March 7, 2002

Peruvian rebel refuses to repent

                 LIMA, Peru (AP) -- In his first interview since his arrest 10 years ago, the
                 jailed leader of a Peruvian rebel movement has refused to repent for the
                 political violence fueled by his group during the 1980s and 1990s.

                 Victor Polay, head of the largely defeated Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement,
                 or MRTA, made the comments in an interview published Thursday in Caretas,
                 Peru's leading news weekly.

                 "The MRTA did not initiate the violence in Peru. Our country suffered social
                 violence and structural crisis since the beginning of the republic, and periodic
                 political violence," Polay said.

                 Caretas said it smuggled questions to Polay, who responded in writing from a
                 maximum-security naval prison where he is jailed with other rebel chiefs.

                 The magazine published what it described as a photo of Polay in his prison cell. It
                 showed a youthful-looking Polay sitting on a narrow bed dressed in a sweater and
                 smoking a cigarette. Next to him on a bookcase was a sketch of Jose Carlos
                 Mariategui, who founded Peru's Communist Party in the 1920s.

                 "The MRTA acted as an organization in arms that sought social change, but we
                 never rejected political dialogue that could have avoided bringing us to civil war,"
                 Polay wrote.

                 The MRTA is blamed for about 200 of the 30,000 deaths in political violence that
                 wracked Peru from 1980 until the mid 1990s. Most of the victims were rural
                 people caught in the cross fire between the army and the much larger Shining Path,
                 a Maoist insurgency.

                 The Tupac Amaru group grabbed world attention in 1997 when 14 of its members
                 seized the Japanese ambassador's residence during a cocktail party and held 72
                 hostages for four months. A military raid freed 71 captives but left one hostage and
                 all the guerrillas dead.

                  Copyright 2002 The Associated Press.