Gustavo Gorriti, a Peruvian journalist based in Lima, has covered the guerrilla group Shining Path since 1981. He is the author of a book about the movement, Sendero: historia de la guerra milenaria en el Peru, and at work on a second volume. He has written frequently for Caretas, Peru’s leading news magazine, and is currently a correspondent for the Spanish newspaper El País. During the April 5 auto-golpe, or self-coup, in which President Alberto Fujimori suspended Peru’s constitution and dissolved the congress, Gorriti was arrested by armed intelligence agents and held for two days until the government responded to international pressure for his release. The following interview took place in New York at the end of May.—SK

Sarah Kerr: What was your experience during the coup?

Gustavo Gorriti: Fujimori had been out of public view for several days, and suddenly after the regular Sunday night political programs he made a surprise appearance on TV, announcing that he was taking on absolute powers to deal with the Shining Path threat and do away with corruption and inefficiency in Congress. At the same time government troops were deployed around Lima, getting control of key points and arresting many members of APRA (American Popular Revolutionary Alliance), the party of former president Alan García. García escaped, but the minister of the interior during his regime was arrested, and the presidents of the Senate and the Chamber of Deputies, members of the Christian Popular Party, were held under house arrest.

I was the only journalist they looked for. I was arrested at about 3:30 in the morning. Troops sealed off four blocks around my house; there was a company of a hundred or so soldiers nearby. Some army intelligence officers in plain clothes arrived, saying they were members of the state security police and that they wanted to speak to me. I invited them to sit and talk, but they said I had to go to headquarters. They were all carrying Heckler & Koch 9mm. submachine guns equipped with silencers. They climbed over the outside wall of my garden and stood with their fingers on the trigger. The whole thing was, let’s say, extremely tense.

They took me, along with my computer, to the army intelligence offices inside the pentagonito, the “little pentagon” military headquarters in Lima. I had seen signs of surveillance before and had expected that the police would take me. I had known they would come. But I didn’t think they would dare use army intelligence people, who have often been accused of carrying out assassinations and “disappearances,” in the kidnapping. I was left to ponder the consequences of my miscalculation for many hours in solitary confinement.

They almost didn’t question me. They came only once to take away anything that could serve as a suicide weapon, and another time to ask for the password to get into my hard disk. I didn’t give it. And they came three times to offer me food, which I refused, because I had immediately gone on a hunger strike. I was held in army headquarters until midnight the next day, when I was transferred to the police. By the following day there had been strong international protest, especially from Spain and the United States, and they were in a hurry to get me back on the street.

Kerr: What specific measures has Fujimori imposed since April 5?

Gorriti: The new laws Fujimori has introduced are essentially repressive. Habeas corpus has been all but abrogated. The new antiterrorist law defines collaboration so broadly that it could include almost anyone, and it means twenty years in jail. Terrorism cases will be decided in secret tribunals, in which the identities of judges, prosecutors, and even tribunal employees are to be kept hidden. I could be accused of possessing classified documents, and my lawyer and I would not face prosecution in court but would have to respond to the faceless judges through a complex system of written notes, from jail, of course.

In the meantime, since the coup Fujimori has put his own people to work as judges and prosecutors. He made it look as though he were purging only the judges who belong to the APRA Party, which he said was responsible for most of the corruption in the judiciary. But of the 170 or so judges fired, only a small number were from APRA; many were indeed corrupt, but at least a few had records of exceptional courage and honesty. Even before Fujimori put the new people in, army intelligence officers had ransacked archives in the judiciary and in prosecutors’ offices mainly to get hold of all cases in which Vladimiro Montesinos, Fujimori’s closest adviser, was involved as a lawyer for drug traffickers, and perhaps other documents that Fujimori does not want the public to see. For more than a week after the coup, scores of intelligence agents carried judicial records away by the truckload. So with the disappearance of legal history and with the appointment of compliant judges law doesn’t exist anymore.


On the night of the coup, Fujimori called together the owners of TV stations and ordered them to broadcast his taped message. Censors were sent to newspapers and radio stations. Only two stations continued to interview opposition members of Congress. One was occupied by troops and went off the air; the other kept on broadcasting until noon the next day, when everyone was arrested. La Republica, one of the leading Peruvian newspapers, came out with several pages lank. The editor of Caretas, the leading news weekly, went into hiding.

