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Witness says impunity attempts were not just for Colina

April 1st, 2008 · No Comments


Ojo por ojo (Eye for an Eye), written by Peruvian journalist Umberto Jara, analyzes the crimes committed by the death squad known as Colina, based on interviews with Santiago Martin Rivas, alleged leader of operations in Colina. Jara’s testimony this session is largely based on the content of his book.


March 21, 2008

Forty-second session. Peruvian journalist Umberto Jara Flores continued his testimony from the previous sessions, according to the information that he was given by Santiago Martin Rivas — alleged head of operations in the death squad known as Colina — as well as another source that Jara refers to as “the general.”

Low-Intensity War inspired by the Mossad. Each of the operations that the Colina group carried out used military logic and nothing was unplanned, according to what Martin Rivas told Jara. Furthermore, this logic supposedly followed tactics from the Israeli intelligence service, Mossad.

Jara testified that according to Martin Rivas, the logic was applied through the following the steps:


1.    Low-intensity war strategy approved at the “Mesa redonda” (“Roundtable meeting”). At a meeting known as the “mesa redonda” in June 1991, held in the Army General Command, the manual prepared by the “analysis group” was presented and high-ranking military officials approved the counter-terrorism strategy, which used low-intensity war tactics. Therefore the following requisites were agreed to:


a.     A military unit to execute the strategy


b.    Presidential support. It was necessary to have the president’s (then Alberto Fujimori) backing since army counter-terrorism action previously had no political support.


2.     Political Backing: Presidential praise. In June 1991, Fujimori sent a memorandum of congratulations, which was a “message of political support,” when the low-intensity war was initially adopted. Later, Plan Cipango was drafted by Martin Rivas and military detachment Colina began training in the installations on La Tiza beach.


3.     Barrios Altos: Beginning of the counter-terrorism strategy within a low-intensity war. On Nov. 3, 1991, Colina committed the Barrios Altos murders, initiating the newly adopted low-intensity war.


This crime was committed as a response to the attack allegedly made by subversive group Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) on June 3, 1989 against the Peruvian palace guards known as Húsares de Junín.


The Barrios Altos crime was never intended as an operation to capture Shining Path members, rather it was a message.

For this reason, vehicles and arms easily identified as belonging to the army were used in order to deliberately send a direct message to Shining Path.


4.    Each military operation or Shining Path attack followed military logic. According to Jara, Martin Rivas said that each attack followed military logic, for example:


a.     Tarata responded to Castro Castro. Between May 6 and 9, 1992, public officials carried out 42 extrajudicial executions in the Miguel Castro Castro prison, where many Shining Path members were held. As a response, on July 16, 1992, Shining Path bombed Tarata, a street in the middle-class Miraflores district in Lima, killing 25 people and wounding 155.


b.    Searches and murders. The Peruvian army began with search operations — entering each house and searching in order to make possible arrests — which intended to let the army infiltrate the population and cause logistical problems for the enemy (Shining Path). For this reason, subversive group killed Pascuala Rosado Cornejo on March 6, 1996 — five years after having initiated the low intensity war strategy. Rasado was a community leader in Huaycán, in the outskirts of Lima. The murder’s objective was supposedly a message to the Peruvian army to stop the searches in Huaycán.


5.     Coup d’état: Consolidation of the low-intensity war. On April 5, 1992, Vladimiro Montesinos, Nicolás de Bari Hermoza Ríos (then commander general) and Alberto Fujimori carried out a coup d’état, further confirming and reinforcing the political backing given to the Colina military detachment.


Also, according to military norms, Hermoza Ríos should have left his position of commander general in December 1992; however, he continued in this post for several more years, something unheard of in the army. Furthermore, according to Martin Rivas, that same month Hermoza was dubbed with the nickname “victorious general” since the army was starting to win the war against Shining Path, begun in 1980.


6.     Intimidation of Congress was backed by Fujimori. On April 21, 1993, Hermoza Ríos ordered Congress members to evacuate, as tanks were stationed outside in order to intimidate legislators since investigations on Colina’s crimes were beginning to come to light. Fujimori was aware of all of this.



At the time that Jara was explaining the coup and the military tanks in the streets, policemen next to the courtroom started shouting and clamoring as they sang the national police hymn.


7.     Impunity attempts were not just for Colina. According to the witness, Martin Rivas claimed that the various attempts to avoid sanctions for Colina’s crimes were not to defend Martin Rivas, but because the decisions had been taken by those in high command, for which reason the decision makers “had to back [Colina].” These impunity attempts include: the “Cantuta Law,” which caused the criminal trial against Colina to be passed to military courts in February 1994, and the attempt to constitutionalize the Amnesty Law in the year 2000, when Fujimori had already left power.

In the next hearing, journalist Umberto Jara will continue his testimony.  

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