Fujimori Rewarded Death Squad

Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori personally encouraged and rewarded the leaders of a secret army intelligence service squad for the kidnap and murder of 25 civilians in 1991 and 1992, according to secret military documents.

Fujimori, who governed this South American country from 1990 to 2000, is currently on trial for corruption and human rights violations, and the documents in question form part of the evidence.

The documents indicate that on Aug. 15, 1991, army commander Pedro Villanueva received a personal communication from Fujimori to "congratulate" a group of officers and agents of the army intelligence service (SIE).

In his message, Fujimori expressed his appreciation of their "efficient service in matters of national security and the defence of the high values of democracy, which is very useful to the National Intelligence System (SINA)."

The officers who received this accolade from Fujimori were Commander Fernando Rodríguez, the head of the "Colina group," which later perpetrated the crimes; Captain Santiago Martín, operational head of the clandestine group; Captain Carlos Pichilingüe, the administrative head; and the Colina group’s treasurer, Marcos Flores.

On Aug. 22, 1991, seven days after Fujimori’s congratulations, the head of the army intelligence directorate (DINTE), General Juan Rivero, had weapons and equipment distributed to the Colina squad, according to the secret documents which IPS was able to examine.

Among the weapons received by the death squad were 12 HK P5 and P7 semi-automatic pistols which, according to forensic experts, were used in the massacre of 15 residents of the Lima neighbourhood of Barrios Altos on Nov. 3, 1991. Rodríguez, Martín and Pichilingüe were subsequently promoted.

Another of the secret documents, discovered by the courts in the SIE and DINTE files, revealed that General Rivero exercised influence in favour of Rodríguez’s promotion to the rank of brigadier general in 1992, based partly on Fujimori’s congratulatory message.

Rodríguez "is an officer who has conducted special intelligence operations in an outstanding manner, and has carried out work of value to the army and the country, even earning him the praise of the President of the Republic," Rivero said.

After their promotions, Rodríguez, Martín and Pichilingüe participated in the killing of nine students and a professor at the University of La Cantuta, on Jul. 18, 1992.

At last week’s court hearings, Rivero claimed he could not remember the details, to evade questions from the prosecution and the counsel for relatives of the victims of the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres. Fenced in by the evidence, he said he "signed thousands of papers, sometimes without even glancing at them."

A judicial source told IPS that the secret documents were obtained by Judge Victoria Sánchez Espinoza.

"The documents confirm that the leaders of the Colina squad who were congratulated by Fujimori acted with the encouragement, virtual consent and protection of the former head of state," the source said.

"The secret papers destroy the defence counsel’s argument, which is that Fujimori did not know about the army’s clandestine intelligence operations. They prove not only that he was perfectly aware of the operations, but also that he promoted the criminals," the source said.

Colina group treasurer Flores, who decided to cooperate with the courts to obtain legal benefits, handed over more than 2,000 pages of documents on the secret operations.

The documents he produced flatly contradict Fujimori’s defence counsel’s argument that the Colina squad never existed.

The evidence, which was seen by IPS and authenticated by the justice authorities, includes balance sheets, receipts for payments to informers, reports about the location and movements of agents, plans for clandestine operations and evaluations of the results of Colina squad actions, signed by Rodríguez, Martín, Pichilingüe and Flores himself.

"According to the statements of former agents, most of them were aware that their superior officers had been congratulated by Fujimori. What intelligence agent would not have been proud to work under the command of officers who received such praise from the head of state? That’s how the Colina squad worked," said the judicial source.

The special distinctions received from their superiors by members of the death squad, even after the Colina group’s role in the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta killings was publicly reported, is proof that they continued to enjoy the protection of Fujimori and the army high command.

On Aug. 19, 1994, two years after the group had been disbanded, Villanueva’s successor as army commander-in-chief, Nicolás Hermoza, decorated former agents Nelson Carbajal and Antonio Sosa, both former members of the Colina squad, for meritorious "pacification" actions.

Three months earlier, Carbajal and Sosa had been convicted by the Supreme Military Court for their participation in the kidnapping, torture, murder, secret burial and illegal exhumation of the La Cantuta victims.

"It’s impossible that Hermoza, one of the most powerful members of the Fujimori regime, should hand out these distinctions without the former president’s knowledge. By that time, everyone knew who these agents were," the judicial source concluded.

[Source: By Angel Páez, IPS, Lima, Per, 31mar08]

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