Two days later censorship was lifted. Fujimori apologized to the owner of one paper for any inconvenience, explaining that he had sent troops in to protect the newspaper offices. Ever since, there has been relative freedom to publish, but the basis for press freedom is growing narrower and narrower. For instance, investigative reporting is now legally risky. New laws have been passed making it a criminal offense to publish any information that might, in the opinion of these secret tribunals, help the terrorists.

Kerr: The Bush administration immediately condemned the coup, but the American press seemed at first to accept Fujimori’s argument that strong measures had been needed to restore order in Peru. Reports here usually concentrated on polls showing that 70 to 80 percent of Peruvians approved of the president.

Gorriti: As far as the polls are concerned, Fujimori has had a high degree of approval. But the same polls show that Peruvians expect him to restore democracy very soon. In any case, democracy is not the same thing as the momentary response to a poll; it requires the rule of law and minimal conditions of fair competition among different candidates and parties. If you had been a reporter in Germany in the 1930s you could have written about Hitler’s ratings, and the same would have been true in different periods for Perón in Argentina or Papa Doc in Haiti, among others. And you have to distinguish between genuine support and sham support. A couple of weeks after the coup Fujimori organized a big mass rally in the Plaza San Martín in Lima. Despite free transportation and entertainment, relatively few people turned up, but the “geishas” of the Peruvian press tried to present it as a benign third world version of the Nuremberg rally.

In this case, the US government was ahead of the American press and television, and more consistent in protecting democracy. I’m afraid this belies a certain hypocrisy on the part of many in the liberal press, a sense that democracy is good for us but not for them, that a country only earns it when it achieves a certain per capita income.

Kerr: Were there signs early in Fujimori’s term that he was not committed to democracy?

Gorriti: The only thing he has been quite consistent in is lying. Right after he won in 1990 I expected almost anything. It was clear he didn’t have any experience or expertise, and his party, Cambio 90, had no real political base. During the election he appeared to be a very gray professional, a former rector at the National Agrarian University in Lima who had been for a time the host of a state TV program called Concertando, which means, ironically, coming to an agreement, harmonizing. He ran a savagely critical campaign against the strict austerity measures advocated by the novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, who was favored to win the election.

Before the election inflation was running at an impossible rate, almost 10,000 percent a year, the result of years of imprudent spending by Alan García and his APRA Party. Vargas Llosa was prepared to tighten the money supply and drastically cut bureaucratic spending to bring inflation under control. If the people saw him as an overeager surgeon who would amputate an arm to save the body, they hoped Fujimori would perform economic acupuncture, some gentle shiatsu, and suddenly everybody would have a Sony in the living room and a Toyota parked outside.

Then when Fujimori became president he immediately began carrying out Vargas Llosa’s shock policies, which he now presented in very aggressive populist rhetoric. He even outdid them in austerity, because there was no relief program to help poorer Peruvians through the crisis as Vargas Llosa had planned. At the same time he began to surround himself with advisers who became more powerful than the cabinet ministers, although they had not been officially appointed and were not accountable to anyone. Charges had been made that Fujimori lied about the value of several houses that he had built and sold in order to avoid paying taxes. His informal national security adviser and lawyer, Vladimiro Montesinos, had those charges dismissed. Montesinos worked from the shadows, but for all practical purposes he was put in charge of the national intelligence service and began to control the armed forces by conducting extensive purges of the police and then the navy and the army. In some cases officers were falsely accused of plotting a coup; others were fired with no explanation.


Montesinos had been a career army officer and reached the rank of artillery captain. He was expelled from the army in the 1970s, accused of deserting his post and falsifying documents, and he had been forbidden then from entering any army facility. Then in the 1980s the army unsuccessfully tried to charge him with treason for selling military secrets to the Americans. Now, here was the new president giving him everything he wanted. Some army officers tried to make his intelligence file public, but Fujimori ordered the then chief of army intelligence thrown out, and others were expelled, too. Montesinos began to fill their posts with artillery officers who had been close to him and owed him personal favors, such as General José Valdivia, the man accused of covering up, when he was commander of the Ayacucho emergency area, the murder of twenty-eight peasants in the village of Cayara in 1988 by an army patrol. Several witnesses were assassinated afterward. Forty people were murdered in all. Valdivia is now Chief of Staff of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces.

In late 1990, Montesinos also began close cooperation with the CIA, and in 1991 the National Intelligence Service he controlled began to organize a secret anti-drug outfit with funding, training, and equipment provided by the CIA. This, by the way, made the DEA (US Drug Enforcement Agency) furious. Montesinos apparently suspected that the DEA had been investigating his connection to the most important Peruvian drug cartel in the 1980s, the Rodríguez-López organization, and also links to some Colombian traffickers. Perhaps not coincidentally, Fujimori made a point of denouncing the DEA as corrupt at least twice, once in Peru in 1991, and the second time at the presidential drug summit in San Antonio, Texas, in February. As far as I know, the secret intelligence outfit never carried out anti-drug operations. It was used for other things, such as my arrest.

