An Excerpt from Tawantinsuyu
Avenida Schell, Surquillo
Saturday, May 13th
Colonel Pedro Barranco peered around the corner of the building where he stood, then whispered softly into the radio he carried in his hand. Six months of patience was about to be rewarded. Six months of bone grinding, mind numbing boredom. Six months of intense observation of minute activity. Six months of paper shuffling, court orders and secrecy. Six months of listening for hours on end to the banal conversations of maids and madams.
But the culmination of all the waiting was at hand. Barranco's hands shook ever so slightly as he raised the radio once again to his lips. Behind him police clad in military uniforms and bullet proof vests ranged along the side of the building shielding themselves from the view of the unassuming house around the corner.
The green stucco two-story townhouse was set along the quiet street lined with parked cars nestled in among its larger neighbors. Nearby a raucous party filled the street with revelers coming and going to the festivities. Across the street, unseen behind the drawn curtains of the house, a pair of lovers smooched in the small parque.
The revelers and lovers were policemen (and women) who were carefully observing the house under the cover of their various guises. The Colonel thought the covers of these officers somewhat affected but the usual disguise of workmen and telephone repairmen would not work on the weekend. After all, such people barely labored during the week. Never on weekends. So if the cover was strained, at least it was serviceable.
The sense of urgency was brought on by the arrival of the Volkswagen Jetta with darkened windows yesterday. No one could see in to observe the passengers. And the car pulled directly into the garage tucked into the bottom floor of the house with the electric garage door closing before anyone got out of the car. A minute clue, perhaps. But a significant one. Someone obviously did not want to be observed entering the house.
Since the arrival of the Volkswagen, the level of police activity had intensified. Colonel Barranco had mustered his elite troops of the National Antiterrorism Directorate. One of his bright young men had thought of using the party at their rented observation post as a ruse. The assault troops had formed at a nearby high school, passing the interminable hours of waiting cleaning their weapons. But even after all was ready, the elite troops were checkmated and could not attempt the raid on the house. Barranco had no idea of the weapons at the disposal of those inside nor of the defenses just beyond the heavy wooden door. He was willing to risk his own life and those of his men, but not foolishly or in vain.
Barranco was a rarity among Latin American cops. Tough, well trained and honest. He was born in the nearby suburb of Miraflores and had lived most of his life in the Lima area. Not all that uncommon a background, 30% of the country's population lived in the metropolitan area. His father had been a career army officer until he had been purged by the leftist governments of the seventies. Nevertheless, young Pedro had attended the National Military Academy, graduating with honors. But when it came time to receive his commission, he had opted for the national police instead of the army. A minor rebellion, but not one that was overlooked by the pompous buffoons that infested the government and police bureaucracy. Despite brilliant efficiency reports and overseas training with the FBI at Quantico, Barranco had been passed over for promotion too many times to recall. Only his relentless pursuit of the dread menace of the Sendero Luminoso and his absolute incorruptibility had won him promotion at all, even if belated and begrudged. His wife had complained bitterly and had urged him to quit. It just wasn't worth it, she said. His family lived as virtual prisoners at the police barracks compound to protect them from revenge seeking terrorists. Barranco had narrowly survived a car bomb that had killed his driver and several innocent bystanders. But Barranco had spurned the offers to join foreign corporations as a high paid security consultant and had rededicated himself to the elimination of the scourge which was killing his beloved country. Barranco was a patriot.
It was only when the current government had been inaugurated that his service to his country had gained recognition and that he received the eagles on his collars after almost twenty years of service. Barranco was glad, not for the prestige or glory, but because he now commanded more troops in his cause and had more discretion in choosing his assignments. One of the first was the surveillance of this house. His commander had previously refused to authorize the use of so many men (and women) on what the general had felt to be a wild goose chase. But the president had asked that he report directly to him and gave Barranco his own budget to use at his discretion.
And so the surveillance of the unassuming house began. And continued for six months with nothing to show for it. The owners of the house were known sympathizers of the Sendero Luminoso, university professors who skirted the line in their lectures but who had never been seen to take an overt action to support the infamous terrorist group. But Barranco knew that the leader of Sendero Luminoso, Professor Jorra, needed safe houses, especially in the Lima area.
