Magazine article NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs

Peru: Government Charges Sendero Luminoso Infiltration in Striking Teachers Union and Universities

Magazine article NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs

Peru: Government Charges Sendero Luminoso Infiltration in Striking Teachers Union and Universities

Article excerpt

Government and police officials in Peru have alleged that a public educators union and educational centers have been infiltrated by elements of Sendero Luminoso, the guerilla group whose war with the government killed tens of thousands between 1980 and 2000. The allegation comes just as teacher strikes have caused political trouble for the government, and educators have accused the government of conducting a campaign of defamation against them. Meanwhile, about 250 appeals to release Senderistas in prison entered the Peruvian courts in what the judiciary called a "juridical war."

Accusations against SUTEP, arrests

Anti-terrorist police said the Sindicato Unitario de Trabajadores de la Educacion en el Peru (SUTEP) had been infiltrated. In July, violent confrontations broke out in the city of Ayacucho, leaving more than 30 injured and several public buildings partially burned by mobs. Teachers there were protesting for better salaries.

Unionists set themselves apart from the Ayacucho violence and said the union was not involved with Sendero Luminoso. SUTEP secretary-general Nilver Lopez said, "The indefinite strike in Ayacucho does not obey nor is it in the national interest of our union." Lopez insisted that infiltrators from the government of President Alejandro Toledo had provoked the violence.

In September, anti-terrorist police said they were on the alert for a "neo-Senderista" threat from infiltration into educational centers and the national teaching profession. Interior Minister Javier Reategui said, "Sendero Luminoso continues to act, and we are prepared to block them before eventual terrorist attacks." He said that the group was using university centers as sites of "subversive ideological penetration," but then claimed that subversive violence "is almost totally controlled and reduced."

Police captured 17 presumed guerrillas, among them eight teachers, in an operation in five cities between Sept. 17 and Sept. 24. "The teaching profession has been infiltrated by terrorism, and we are working to dismantle that organization," said Reategui in a television interview. Among the detained were two directors of state schools.

Unionists allege government defamation campaign

Union leaders accused the government of conducting a defamation campaign to lower public opinion of them. Lopez said the arrests were "a smokescreen and witch hunt."

"There is a will on the part of the government to seek to prejudice public opinion against SUTEP and make it look like we're covering up terrorists and Senderistas," said former SUTEP head Olmedo Auris. "We have always said and we now insist that these violent tendencies have to be fundamentally defeated ideologically and politically, and in that respect our position is very clear. …

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