Mrta: What Does It Mean Today?

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Binary Options

¶1. (C) Summary: The Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru
(MRTA) terrorist group rose to prominence in the 1980s and
then collapsed in the 1990s. Now the GOP believes former
MRTA members released from prison are once again rebuilding
the group’s cadres of dedicated followers. The government’s
principle concern is that the FARC in Colombia is seeking to
expand its regional influence by reactivating MRTA via the
Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (CCB). The GOP also
believes that several individuals linked to MRTA have
received military training with the FARC in Colombia. Other
evidence suggests that MRTA-linked armed groups are appearing
anew in remote jungle areas once dominated by MRTA. Former
MRTA members, however, insist that they have only political
goals and have established a new party and magazine to
promote their views. Although to date there is little
evidence indicating that former MRTA members have the
capability or intent to launch new terrorist attacks, there
is more than enough evidence to warrant continued vigilance.
End Summary.

Brief History of MRTA’s Rise and Fall

¶2. (U) MRTA initiated its armed struggle against the GOP in
1984 and over the following fifteen years its members
launched a series of military actions, kidnappings, and
assassinations both in Lima and in the jungle. Although MRTA
at its height never numbered more than one thousand fighters,
Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission concluded that it
helped foster the culture of violence in the 1980s that
allowed Sendero Luminoso to flourish. In 1992, the GOP
delivered a significant blow to MRTA by capturing its
principle leader, Victor Polay, who is serving a 35 year
prison sentence.

¶3. (U) MRTA launched its last high profile attack in 1996
when fourteen terrorists assaulted the Japanese Embassy in
Lima and took a group of high level officials hostage for
four months. In the subsequent government raid to end the
standoff, all fourteen militants were killed, including
MRTA’s senior commander Nestor Cerpa. With Cerpa’s death,
MRTA faded away, committing only minor actions in remote
jungle areas. According to a terrorism study published
online in 2000, the last known MRTA column operated in the
jungle between the provinces of Chanchamayo (Junin region)
and Oxapampa (Pasco region). A Peruvian security expert told
poloff that these militants eventually laid down their
weapons and rejoined society; other MRTA militants fled to
Bolivia and Chile. The State Department removed MRTA from
the US list of terrorist organizations in 2001.

Government Believes the MRTA is Rebuilding

¶4. (C) The GOP now believes that MRTA is rebuilding.
According to a Peruvian intelligence leaked to the press in
2006, MRTA has shown signals since 2004 that it is seeking to
re-establish its structure with five mostly tactical,
political goals: 1) fight for the liberty of imprisoned
militants; 2) increase recruitment by diffusing ideology; 3)
establish alliances with other radical groups; 4) develop
front organizations; 5) gradually reactivate the military
arm. Several public communiques issued in the MRTA’s name
seem to justify the government’s concerns. One
pronouncement, published in May 2006 by MRTA National
Directorate located “somewhere in Peru”, criticizes alleged
US efforts to dominate Peru as proving that the
“revolutionary fight is absolutely legitimate” and calls for
“prolonged war”. Another from late 2006 praises leftist
presidential victories in the region, and says that MRTA’s
primary goal at the moment is to “accumulate forces” by
organizing “the workers and popular movement”; “this does not
mean we renounce (the armed fight), but we affirm that today
political work” is the primary focus. (Note: Various
pronouncements in the MRTA’s name can be read at We cannot verify that any of these
pronouncements are in fact produced by the MRTA. End Note.)


