The Jewish community of Peru is relieved at the arrest of Abimael Guzman Reynoso, leader of the notorious Shining Path terrorist group.
“Jews were not singled out as such,” a Jewish spokesman told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. “But they suffered from terrorism like everyone else.”
Guzman, who remained at large for 12 years, was apprehended Sept. 12 in Lima by Peruvian intelligence police.
Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori said Guzman would be tried by a military tribunal for treason. He anticipated that the terrorist leader would receive a life sentence without possibility of parole.
Despite his capture, the country is still troubled by terrorist attacks. Three days after Guzman’s arrest, members of his group, called Sendero Luminoso in Spanish, set off a bomb on the Pan American Highway, north of Lima.
Under the impact of Peru’s terrorist disturbances, the number of Jews in Peru had dwindled in recent years from 5,000 to 3,000, said Eduardo Bigio, president of the Third World Commission of the World Jewish Congress.
Bigio said Peruvians are hoping for peace after more than 12 years of terrorism that took at least 25,000 lives.
But concern remains over the Tupac Amaru, a group responsible for an estimated 15 percent of terrorist attacks. Of the five violent episodes involving Jews in recent years, Tupac Amaru was responsible for three: the kidnapping for ransom of Jews who were freed after several months of captivity.
He said Arab terrorists connected with the Abu Nidal group are suspected of the 1990 shooting attack of Jacobo Hasson, secretary of the Jewish Association of Peru. Hasson subsequently left Peru for Israel.
Three Abu Nidal members were caught in Lima in 1988 with documents listing prominent Jews, Jewish and Israeli institutions and American institutions. They were freed after two years in jail. It has been speculated that the Abu Nidal members made contact with Peruvian terrorists while they were in prison.
The Abu Nidal terrorists were quietly freed, and it is believed they left the country.
In the most recent terrorist incident in Peru, a bombing attack took place at the Jewish-owned Channel 2 television station, but that had to do with Peruvian politics “and did not have anti-Semitic overtones,” Bigio said.
About 800 Jews have immigrated to Israel. Many of the remainder have settled in Miami, while others have dispersed to Los Angeles, Canada, Venezuela and Chile, Bigio said.
Most Jews live in the capital city of Lima.
Three-quarters of the community are of European descent; 10 percent are descendants of German-speaking immigrants who arrived in Peru in 1870, mostly from Alsace; and 15 percent are of North African origin.
The Peruvian Jewish community traces its origin to crypto-Jews who arrived with the Spanish in 1532. Many went to their deaths in the Inquisition brought to Peru by the Spanish in 1569.
Anti-Semitism is not a native product but rather an import, a recent study says.
Western Europe, the Arab countries and former Communist states are the source of the imports, says the study by Leon Trahtemberg, director of the Leon Pinelo School, where 90 percent of Lima’s Jewish children study.
“When it does come up, it is mainly among intellectual, political and journalistic circles, not among the general population,” he said.
Trahtemberg says the Maoist Shining Path group does not have a particularly anti-Semitic bias. “Their firepower enabled them to attack Jews with relative ease if they chose to. But they didn’t.
“Tupac Amaru is militantly anti-American, and that’s why during the (Persian) Gulf War, Jewish and Israeli persons and places were targets of assault,” he said.
Bigio agreed with the school director that anti-Semitism, although rare, exists. He warned of the dangers posed by the bad economy.
“The country’s acute economic crisis poses the risk of being channeled in a negative direction.”