LIMA, Peru -- The daring rescue of 71 hostages at the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima last week brought a victorious end to one of Peru's worst terrorist attacks since guerrilla groups first took up arms against the government two decades ago.
But the rebels, who occupied the residence for four months until commandos killed them in a surprise raid, demonstrated that despite years of aggressive counterinsurgency efforts, Peru is still far from conquering terrorism.
Most members of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, which seized the compound Dec. 17, and its rival, the Shining Path, are dead or in jail. But government officials and experts on terrorism said the rebel groups continue to pose a threat to Peru's stability, even in their weakened state.
Although public opinion surveys show that most Peruvians do not sympathize with guerrilla movements, experts who have studied the country's insurgencies say that Peru will not overcome terrorism until it alleviates the social and economic problems that draw people into these groups.
"The guerrillas' message is still appealing in Peru not only because there is rampant poverty but also because there are so many people, especially young people, whose dreams are deferred," said Cynthia McClintock, a professor of political science who specializes in Latin America at George Washington University.
Close to half of Peru's 24 million people live in poverty, 85 percent of workers do not have full-time jobs, and nearly 17 percent live in extreme poverty, meaning they are not adequately nourished.
While many of these conditions existed before President Alberto K. Fujimori took office in 1990, the percentage of Peruvians living in poverty is increasing.
The number of terrorist attacks in Peru has declined sharply since Fujimori's government captured top rebel leaders in 1992 and offered other guerrillas an amnesty. But a series of well-planned terrorist assaults in recent years, such as the taking of the Japanese residence, has raised fears that the groups are resurfacing.
Asked if the successful raid on the Japanese residence had crushed the Tupac Amaru rebels, who take their inspiration from the Cuban revolution, Fujimori admitted, "No, not necessarily."
Moreover, the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement, far more powerful and violent than the Tupac Amaru, is said to have reorganized after the capture of its top leaders and is making headway in recruiting new members.
Pub Date: 4/27/97