Jorra had founded the Sendero Luminoso more than a decade ago to lead a peasant communist revolt patterned on the Chinese Revolution of the late forties. But Jorra had imbued Sendero Luminoso with a mythology all its own that paid only nominal fealty to the tenets of Communism. Jorra's revolt rejected the European heritage of Spain that had conquered and then enslaved the indigenes of Peru much as he de-emphasized the Eurocentricity of Marx and Lenin in favor of the communal concept of the Incan ayllu. The ancient Incan empire, to Jorra's mind, was the ideal state; a strong central government led by an all-powerful godlike being, a centrally planned economy, and subservience of the individual to the ayllu and thereby to the empire. Although of European descent himself, Jorra glorified the nobility of the ancient Peruvians. When the University got too hot for him, Jorra took to the hills near Ayacucho, north of Cuzco, the ancient capital of the Incas. Ayacucho itself is near the center of the ancient region of Vilcabamba, which had resisted the onslaught of the conquistadores for forty years after Pizarro's massacre of Atahuallpa's host.
And now someone who did not want to be seen had arrived at the professors' green house. Was it Jorra? Barranco did not know. But he had his suspicions. He only needed a final clue before he was willing to reveal his knowledge of this safe house by raiding it. The clues came. One by one. At odd times. Sometimes in pairs. People entered the house. People identified by the blown up photographs taken of them by Barranco's undercover officers as members of the Central Committee of the Communist Party of Peru, which was the official name of the Sendero Luminoso. There was a gathering. A meeting of the key people of the terrorist group. And Jorra would be there. Barranco was sure of it. Municipal elections were coming up and rumors were flying around the peublos jovenes, or shanty towns, that a 'major action' was being planned. Jorra planned each terrorist action himself down to the minutest detail. This was it. Barranco felt it.
But still he needed a break. Some way to gain access to the building that would maximize the likelihood of capturing Jorra alive without exposing his men to unacceptable risks. It came in the form of the maid. A few minutes ago she had left the small house and walked to the corner. Her habits and those of the household were well known. As she strolled down the calle at a pace only possible to the serving class of Latin America, Barranco's agitated excitement increased to the point he could barely restrain himself. When the maid departed the store with two jugs of wine and a carton of cigarettes instead of the usual one jug and several packs, Barranco gripped his radio tightly and called softly for his men to begin moving, ever so slowly, to get into place.
The maid ambled slowly up the street. She looked in the windows of a couple of tienditas, more nooks in the wall than real stores but crammed with a wide assortment of every day needs for this middle class neighborhood. She chatted with several other maids as they went about their duties.
She flirted an irritatingly long time with the acne-scarred driver of a neighbor. Barranco wanted to grab her by the scruff of her neck and tell her to get on about her chores. But his militarily bred self-control held sway and eventually the maid neared the entrance to the small house.
The maid had no cognizance of the forces around her that were focusing on her every move. She walked on oblivious to her surroundings as only the serving class can do. She reached the house (at last, thought Barranco), took the two steps up the small porch and put her key in the door. Just as she turned the key, revelers and lovers, policemen in paramilitary uniforms and riot gear swarmed around her knocking her to the ground. The two jugs of wine clanked together and sent a shower of glass and red liquid over the tile entryway. One officer clasped his hand over her mouth and dragged her back into the street.
Faithful to his growing reputation, Barranco was in the first wave of troops as they poured into the first floor of the house. Over the shouting and tromping boots, he heard the music of a cumbia coming from a radio station in a back room. With several men on his flanks, he burst into a sitting room off the kitchen where a jumble of people were scrambling to their feet. Sitting a the table was the focus of Barranco's efforts. Guns leveled, Barranco and his men moved into the room. Their progress was barred as several women threw themselves at the feet of the policemen trying to block their way while others pulled at Professor Jorra's shirt, urging him to escape through an open window.
The Professor made no move to escape and eventually Barranco waded through the bodies on the floor and placed his pistol against the Jorra's oversized head. The Professor made no move to escape or any sign of resistance. He looked up at the dour policeman. His eyes were bloodshot and his face flushed.
"I guess it is my turn to lose," said the Professor.
Barranco glanced around the room. His men were quickly herding the others out. They were primarily women with only a few men. The music of the cumbia continued in the background. The ashtrays were full and several glasses of wine still stood on the table.
"So you party as you plan the death of our people," cried one agitated policeman as he raised his automatic pistol toward his hated enemy.
"No!" shouted Barranco, as he knocked the man's hand away. "We want no martyrs here. Their cause must die today. Not him. His death now will cost the lives of thousands of our people."
The Professor peered up at Barranco though his thick glasses as another policeman cuffed his hands behind his back. His disheveled hair and straggly beard made him look slightly mad.
"You understand things very well......for a policeman," said the Professor.