Peru fears Bo­li­vian camps har­bor rebels; aid projects called cam­ou­flage

The Washington Times Weekly - - World - By Martin Arostegui

SANTA CRUZ, Bo­livia — Bo­livia’s left­ist gov­ern­ment has es­tab­lished dozens of out­posts in the high An­des re­gion of Peru, which Peru­vian of­fi­cials fear have be­come cen­ters of revo­lu­tion­ary train­ing that threaten to re­vive Marx­ist-in­spired in­sur­gen­cies that ter­ror­ized the na­tion for decades.

Some are lo­cated in pub­lic build­ings; oth­ers op­er­ate out of private homes. Her­nan Fuentes, the gov­er­nor of Peru’s Puno prov­ince, openly sup­ports the cen­ters, claim­ing they are part of an anti-poverty ef­fort to chan­nel aid for lo­cal hu­man­i­tar­ian projects.

Most cen­ters fea­ture large iconic images of Venezue­lan Pres­i­dent Hugo Chavez, who is us­ing his na­tion’s wind­fall from surg­ing oil prices to fund what he calls a “Bo­li­var­ian” revo­lu­tion through­out Latin Amer­ica.

The cen­ters are known as “ALBA houses,” named af­ter Mr. Chavez’s Bo­li­var­ian Al­ter­na­tive of the Amer­i­cas, a so­cial­ist trad­ing bloc founded by Mr. Chavez as an al­ter­na­tive to U.S.-backed free­trade ef­forts.

“They are beach­heads for ide­o­log­i­cal in­doc­tri­na­tion of peo­ple of low in­comes, driv­ing the mes­sage that their sit­u­a­tion has not im­proved de­spite re­cent eco­nomic growth,” says Peru­vian De­fense Min­is­ter An­tero Florez.

The Peru­vian Congress re­cently or­dered an in­ves­ti­ga­tion into charges that the of­fices are be­ing used to fo­ment po­lit­i­cal un­rest and fi­nance a resur­gence of ex­treme left­ist groups that re­cently block­aded the town of Cuzco dur­ing vi­o­lent anti-gov­ern­ment protests.

“What are the pho­tos of Chavez do­ing in the ALBA cen­ters?” asks Peru­vian Prime Min­is­ter Jorge del Castillo.

“Some au­thor­i­ties in Puno want to mort­gage out Peru to a for­eign power,” the prime min­is­ter said re­cently, an ap­par­ent ref­er­ence to Bo­livia and Venezuela, both of which are headed by vo­cal an­tiAmer­i­can pres­i­dents.

Bo­li­vian Pres­i­dent

Evo Mo­rales, visit­ing the United Na­tions Mon­day for a fo­rum on the rights of in­dige­nous peo­ples, brushed aside charges by the Peru­vian gov­ern­ment.

“If the pres­i­dent of Peru is say­ing that those forces are desta­bi­liz­ing, maybe they do desta­bi­lize em­pires, not peo­ple,” Mr. Mo­rales told re­porters. “What we are look­ing for in Latin Amer­ica, what is be­ing born now, are lib­er­at­ing democ­ra­cies.”

Peru­vian Pres­i­dent Alan Gar­cia re­cently ac­cused Bo­livia of en­cour­ag­ing an “in­dige­nous up­ris­ing” in Peru.

Peru has had a trau­matic past with left-wing guer­ril­las. Through­out the 1980s and 1990s, the Maoist Shin­ing Path and the Cuban-in­spired Tu­pac Amaru Revo­lu­tion­ary Move­ment killed for­eign­ers, at­tacked for­eign em­bassies, robbed banks and set off mas­sive car bombs.

They made vast ar­eas of Peru, in­clud­ing ar­eas where the ALBA houses are be­ing es­tab­lished, of­flim­its to for­eign vis­i­tors and gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials.

By the late 1990s, top lead­ers of both groups had ei­ther been cap­tured or killed and the rem­nants of both move­ments had be­come largely dor­mant.

Peru­vian of­fi­cials claim up to 200 ALBA houses op­er­ate in the south­easter n border re­gion. Oth­ers sym­pa­thetic to the ef­fort put the num­ber at 20, while say­ing that the num­ber is rapidly grow­ing.

Juna Car­los Yuli, a Peru­vian sup­porter of Bo­livia’s rul­ing Move­ment To­ward So­cial­ism (MAS) party, calls charges by Peru­vian of­fi­cials “grossly ex­ag­ger­ated.”

He also calls state­ments by Peru­vian of­fi­cials that they are cen­ters of sub­ver­sion “un­true,” adding that the charges stem from per­sonal ri­valry be­tween Peru’s Mr. Gar­cia with Venezuela’s Mr. Chavez.

“Gar­cia is the only friend [Pres­i­dent] Bush has left in the re­gion. He is try­ing to help him con­tain the Chavez tsunami,” Mr. Yuli said dur­ing one of his fre­quent trips across the border to Bo­livia.

Peru’s south­ern high­lands have a pre­dom­i­nantly Ay­mara In­dian pop­u­la­tion, and the re­gion voted over­whelm­ingly for Chavezbacked can­di­date Ol­lanta Hu­mala in 2006 pres­i­den­tial elec­tions.

The re­gion bor­der­ing Bo­livia is known for the an­cient Inca shrines in its main cities of Puno and Cuzco.

It was also a base for Shin­ing Path and Tu­pac Amaru in­sur­gents dur­ing the guer­rilla strug­gles in the 1980s and 1990s, in which tens of thou­sands of peo­ple died.

The Peru­vian mag­a­zine Care­tas re­cently pub­lished pho­to­graphs of in­di­vid­u­als it claimed were con­nected with the Tu­pac Amaru Revo­lu­tion­ary Move­ment at a Bo­li­vian mil­i­tary in­stal­la­tion.

The group is best known for its 1996 seizure of the Ja­panese am­bas­sador’s res­i­dence in Lima dur­ing a diplo­matic re­cep­tion. It held 72 hostages for more than four months un­til a raid by Peru­vian com­man­dos freed the cap­tives and killed all 14 guer­ril­las inside.

U.N. correspondent Betsy Pisik con­trib­uted to this re­port from New York.

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