«... the prisoners of war, like the great masses of history,go on winning battles beyond the grave, because they live and fight within us, conquering new victories. We feel their vigorous and indelible presence shining and palpitating, teaching us today, tomorrow and forever how to give ones lives for the Party and the revolution.»
Glory to the Day of Heroism! Chairman Gonzalo
At the beginning of his 1985–1990 term, President Alan García demonstrated an interest in changing the counter-subversive strategy of his predecessor, Fernando Belaúnde Terry, with the purpose of reducing human rights violations against the civilian population, by calling on the civil society to propose solutions to the problem of political violence in Peru.
Despite such rhetoric of peace and non violence his government authorized a swift and violent takeover of the prisons to regain control, placing Peru's human rights violations back into the national and international spotlight.
June 18, 1986 6:00 AM Lima - Peru, prisoners rioted within multiple prison facilities in Lima and Callao. The riots took place while a congress of the Socialist International, of which Alan García's APRA political party was a member, was being conducted in Lima. The prisoners in San Juan de Lurigancho, El Frontón, and the women's prison in Santa Mónica, who had tacit control of the prison interiors, rose up and took prison guards and three journalists as hostages. They demanded the immediate release of 500 people imprisoned for terrorism. García and his government were caught off-guard by the uprising. At 10:00 AM an emergency cabinet session began with the participation of García and military commanders. Three hours later, the Minister of the Interior, Abel Salinas, announced that if the prisoners did not surrender, the prisons would be retaken by force. .
The government of Peru sent a negotiating commission formed by Caesar Samamé, Augusto Rodriguez Rabanal and Fernando Cabieses, arriving at El Frontón Prison at 4:30 PM. However, negotiations did not bring about results.
6:00 PM, as the negotiations failed, the order to assault the prisons was given. The first attack began in the women's prison at Santa Mónica, where the Republican Guard, which at the time was responsible for protecting Peru's borders and prisons, regained control relatively quickly. They demolished a wall and sent tear and paralyzing gases into the prison. In two hours the hostages were released, and two people had died.
At midnight, June 19, the assault on the prison on the island of El Frontón commenced. The assault was carried out under the command of the Peruvian Navy. The director of the prison, a judge, and the public prosecutor had protested against the Navy's intervention, and declared that they were no longer responsible for what occurred inside the prison as a result of the assault. Meanwhile, from the island of El Frontón the vice-minister of the Interior, Agustín Mantilla, announced that the island was under the control of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces as it had been declared a restricted military zone.
Later, the Navy, with Naval Infantry support, attacked the "Blue Ward" of El Frontón, which was where Shining Path members were imprisoned. The walls of the prison were then destroyed with the aid of helicopters. During the assault three members of the Peruvian Armed Forces, one of the hostages, and 135 prisoners were killed. Simultaneously, Republican Guard SWAT team arrived at Lurigancho prison, and placed explosives around the outer wall of the Industrial Pavilion Part prison where the Shining Path held hostages. A joint offensive by troops of the Republican Guard and the Peruvian Army followed. At 3:00 am, after heavy fighting with guns and grenades, Hours later, numerous prisoners that occupied the building lay dead: most had been executed, one by one, by a shot to the nape of the neck.
According to a cable from the United States Department of State, "at least 100 prisoners were summarily executed." The Peruvian government itself concluded that all 124 rebellious prisoners in Lurigancho prison died in the assault, and that no fewer than 90 were victims of extrajudicial executions.
The national and international scandal that resulted from this multiple crime was enormous. During President García's delayed visit to the scene of the events, he declared that there were two possibilities: "either they [the terrorist] go or I go." Nevertheless nothing was ever done to punish the guilty. In fact, Luis Giampietri, the orchestrator of the massacre at El Frontón, would later become Alan García's vice president