¶5. (C) The government believes that the FARC is seeking to
expand its regional influence by reactivating MRTA through
Bolivarian Continental Coordinator (CCB), a reportedly
FARC-sponsored organization whose public mission is to bring
together anti-system organizations across Latin America.
According to a recent press report, the GOP anti-terrorism
office DIRCOTE became convinced of the FARC’s intentions
after acquiring a photograph of the head of CCB’s Peru
Chapter Roque Felix Gonzalez la Rosa — formerly imprisoned
for MRTA terrorism (Refs A-C) — with FARC sympathizer
Narciso Isa Conde. GOP security forces have leaked to the
press the names of various known CCB members or CCB
conference attendees that previously served prison time for
MRTA terrorist acts or have alleged links to MRTA. (Names
include: Damaris Danitza Velasco Huiza, Yanire Luz Bautista
Saavedra, Jorge Qesquen Camacho, Luis Ottivo Inga, Anibal
Apari Sanchez, Pedro Antonio Mestanza Macedo, Jose Carlos
Abarca Callo, Luis Alberto Gordon Iglesias, Richard Aguilar,
Mary Soto, and Alejandro Astorga Valdez.) In addition,
jailed MRTA leader Victor Polay is listed in the CCB website
as an honorary CCB President.

¶6. (C) Security analysts have also noted the similarities
between FARC and MRTA communiques in their focus on
accumulating political force to combat alleged foreign
intervention. The recent CCB conference in Quito, according
to a press report, issued the following declaration: “in
countries where insurgent civil forces exist it is necessary
to develop them to…guarantee the defense against
interventionist imperialist forces”, to undertake “electoral
counteroffensives, protests, strikes, roadblocks”, and to
“accumulate political and anti-imperialist military forces”.

Evidence of MRTA Members Receiving FARC Military Training
——————————————— ————

¶7. (C) Peruvian and Colombian security services have leaked
to the media several pieces of evidence indicating that
individuals linked to MRTA have received military training
with the FARC. According to a document shown to the Peruvian
press in March, CCB Peru chief Roque Felix Gonzalez la Rosa
received military training in a FARC camp between February
and May 2006 along with suspected MRTA members Guillermo
Bermejo Rojas and Luis Omar Paredes Morales (who the
government later accused of plotting to attack the US
Ambassador’s residence in Lima — see below). According to a
letter found in FARC leader Raul Reyes’s computer and leaked
to the Colombian press, an MRTA leader in Chile advised Reyes
that he was in contact with 18 MRTA members in Peru who were
ready to travel to Colombia for FARC training. (Note: No
date is given for the letter. End Note.) This letter may be
related to information Dircote leaked to the press in 2006
claiming that 20 MRTA members trained with the FARC in 2005.

Evidence the MRTA Reactivating a Paramilitary Jungle Wing
——————————————— ————

¶8. (C) Congressman Mauricio Mulder in April announced that
intelligence information indicates three armed MRTA cells are
operating in the jungle, raising the possibility that MRTA
fighters who disappeared in eastern Junin and Pasco regions
less than a decade ago are rearming. Bolstering Mulder’s
claims, a group of Ashaninka Indians from eastern Junin
recently traveled to Lima to inform the government that they
have spotted groups of 5-15 armed MRTA fighters in parts of
Chanchamayo province, a former hotbed of MRTA activity.
(Note: The Ashaninka Indians declared war on MRTA in the
early 1990s and fought several bloody battles to protect the
region. End Note.) Asked about a revived MRTA presence in
the area, a Chanchamayo mayor told Emboff that President
Fujimori’s successors should have finished off terrorist
groups when they had the chance. An army general told Poloff
that his contacts in the intelligence services say MRTA has a
training base in eastern Chanchamayo. The general dismissed
the claims of the Ashaninkas as attention-seeking, however,
and speculated that the MRTA jungle wing — much like Sendero
Lumino’s jungle fighters — is probably tied closer to
narcotrafficking than to any broader revolutionary MRTA