For a time last year, Montesinos was competing for power with Hernando de Soto, the economist well known for his research on Peru’s informal economy who had become Fujimori’s diplomatic adviser, and who eventually was put in charge of drug policy in Peru. At one point De Soto had cooperated briefly with García while he was president, and he had been close to Vargas Llosa for a time. But he finally reached real power as Fujimori’s link to the US administration as well as international polite society. Fujimori and his Cambio 90 people needed advice on all sorts of things, like not wearing white socks with black shoes. De Soto was the exact opposite of Montesinos: he sought the limelight as much as Montesinos tried to avoid it, he was as explicit as the other was implicit. Relying on international contacts and high-powered friends in Washington, De Soto despised Montesinos, which was a big mistake. He began to lose influence and in January was finally forced to break with Fujimori in a bitter letter. (In the past few weeks there have been signs of a rapprochement between Fujimori and De Soto.) Then there was also an inner circle of advisers to Fujimori, the most important of whom is Santiago Fujimori, the dictator’s brother. Most of them are of Japanese descent although one of them is Chinese-Peruvian; they act as the presidential staff but they haven’t been officially appointed. By the time De Soto departed, these background operators were very powerful, and except for one or two ministers, the official cabinet didn’t amount to much.

It is now clear to me that Montesinos and Fujimori began plotting this coup with a small staff of military officers and intelligence analysts soon after the election in July 1990, probably in late 1990. Fujimori had a consistent pattern of attacking, in grossly demagogic and abusive terms, democratic institutions such as Congress and the judiciary. Political parties went out of their way to work with him on drugs and the economy and the internal war against the Shining Path. On three different occasions Congress gave him extraordinary powers to propose legislation dealing with these issues. But Fujimori disdained any kind of cooperation. He made each confrontation more acute in order to come to a final deadlock and make it look inevitable.

Kerr: Was the coup a surprise when it came?

Gorriti: In the weeks before the coup, one tended to note signs that Fujimori might be planning something—one heard remarks at cocktail parties—but most people simply disregarded them. I understand from my own sources that the coup had originally been planned for some point in 1993, and I suspect it had to be put ahead of schedule when a few things began to unravel. After a year and a half of steady improvement, inflation suddenly began to rise again in January, and polls indicated Fujimori’s popularity was sliding.

One of the most grotesque events was the “second-hand kimono” scandal in March, in which Fujimori’s wife Susana went on national TV accusing Fujimori’s brother Santiago, a close adviser, and several others in the Fujimori family, of selling the best used clothes in charity shipments donated from Japan and giving away just the leftovers. This was immediately after Fujimori’s trip to Japan, his moment of glory, when the son of poor emigrant peasants returned from Peru to be received by the Emperor Akihito and the Japanese Parliament.

Susana’s accusation was very, very embarrassing, and when some opposition members of Congress as well as the press called for an investigation, this began to be more than a loss of face. It affected the very power structure Fujimori had been building. People began to demand accountability and to ask, Who are these people nobody elected? Then Susana disappeared from public view; she emerged three weeks later, well after the coup, looking very humbled.

After Fujimori returned from Japan, a knowledgeable source told me that he had begun visiting the pentagonito at night when the army commander-in-chief, General Nicolas Hermoza, was not there to receive him. It was a great breach of protocol, and certainly seemed to indicate that something was going on. But the idea of breaking with democratic rule appeared so stupid, so impossible, so suicidal, that I didn’t believe it would happen.

Kerr: What about Fujimori’s assertion that the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) had become dangerous enough to require stricter measures? Hadn’t the insurgency been gaining influence in Lima—where over three million people live in shantytowns—in part by killing more of its opponents there?

Gorriti: The coup actually divided, perhaps irreversibly, a coalition of political forces that had just begun to take practical shape against the Shining Path. A good many of the assassination victims in late 1991 and early 1992 were women leaders of grass-roots associations; “glass-of-milk” programs and comedores populares, or soup kitchens, in the shantytowns. These people had organized their own self-help programs which opposed the urban guerrillas, and they had done so largely outside the regular political parties.

