Peru, battered by economic recession and bloodied by shadowy guerrillas, desperately needed the vigor and hope offered by its young new president, Alan Garcia. But Garcia's political honeymoon has come to an abrupt, violent end.
Peru's capital, Lima, was host city last month to the first Socialist International meeting ever held outside Europe. Garcia's Peruvian political party, the American Popular Revolutionary Alliance, is affiliated with the socialist federation and planned to use the meeting to promote his vision of Latin American and Third World solidarity on the international debt crisis. Peru is one of many Latin nations unable to pay its debts and demanding more help and other concessions from international banks and lending agencies.
But Garcia's most dangerous political enemies, members of a guerrilla organization known as Sendero Luminoso, had another plan--to embarrass the Peruvian leader. They succeeded beyond their own expectations, thanks to the brutality of elements of Peru's security forces.
Days before the opening of the socialist congress, suspected Sendero guerrillas who were being held in three prisons staged a series of simultaneous uprisings while sympathizers on the outside staged bombings and a mortar attack on the hotel where the international congress was being held. In response, an angry Garcia gave Peruvian police and soldiers a free hand to control the situation. As a result, more than 250 people were killed before the prison riots were put down. A would-be terrorist also died when an explosive device went off prematurely, and several foreigners were killed when a bomb exploded aboard a tourist train in Cuzco.