Establishing a Political Party

¶9. (C) Publicly, however, former MRTA members insist they
have only peaceful, political goals and say they are focused
on building a political party called the Free Fatherland
Movement (“Movimiento Patria Libre” or MPL) to compete in
future elections. The MPL appears to be a copy of a defunct
party of the same name that served as MRTA’s political wing
during the 1980s and 1990s but was dismantled by President
Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000). The two founders of the modern
MPL, Anibal Apari and Alberto Gordon, are both ex-MRTA
militants who served more than a decade in prison for
terrorism before their release in 2004 and 2005. (Note: Apari
is the spouse of US citizen Lori Berenson, currently serving
a prison sentence for MRTA links. End Note.) Both recently
explained to the press that the current Peruvian reality has
no room for an armed conflict and stressed their party’s
electoral goals, although neither disavowed their violent
past. A reliable Embassy source with contacts in the
movement told poloff that the new party has been working for
about three years to build alliances with local leaders in
social conflict zones — near the Rio Blanco mining
concession in Pura, in Apurimac, and in Ayacucho — in order
to run a handful of viable municipal candidates in the 2010
municipal elections.

¶10. (C) In a recent interview from prison, Victor Polay said
he backed these efforts, adding “The electoral victories of
leftist and center-left movements show us that it is possible
to aspire to change within a democratic framework.” Another
thirty ex-MRTA militants belong to MPL’s ranks, according to
press reports. Other organizations that Peruvian government
officials and media representatives allege are MRTA front
groups include: Movimiento de Liberacion 19 de Julio,
Colectivo Socialista Tus Muros Caeran, Pueblo en Marcha, and
Colectivo Mariategui Guevarista, Unidad Democratica Popular,
ONG Generacion, and Asociacion de Familiares de Victimas y
Caidos Molinos Jauja, as well as the Asociacion Pro-Defensa
de la Vida y la Libertad “Micaela Bastidas”, which promotes
the release of MRTA “political prisoners”.

Establishing a Propaganda Arm

¶11. (C) Former MRTA members have also resurrected the
magazine “Cambio” (Change) that promoted MRTA in the 1980s,
and like the MPL was dismantled by Fujimori in the 1990s.
The new Cambio is directed by Mary Soto, who one newspaper
also describes as the press director for the CCB. The first
issue, published in April 2006, reportedly praises the CCB
and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez; a note posted on the
CCB website in May 2007 returned the praise. In addition to
Cambio, MRTA has also used several websites to communicate
its message, including its official site Voz Rebelde, Kaos en
la Red, and Nadir, which has not been updated since 2005.

Little Evidence of Terrorist Plotting

¶12. (C) We have little evidence to date that MRTA retains the
capability or intent to launch terrorist attacks. The best
evidence relates to a foiled plot to attack the US
Ambassador’s residence at the end of 2006. Upon arresting
the accused plotters, police found fertilizers and homemade
detonators as well as recordings of MRTA pronouncements,
according to press. According to an intelligence document
shown to the press, two of the accused — Guillermo Bermejo
Rojas and Luis Omar Paredes Morales — received FARC training
in early 2006 along with CCB Peru chief Roque Felix Gonzalez
la Rosa. The suspects deny the charges and claim to belong
to a group called “Todas las Voces”, not MRTA. (Note: A
judge has dismissed charges against all those accused in this
suspected plot. End Note.) The only other evidence to date
that MRTA may be plotting renewed violence comes from a
meeting held by Gonzalez la Rosa in February that was
penetrated by Dircote: at the meeting, according to
information leaked to the press, attendees discussed plans to
disrupt an international summit held in Lima in May. Police
later arrested Gonzalez la Rosa and several others to prevent
any disturbances. (Refs A-C)

Comment: Enough Evidence to be Concerned

¶13. (C) Former MRTA militants claim now that they have
exclusively political goals (which may be the case), but they
have stopped short of renouncing violence and could be
planning for the day when violence is again “justified”. In
that sense, while we cannot definitely conclude that
individuals linked to the MRTA in the 1980s and 1990s have
the capability or intent to launch new terrorist attacks, we
have ample evidence to warrant continued vigilence. So, it
seems, does the GOP — notwithstanding allegations by civil
society organizations that the government is exaggerating the
MRTA threat as a pretext to limit legitimate social protest
and political dissent.