The Penal Chamber of Peru's Supreme Court on July 21 affirmed its acquittal of imprisoned former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos of homicide charges related to the 1997 military raid on the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima after it was seized by guerillas of the now-defunct Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). Two commandos, one hostage, and all 14 of the guerillas were killed in the operation, code-named "Chavín de Huantar." Two commandos who oversaw the operaiton, Nicolás Hermoza Ríos and Roberto Huamán Azcurra, were also cleared of homicide charges in the ruling. The three had been acquitted last October, but prosecutors requested a review of the earlier ruling on the basis of forensic evidence. The high court admitted that at least one of the "terrorists" (as the guerrillas are almost universally refered to in Peru's press), Eduardo Cruz Sánchez AKA "Tito," had been "executed"—shot to the head after he had already surrendered to the commandos. But the court found that it could not be determined who shot him, or if orders were given for the killing.
The death of former Argentine dictator Gen. Jorge Rafael Videla (1976-1981) on May 17 brings to seven the number of Latin American and Caribbean de facto heads of state who are now in prison or facing criminal charges for their acts while in power. All but one were charged in the last decade.
Peru's President Ollanta Humala is under growing pressure to decide whether to grant a "humanitarian" pardon to ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori. In recent days, a number of political opponents and even Lima Archbishop Cardinal Cipriani, a longtime Fujimori supporter, have called upon Humala to issue the pardon. Fujimori, 74, is serving a 25-year term for rights abuses and corruption. His family has requested clemency, citing poor health. Fujimori has undergone surgery several times in recent years to treat a tumor, although a medical report presented by a team of 12 commissioned specialists found no threat to his life. Former President Álan García, whose APRA party supports a pardon, called on Humala to "make a decision no or yes, but don't leave the issue in doubt." Justice Minister Eda Rivas, who is leading the pardon commission, responded, "I ask that you have patience." Ronald Gamarra, a prosecutor during Fujimori's landmark trials, charged that Cipriani "seems to be more Alberto Fujimori's attorney than the head of the Church in Peru." (Peruvian Times, April 2)
On Aug. 1, Peru's President Ollanta Humala signed a decree extending for another 60 days the state of emergency in the remote jungle area called the VRAE, for the Apurímac-Ene River Valley, where a remnant faction of the Shining Path guerilla movement remains active. However, as we have repeatedly noted, the acronym "VRAE" is becoming an elastic term defined by areas where the Shining Path is active rather than by geography. The state of emergency includes Echarate district, in La Convención province, Cuzco region—in the valley of the Urubamba, the next river basin to the east of the Apurímac-Ene. Similarly, districts of Tayacaja province in Huancavelica region are also affected—in the watershed of the Río Mantaro, to the west of the Apurímac-Ene, and on the edge of the central Andean section of the country. Affected districts in Ayacucho and Junín regions constitute the VRAE "proper"—actually within the Apurímac-Ene watershed. Most of the affected districts have been under a repeatedly extended state of emergency since May 2003, but Echarate only came under the decree in April after guerillas took scores of oil pipeline construction workers hostage.