Monday, February 20, 2006

Lessons from Peru: Law-enforcement, not "War"

I can't wait to see this movie: "State of Fear" documents the long, painful experience endured by Peruvians during the 90s at the hands of both terrorists (Shining Path) and their own government's crackdown/response:
“State of Fear” takes place in Peru, yet serves as a cautionary tale for a world engaged in a "global war on terror". It dramatizes the human and societal costs a democracy faces when it embarks on a “war” against terror, a “war” potentially without end, all too easily exploited by unscrupulous leaders seeking personal political gain.
[...] Terrorist attacks by the Shining Path guerrillas provoked a military occupation of the countryside. Military Justice replaced Civil authority, widespread abuses by the Peruvian Army went unpunished, and the terrorism continued to spread. Eventually nearly 70,000 civilians died at the hands of the Shining Path and the Peruvian military.
Old-fashioned police intelligence finally subdued the terrorist threat but Peruvian leaders continued to use the fear of terrorism to gut the democracy, making Peru a virtual dictatorship where a vast web of corruption replaced the rule of law.
In 2000 this autocratic regime collapsed beneath the weight of its own corruption, and the new democratic government established a Truth Commission that opened a door to the past, throwing light on the relentless violence that had engulfed this Andean nation for twenty years.
The main "Peruvian leader" in question here is Alberto Fujimori. He ultimately fled his country for Japan in 2000, amidst 21 charges of corruption, kidnapping political enemies, murder and human rights abuses (see also "The Fall of Fujimori," which I saw on Newsworld last month, for some unbelievable footage of his tumultuous reign---including a one-time challenge for the presidency by his own wife and a botched sting-operation by his "notorious spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos").

By all accounts the man is quite delusional and even attempted to return to Peru as president. He left Japan for Chile, last November, and announced his intentions to run again...just as he was arrested by Chilean authorities. Peru has officially banned him from running until 2011. More importantly, Peru wants Fujimori extradited to face the above-mentioned charges. A Chilean judge is currently wading through 12 boxes of evidence against Fujimori, and will rule on the extradition request shortly.

I hope Pamela Yates' "State of Fear" makes it to Canada soon. It's both important and timely and we need to have a serious national debate about dealing with terrorism before abdicating any more of our rights (e.g. Section 38, our own l'il Gitmo, whatever the Harper/Day braintrust has in mind...oy!). To that point, I want to leave you with some important questions raised by Peru's struggle with (what I'd like to call) the War-on-Terrorism... that-we-Never-Heard-About. (okay, maybe I should speak for myself... I never heard about it until last year). From "The Passionate Eye" blurb:
The Fall of Fujimori also raises important questions about fighting terrorism:
*How far should any nation go to combat terror?
*When battling a violent and elusive enemy, do the ends ever justify the means?

*At what point does the "war on terror" cease being a legitimate battle against violent criminals, and instead become a vehicle to keep leaders in power?

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