan experience,
revolution in Latin America has become impossible. I say
that, at this very moment, the time is actually quite favorable
for socialist revolution. The Nicaraguan example only proves
that once a people takes power, it has to change the state. If
you leave the state apparatus intact, the bourgeoisie contin-
ues to rule. Nicaragua suffered from that mistake. They made
the revolution, threw out the dictator, but the state apparatus
persisted as before, and in the countryside the peasants'
position with respect to the landowners remained unchanged.
What we can learn from Nicaragua is the importance of
changing the state, violently. To completely destroy the old
state and install a new one, under the leadership of the
working class and the peasants, in alliance with the other
social classes. That is the way to put an end to bourgeois
Luis Arce Boraa is the editor of El Diario, a pro-Sendero