It was not new for Sendero to work in Lima, but they began to do so with new intensity; you saw a pattern of increased violence aimed at getting control of key shantytowns. A turning point came in February after Senderistas shot María Elena Moyano, the vice-mayor of Villa El Salvador.Moyano had founded the Federación de Mujeres, Peru’s first national women’s organization; she was one of the most respected grass-roots leaders. They killed her at a pollada, a chicken barbecue fund-raiser, and stuck dynamite under her body, tearing it to pieces and scattering it.

This assassination was a catalyst in the reaction against the Shining Path. People on the left who never would have thought of speaking to the military were suddenly trying to coordinate district protection with police and the armed forces. At the same time, in another remarkable coalition of right and left, the Congress had prepared legislation dealing with the Shining Path that was clearly compatible with democratic government. Civilians would have a greater role on local government committees; grass-roots organizations would coordinate protective measures with the military officers in their area; human rights would be an integral part of internal defense policy.

At that point the coup came, and people who had been fighting against the Shining Path, leaders of the United Left Party and of grass-roots organizations, began to be hounded. For many the struggle against Fujimori has taken on greater practical importance than the fight against Sendero. This is a very dangerous development.

Kerr: So what will the coup mean for the future of the Shining Path?

Gorriti: First, you have to understand that the Shining Path is orthodox Marxist-Leninist-Maoist in philosophy and organization. It draws teaching and inspiration from the Bolshevik Revolution, the Comintern Era, Stalin’s rule, Mao, and also from struggles in Vietnam and elsewhere in Indochina. The movement’s leader, Abimael Guzmán, a former philosophy professor whose nom de guerre is, President Gonzalo, is thought by his followers to be the greatest Marxist—and therefore the greatest human being—alive. And Sendero didn’t lose heart in 1989 when most of the world abandoned communism. By then it already considered itself the torch-bearer of world revolution. It looked forward to conflict, because according to Shining Path philosophy, conflict is the most important feature of reality. The Chinese Cultural Revolution with its endless hysteria and purges was mankind’s most splendid moment.

The Shining Path has acted with a combination of what could be called tactical simplicity and strategic sophistication. Since the war began in 1980 it has had long-range goals and mid-range goals, and has taken immediate, specific action, all carefully, centrally planned by Guzmán and the politburo he dominates. At the beginning of the war, victory was for the Senderistas a long-term goal, an “entelechy,” something that was philosophically necessary but could not yet be perceived. But Sendero grew; since 1980 the war has killed 30,000 people and caused about 22 billion dollars damage. In May 1991 Sendero announced it had achieved “strategic parity,” the second of three stages of revolution according to Maoist doctrine. Even before the coup, Sendero leaders had already proclaimed that the 1990s would be the decade of victory, and they appeared to be moving from isolated guerrilla attacks to semiregular warfare. They were targeting more of the cities and valleys around Lima and hitting more shantytowns, using larger forces for each attack. Since April 5, we have seen further escalation. For the first time, Sendero has begun using powerful truck bombs, especially against police stations. Among many other attacks, they demolished a station that was only about three hundred meters from the Government Palace in Lima.

To put it succinctly, Fujimori’s coup has sabotaged Peru’s internal defense against the Shining Path. Dictatorships sometimes defeat insurgencies by very bloody means. They did so in Argentina, in Uruguay, in Brazil, and in other parts of the world. But these were relatively superficial movements. A well-organized orthodox Communist insurgency, on the other hand, usually emerges from the repression much stronger than before. That was the case in China, and it would be very hard for Fujimori to outdo the measures Chiang Kai-Shek took against insurgents there in the late 1920s and the 1930s. In the short term, Fujimori will use the Shining Path peril to legitimate his argument that a strong hand is needed, and the insurgency will probably have to absorb some strong tactical blows. But some of these, such as the confrontation in early May at the Canto Grande prison, in which the police and the army killed at least thirty-six Senderista prisoners, and probably many more, might serve as public relations victories for the guerrillas. In the long term Sendero is going to benefit greatly from the polarization caused by Fujimori’s coup. Even if it takes a relatively long time, the coup will probably fail, and it might be Guzmán who picks up the pieces.

Kerr: In his speech before the Organization of American States meeting in the Bahamas on May 18, Fujimori promised to hold a plebiscite on July 5 and to establish a democratic constitutional congress within five months. Is he likely to keep this promise, and if he does, will it be the same thing as restoring democracy in Peru?

Gorriti: He will keep his word only if international pressure is steady, and if monitoring of human rights, civil liberties, and elections is intensified. The OAS has indicated that it might be prepared to do this. It also must be made clear that international aid will be resumed, even increased, only when democracy is restored.

