A third-culture kid (TCK / 3CK) or trans-culture kid is "someone who, as a child, has spent a significant period of time in one or more cultures other than his or her own, thus integrating elements of those cultures and their own birth culture, into a third culture."


Sunday, December 18, 2011

The Aftermath

Dear readers, friends and family, this is the final installment (part 5 of 5) of David Bickford's "A Bloody Summer". Today we revisit the consequences and post-crisis environment in the life of Canadian diplomats and their families. Enjoy the read:

The last official act of the Group of Guarantors was a press conference the day after the release of the hostages. The Guarantors lamented the fact that a peaceful solution had not been reached. They expressed satisfaction that the vast majority of the hostages had survived, but regretted the loss of life, both the hostage killed, the military officers slain, and the 14 MRTA members. As Cipriani expressed it: “Throughout the hostage crisis, I felt like the father of a great family of 86: the 72 hostages and 14 members of the MRTA…My tears are those of a father of a family of 86 persons, of which 17 have been killed in one blow.” Privately, Cipriani later told me how sorry he was that he couldn’t have saved the lives of the teenaged terrorists. It took us all quite some time for the shock of the assault to wear off and to realize that the Group of Guarantors was no more. It was hard to believe that now it really was over.

The heavily secured Canadian Embassy in Lima, Peru

The question of whether the death of all the 14 terrorists was justified continued to be controversial mainly outside Peru. Some suggested that a number of terrorists had raised their hands in surrender, but been shot down, that others had been in hiding after the hostages were freed but were shot when discovered, and several had pleaded for mercy, but to no avail. Several Western European counter-terrorism officers had told me earlier that in such operations, the first priority is to secure the safety of the hostages. Should someone attempt to surrender, you shoot and move on. If you stop to secure a prisoner, you have been diverted from your main task. Also that person may well be faking, and fire at you when you let your guard down. That appears to be the line taken by the Peruvian special forces assault group. Their own losses of two killed and ten badly wounded suggest that the battle was not completely one-sided.

After the rescue operation, the media suggested that Ambassador Vincent, since he was the last member of the Group of Guarantors to enter the Japanese residence – and only two hours before the assault – must have passed the word that the attack would take place that day. Nothing could be further from the truth. We were given no indication by the government that such an attack was to take place. Later Fujimori told the press that the attack would have proceeded as planned even if one of the Guarantors had been inside at the time – truthful but not very diplomatic. Tony was extremely lucky he hadn’t stayed longer, or arrived a bit later.

Nonetheless, the MRTA leadership blamed the Group of Guarantors for the failure of this operation. Apparently, a key part of their strategy had been to execute a hostage every few weeks should talks not proceed, in order to impress upon the Peruvian government the seriousness of their intent and demands. The presence of the Guarantors, particularly Cipriani, made the terrorists in the Japanese residence reluctant to carry this out, and their leaders blamed the Guarantors for interfering. As a result, the Canadian Embassy and its staff remained under a terrorist threat (kidnapping of a senior staff member or a car bomb at the Embassy) for several years after the hostage crisis, until the remnants of the MRTA were either hunted down and killed or imprisoned. My family and I travelled with Peruvian police bodyguards for the next two years, our home had 24 hour armed guards who enjoyed playing basketball with my two sons at shift change time, and the Embassy resembled a bunker with a private guard service within the perimeter of the property, barricades, cement barriers, and high grills/walls with barbed wires surrounding the grounds, and armed SWAT team from the national police (including a bomb squad truck) in the street in front of the building. Not a very welcoming impression for visitors.

Brian, Madeleine, William and David Bickford

Most Peruvians were elated by the result of the rescue operation, and gave the group of Guarantors at least some of the credit – Fujimori never did. For the rest of his time in Peru, Tony was often approached in public places by Peruvians who were anxious to shake his hand and to thank him for his efforts. A year or so later, Francisco Tudela, who had been Peruvian Foreign Minister at the time of the hostage crisis and considered by the MRTA as their prime hostage, told me that, undoubtedly, the Group of Guarantors had saved many lives, including his own. From that point of view, I think we done good, and that it was a good time to be a Canadian in Peru, eh!

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