"It's Unbelievable What Happened..."

FelÝcitas Cartolini

The following is an interview with the mother of Nestor Cerpa Cartolini, the commander of the MRTA commando which took over the Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima.

+ Hello, Nestor Cerpa with two MRTA guerillasFelicitas, would you like to introduce yourself?

-My name is Felicitas Cerpa Cartolini. I live in Nantes, France.

+Could you please tell us once again, what happened during the action by the Peruvian military, and what happened afterwards?

-We saw everything happen on TV in Nantes. It was very painful for us to watch, and it was very painful not to be there. We knew that there were negotiations taking place during the occupation, and we thought things were going to end peacefully. During the four month occupation, we were able to contact my son every 14 days via the Red Cross. He believed in the negotiations, but as the time dragged on, we began to feel that things weren't going to end well. 15 days before the massacre, my son wrote a very optimistic letter to his sons, that things were going to be over very soon and that they could all be together again, even with their mother [N. Cerpa Cartolini's wife, Nancy Gilbonio, a political prisoner in Cajamarca Prison in Yanamayo]. It's unbelievable what happened. Fujimori was just passing the time in order to plan what happened. On the TV news here they said that sleeping pills had been put into the mineral water brought in to the commando. The hours went by, then we saw what seemed to be a bomb exploding. And then there was Fujimori celebrating with the military on the streets. So initially we thought that they had all died in their sleep, but afterwards it became clear that they had been killed during the action. Then we saw TV images of the hostages, some of whom were telling that some of the guerrillas had tried to surrender but were killed anyway. The Peruvian government had the support of the USA and Israel in carrying out its action, and the soldiers were carrying German weapons.

+What happened to the people who were murdered, and how did the government treat the family members of those who had been murdered?

-We know that the family members of those who had been murdered went to the embassy compound, but the military had already sealed off the area. That night the bodies were taken to a military hospital, as the family members were told by some journalists. I know that my sisters, who still live in Peru, went to the hospital, but they were not allowed in. The military wouldn't let the people in, in fact they beat them and wanted to arrest them. That evening two relatives were arrested and held for 15 days because they tried to enter a "military zone". Due to the pressure we applied from abroad, they were released. I was in contact with the Red Cross and wanted to travel to Peru in order to cremate my son's body and have him buried back in France. A few hours later, the Red Cross told me that Fujimori did not want to see me in Peru. At the same time I saw Fujimori on the TV saying how the bodies of all the commando members would be handed over to their families, and that I was supposedly on my way to Peru to receive my son's body. My sister was the only one let into the military hospital. She wanted to identify my son's body. Only my son's body and that of Roli Rojas were in one piece, and the others were in pieces packed in bags. My son's body was in a coffin and my sister identified him, and as she put new clothes on his body she counted the bullet holes in his head. There were 30, one of which was point blank to the temple. My sister wanted to know where Nestor was going to be taken, but the soldiers told her either to get on the truck with the body herself or to go away. After a long argument, her husband was able to go along as well, along with 30 soldiers and a motorcycle escort. It was dark by the time they arrived in the Nueva Esperanza neighborhood, but they didn't know they were there until they asked some passersby later on. A hole had already been dug for my son's coffin to be placed in. My family was only allowed to place a small cross by his grave, with the initials "N.C." on it. Other relatives were told that they should go to the cemetery in Chorrillos to receive their bodies. But these people never did receive the bodies of their loved ones, and we have since learned from people in different neighborhoods that the bodies were buried in various cemeteries.

+You yourself are a political refugee living in France. Can you tell us something about your life there?

-I have lived in France for the past nine years, because I could not stand the pressure from the Peruvian military after my son went underground in 1984. They continually surrounded and raided my house. They asked me if I knew where my son was, if I had any contact with him, if he was in the house, because they had heard from the neighbors he was there, and so on. Because of these threats and the fear for my life and the lives of Nestor's children, we fled to France, because one of my other sons already was living there. In 1989, Rosa Polay, the wife of Victor Polay, came as well.

+What is the situation of other relatives back in Peru?

-At the moment, my sister is being watched 24 hours a day, and she is continually threatened. The family members of the other murdered MRTA comrades are prohibited from meeting with one another, and they are afraid to meet, so that's why it hasn't been possible to establish some sort of committee to get information about where their children were buried.

+In what ways do you try to assist the other relatives back At the japanese ambassy in Limain Peru?

-Our goal is to establish a committee abroad to increase political pressure. That might make it possible for the relatives in Peru to come together and try and find out what happened to their murdered children. That's why I have been in Spain, Italy, and here [Germany]. We also want the relatives of other political prisoners in Peru to join this committee in order to care more effectively for the political prisoners. This is difficult, though, because the prisoners are spread out in various prisons across the country. Also, we want the Peruvian government to give an official explanation as to why the comrades were murdered when there could have been a peaceful solution.

+How have the conditions facing political prisoners in Peru changed since the embassy occupation?

-Since the beginning of the occupation, the prisoners were denied any contact with their relatives. Not even the Red Cross, doctors, or church groups were able to go into the prisons after December 17, 1996. Medical visits are especially important, because we know many prisoners are ill, suffering from stomach problems and hunger. In the prison at the Callao navy base, where Polay, Peter, and Lucero are held, the prisoners are kept in tiny cells 8 meters underground. The prisoners are going blind from the darkness. They have not had any visitors for the past six months. Other prisons are also just as gruesome, for example Cajamarca Prison in Yanamayo, where prisoners serving life terms are kept. My son's wife, Nancy Gilbonio, is at Yanamayo. We know that they'll all eventually be taken to a new prison which is being built at an altitude of 5,200 meters above sea level. All new MRTA prisoners are to be taken there, and the only way to get there is by helicopter. That means relatives will never be able to visit. We don't know if any prisoners have been taken there yet or not, but a doctor's commission visited there, and they said to us that the conditions are inhuman. Not even the guards want to work there. If that's true, the prisoners could easily be killed there. Many things could happen there. For example, the military could say there was a prison rebellion, thereby giving them a justification to murder all the prisoners...

Originally published in 'Einsatz!', August 1997, the publication of Autonome Antifa (M); Translated by Arm The Spirit from Angeh÷rigen Info #199 - October 3, 1997 Espa˝ol

Most recent revision: May 19, 2002