But pressure must not slacken, because Fujimori’s speech in the Bahamas left all sorts of openings. The part of the speech calling for fair elections, the part that was intended to appease the international community, was influenced by Hernando de Soto. But most of the talk was devoted to a hostile attack against all of Peru’s political parties as “hidden dictatorships”; the kind of “democracy” Fujimori is proposing for Peru remains ambiguous at best.

Kerr: What kind of political opposition is possible at this point?

Gorriti: Fujimori’s control over the military is only partial. Only a minority of officers is loyal to Vladimiro Montesinos, and through him, connected to Fujimori. Many of the officers are opposed to Montesinos, but they haven’t found a way to express this because of the vertical, hierarchical nature of the army. Most of the grumbling and opposition now comes from ranks of colonels and lieutenant colonels. But if these were to wage a counter-coup, the results might not be good for democracy.

Fujimori’s main support at this point is among the rich business elite—although some business leaders are beginning to regret their initial enthusiasm—and among the masses of unorganized people. It is a typical fascistic structure of support. The organized parts of the population—political parties from left, center, and right, trade unions, and grass-roots associations—are all standing behind the Congress. On April 21 Congress met and swore in Máximo San Román, Fujimori’s former vice-president who had been in Santo Domingo during the coup, as Peru’s constitutional president. San Román had been very loyal to Fujimori in spite of all of his arrogant behavior before the coup; but after a few days of intense deliberation he decided to come out on the democratic side. He has no effective power in Peru; but he has appealed to international organizations such as the OAS and the Inter-American Human Rights Court in Costa Rica, and he has the backing of all political parties.

This kind of moral resistance is important. Whether or not the political parties can maintain a wide-ranging coalition, if the economy gets worse and if Fujimori tries to get his hands on foreign humanitarian aid, the opposition will increase. It is a mistake to say that Peru’s political parties have become obsolete. Fujimori has provided them with a golden opportunity to regain legitimacy as they struggle for democracy.

Kerr: What about former president Alan García and the APRA Party?

Gorriti: García is responsible for giving Fujimori to Peru. During the last election, when his disastrous term was ending, García saw that if Vargas Llosa, who was his strongest political enemy, became president, there would be no rest for him. Vargas Llosa could persecute him for corruption and gross mismanagement. García was desperate, and he detested the APRA candidate, so he looked around among the also-rans and he saw this nisei professional who was running for senator. He ordered the National Intelligence Service to help Fujimori, which it did through well-run TV spots and propaganda that quickly turned him into a serious contender. I’ve known this for a long time, but García is just now confessing it publicly.

Now, in a perverse way, Fujimori’s last gift to Peru may be García. Since the coup, García has been living underground, writing in hiding and giving clandestine interviews, building a reputation as Peru’s Scarlet Pimpernel. The new situation will revive his image and give him new political life. Even political parties that wanted to have him tried on corruption charges have joined forces with García in the understanding that you have to unite in the fight for democracy.

This is one of the most interesting features of the situation in Peru. Because of the coup, long friendships and alliances have been broken and new ones have formed. For example, the weekly Caretas and an important daily, Expreso, which traditionally have been very close, are now bitterly, increasingly hostile because Expreso has supported the coup. I was a longstanding opponent of García, but found myself admiring his wife after she courageously stood before a barrage of tear gas trying to present a writ of habeas corpus on behalf of her husband. And I have ended long friendships over the coup. I don’t think freedom and democracy are trivial matters.

Kerr: What do you think of the international response so far?

Gorriti: Peru has lost about $220 million in American aid. The response of the European Community, especially of Spain and Germany, was also fairly good. Of course humanitarian aid should be continued as long as it is directly managed by nongovernmental organizations, not by Fujimori. Diplomatic pressure should be constant. I think we should be relentless, because much more than the specific destiny of Peru is at play. At least in Latin America the domino theory has turned out to be true. Throughout the continent we have had tides toward democracy in the Sixties, toward dictatorship in the late Sixties and early Seventies, and back toward democracy in the Eighties. Now in addition to the situation in Peru there is a crisis in Venezuela, grumblings about democracy in Uruguay, and Pinochet is still untouchable in Chile. If there is no hemispheric strategy to defend against tyrants such as Fujimori, prospects for democracy in Latin America are dim.

Kerr: What of the claims that foreign pressure to apply austerity programs and strict anti-drug policies may have contributed to the crisis in Peru?

