Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement
The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement was a communist guerrilla revolutionary group active in Peru from the early 1980s to 1997 and one of the main actors in the internal conflict in Peru. It was led by Victor Polay Campos (comrade "Rolando") until his incarceration and by Nestor Cerpa Cartolini (comrade "Evaristo") until his death in 1997.
The MRTA took its name in homage to Tupac Amaru II, an 18th-century rebel leader who was himself named after his ancestor Tupac Amaru, the last indigenous leader of the Inca people. MRTA was considered a terrorist organization by the Peruvian government, the US Department of State and the European Parlament. At the height of its strength, it had several hundred active members. Its stated goals were to establish a communist state and rid the country of all imperialist elements.
The MRTA originated in 1980 from the merging of the Marxist-Leninist Revolutionary Socialist Party and the militant faction of the Revolutionary Left Movement, MIR El Militante (MIR-EM). The former gathered several ex-members of the Peruvian armed forces that participated in the leftist dictatorial government of Juan Velasco Alvarado (1968-1975), and the latter represented a subdvision of the Revolutionary Left Movement, a Castroist guerrilla faction which was defeated in 1965.
The MRTA attempted to ally with other leftist organizations following the first democratic elections in Peru after a military government period (19681980).
The first action by the MRTA occurred on 31 May 1982, when five of its members, including Victor Polay Campos and Jorge Talledo Feria (members of the Central Committee) robbed a bank in La Victoria, Lima. During the hold up, Talledo was killed by friendly fire and became the first loss of the movement.
Peru's counterterrorist program diminished the group's ability to carry out terrorist attacks, and the MRTA suffered from infighting as well as violent clashes with Maoist rival Shining Path, the imprisonment or deaths of senior leaders, and loss of leftist support. ln 2001, several MRTA members remained imprisoned in Bolivia.
On 6 July 1992, MRTA fighters staged a raid on the town of Jaen, Peru, a jungle town located in the northern department of Cajamarca. One policeman, Eladio Garcia Tello, responded to the calls for help. After an intense shootout, the guerrillas were driven out of the town. Eladio Garcia perished in the firefight. 6 July is now memorialized as the "Day of Heroes" (Dia de los Heroes) in Jaen, in honor of Garcia.
In a case that attracted international attention, Lori Berenson, a former MIT student and U.S. socialist activist living in Lima, was arrested on 30 November 1995, by the police and accused of collaborating with the MRTA. She was subsequently sentenced by a military court to life imprisonment (later reduced to twenty years by a civilian court).
Its last major action resulted in the 1997 Japanese embassy hostage crisis. In December 1996, fourteen MRTA members occupied the Japanese Ambassador's residence in Lima, holding 72 hostages for more than four months. Under orders from then-President Alberto Fujimori, armed forces stormed the residence in April 1997, rescuing all but one of the remaining hostages and killing all fourteen MRTA militants. Fujimori was publicly acclaimed for the decisive action, but the affair was later tainted by subsequent revelations that at least three, and perhaps as many as eight, of the MRTistas were summarily executed after surrendering.
In September 2003, four Chilean defendants were retried and convicted of membership in the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement and participation in an attack on the Peru–North American Cultural Institute and a kidnapping-cum-murder in 1993.
Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined that the group was responsible for 1.5% of the deaths investigated. In its final findings published in 2003, the Commission observed:
Unlike Shining Path, and like other armed Latin American organizations with which it maintained ties, the MRTA claimed responsibility for its actions, its members used uniforms or other identifiers to differentiate themselves from the civilian population, it abstained from attacking the unarmed population and at some points showed signs of being open to peace negotiations. Nevertheless, MRTA also engaged in criminal acts; it resorted to assassinations, such as in the case of General Enrique Lopez Albujar, the taking of hostages and the systematic practice of kidnapping, all crimes that violate not only personal liberty but the international humanitarian law that the MRTA claimed to respect. It is important to highlight that MRTA also assassinated dissidents within its own ranks.La Comision de la Verdad y Reconciliacion. Final Report. "General Conclusions." Available online. Accessed 3 February 2007.
On 22 March 2006 Victor Polay, the guerrilla leader of the MRTA, was found guilty by a Peruvian court on nearly 30 crimes committed during the late 1980s and early 1990s.
El Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru. Comision de la Verdad y Reconciliacion
Notice of a book about an MRTA-sponsored prison break, by Claribel Alegria
Communiques by the MRTA (Spanish)
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