Peru: Biography of a Lost Poet

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Javier Heraud Perez was a Peruvian of real promise. His father was a respected Lima lawyer, his older brother a brilliant electronics engineer doing postgraduate study in England, his family one of distinguished lineage. Two years ago, as a 19-year-old student of literature at Lima's Catholic University, Javier won acclaim as one of Peru's best young poets when he published his first volume, El Viaje (The Journey). In the world of the arts, he had many friends of the far left, but he seemed enough his own master to separate friendship from politics.

One of the Chosen. Soon after the publication of his book, Javier went journeying. His leftist friends offered him a free trip to Russia, and Javier accepted. When he returned, he fell in with a group of young Communist intellectuals who met regularly at the home of Poetess Matilde Marmol, cultural attache in the Venezuelan embassy—until last year, when Peruvian police discovered that Matilde, unknown to her government, was smuggling Communist propaganda into Peru. Matilde hurried off to Havana. A few months later Javier went too, as one of 90 Peruvian students offered scholarships in Cuba.

In Havana, Javier's scholarship covered courses at the Institute de Cine Popular, run by a Cuban professor named Alfredo Guevara (no kin to Che), who gave Fidel Castro some of his first lessons in Marxism. Javier lived at "Peru House," where the house mother is Che Guevara's exwife, Peruvian-born Marxist Hilda Gadea. For five months he wrote home faithfully, then the letters stopped.

Seven Strangers. Last week Peruvian newspapers were filled with news from the remote jungle village of Puerto Maldonado, on the Madre de Dios River in southern Peru, 35 miles from the Bolivian border. There, one evening, seven bearded young men entered the lobby of a small hotel. Curious about the strangers, a Civil Guard patrol asked for their papers. A youth with a bundle under his arm answered: "We have no papers. What do we need papers for?"The guardsmen ordered the seven to the police station.

In the darkened street outside, the strangers' spokesman suddenly dropped his bundle. He stooped and straightened up with a blazing submachine gun. Civil Guard Sergeant Aquilino Sam Jara fell dead. Other guardsmen returned the fire, dropping two of the bearded strangers as the other five fled in the darkness. In the days that followed, all of the intruders were killed or captured. One of those who lay dead was Poet Javier Heraud Perez.

Scholars of Revolution. Javier's companions were all university students from upper-or middle-class families. All had traveled to Cuba on scholarships, all had been persuaded to attend Che Guevara's terrorism and guerrilla warfare school at Minas del Frio, all had sneaked back into Peru across the Bolivian border with arms, supplies and money. Their objective, said one of the survivors, was to infiltrate and agitate workers' and peasants' unions in order to prepare the way for the Peruvian revolution. According to the Peruvian government, these seven were only a small part of a larger force operating in the jungle area along the Bolivian border.

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