Gorriti: Obviously this experience can teach us about the price Latin American countries have had to pay in order to regain the favor of the international community. In the case of Peru, the government has had to draw on the nation’s scarce reserves to repay international debts of about $22 billion, as much as the country’s annual GNP, and this has meant postponing growth indefinitely. One clear lesson of the coup, applicable anywhere in Latin America, is that you need dynamic growth policies and social programs if you want to consolidate democracy.

During 1990, Peru’s 10,000 percent inflation meant that after somebody sold his produce its price multiplied several times while the truck delivered it to market; sometimes prices went up as you walked from one block to the next. It is clear that inflation has to be stopped—it’s mainly a tax on the poor—and government should adopt a sensible fiscal policy. But to use badly needed resources to regain good standing with the IMF and private banks when one out of six Peruvians relies on international charity for his or her next meal is indecent and entirely wrong. I am not in favor of unilaterally stopping all debt payments to score cheap political points, as García did during most of his presidency. But I think Peru should renegotiate its debt, allocating resources to meet payments without perpetually bankrupting the government. Also, the international community, especially the banks and international financial institutions, must realize that the brutal austerity measures Peru resorted to in order to repay its debt—for instance, cutting back on desperately needed medical services and salaries for teachers, police, and the military—can lead to social explosions, to acute despair and discontent.

The most important problem with the US anti-drug policy in Peru is that it has been very narrow, stressing only the repressive aspects: destroying crops, police action, interdiction. And in the Upper Huallaga Valley, a center of coca production where the Shining Path was a very important force, this meant that the population was alienated by the crackdown and became potential sympathizers of the rebels. As the resistance grew, the United States pressed for military control of the region so the police could be sent in for drug operations. A no-win policy of escalating repression. I have to say, though, that in the last few months there had been some positive changes in US drug policy. For instance, on the very day of the coup Bernard Aronson was on a plane to Lima with concrete proposals for crop substitution projects in the Upper Huallaga. Far from enough, but at least a beginning.

Kerr: In order to explain the recent events in Peru, reporters frequently draw comparisons with situations in other countries. The Shining Path is supposed to be like the Khmer Rouge. Fujimori’s adviser Vladimiro Montesinos is compared to Rasputin or to Manuel Noriega, and we hear that Fujimori’s government seeks an “organic democracy” like that of General Franco in Spain. The thinking of the Shining Path also shows heavy foreign influence; you’ve even written that, in addition to Soviet and Maoist doctrine, a minor book by Washington Irving, The Life of Mahomet, was used as inspirational reading at the beginning of the insurgency. Is it possible in the United States to get a sense of what is Peruvian about the crisis in Peru?

Gorriti: That is very difficult. Peru is a country with a long past and a short history. For three hundred years, Peru was Spain’s colony, and Lima was one of the two most important viceroyalties in the Spanish empire; the other was Mexico. But after it became an independent country in the nineteenth century, Mexico was invaded by France, and then it had its revolution at the beginning of this century. Much of the colonial past in Mexico got erased, or chemically altered to form a new national identity.

Not so in Peru. In many ways the centralized court structure of the viceroyalty is still in place there, along with that corrosive feature of the colonial mind, defining one’s being through imitation, imitation of the dominant foreign model as the way to reach power and status. When Peru became a republic, that metropolis, the center to be imitated, shifted to Paris, especially in the second half of the nineteenth century. Many of the buildings in Lima are scaled-down models of Parisian buildings, but made out of quincha y barro, reeds and mud. In the last few years, the metropolis for too many, I am afraid, has become Miami. Many Peruvians, especially the upper classes, still think that to look, to sound, to do as the foreign model of the day does, is more important than having a specific identity. That imitation equals identity.

It is important to remember, too, that although some thought for a time that the Shining Path was an autonomous phenomenon, “the cry of the Andes,” it is in fact very cosmopolitan. It grows out of a century of Marxist thought, and particularly its Maoist version. Almost all of the movement’s philosophy comes from somewhere else.

Kerr: What will you do now?

Gorriti: In a few days, I will go back to Peru and resume my work. But the situation has changed. In Peru now, it is impossible, physically impossible, for me to finish the second and third volumes of my history of the Shining Path war. At the same time, the security threat that already exists might well become more dangerous. But I have tried to make it clear that intimidation won’t silence me. That has also been the message and the choice of many other Peruvians. As to what I might do in the future, it will depend in part on my choice, but also on the unpredictable decisions of a vindictive dictator and his unsavory advisors.

May 28, 1992

This Issue

June 25, 1992