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Peru slashes spending to cover debts, strikes back at guerrillas

Peruvian President Fernando Belaunde Terry, beset by deepening economic traumas and stiff challenges from leftist guerrillas, has taken the offensive against both.

He appears to be having at least limited success.

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On the economic front, his government recently announced that it intends to repay $1.2 billion in principal and $600 million in interest on its $12 billion foreign debt in 1983. The government says it will not need to renegotiate the debt, as earlier forecast.

This good economic report results in part from an improving trade picture. The Belaunde government sharply restricted imports and worked to expand export markets during the final quarter of 1982. Although Peru still has an international payments deficit of $1.5 billion, its trade deficit for 1982 is only $500 million - about one-third what had earlier been forecast.

''We are beginning to show hopeful signs economically,'' says Carlos Rodriguez Pastor, the nation's new finance minister. ''In these circumstances we can't think of renegotiation (of the debt.)''

He announced that Peru hopes to borrow an additional $2 to $2.5 billion in 1983 - which, of course, would push the $12 billion debt higher. However, there is a new sense of confidence in Lima, the Peruvian capital, that the debt is manageable.

In part the confidence springs from President Belaunde's success with austerity measures. While this has put some Peruvians out of work, the early evidence is that the numbers are fewer than expected.

But Peru's overall economic situation is far from good. Inflation is running at 70 percent and in rural parts of the country, stagnating prices for foodstuffs are causing extreme hardship. This is one of the issues that leftist guerrillas in the highlands south and east of Lima are using as a propaganda appeal to win support.

In the hill country around Ayacucho, a guerrilla group known as the Shining Path has been making inroads among the rural poor during the past year. It calls for a peasant and worker revolution and there is some evidence that the Peruvian Army may be having trouble curbing its influence.

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In recent skirmishes with guerrillas, the Army has scored several victories, taking a heavy toll on men and materiel. Yet guerrillas are stepping up their own campaign and are able to carry out spectacular raids and to operate with some impunity in the region.

In recent weeks, for example, they swooped down on Ayacucho, killing the deputy mayor and his family and wounding the mayor. Over the weekend the group reportedly killed a policeman in Ayacucho.

Neither the economic nor the guerrilla war is over. But President Belaunde, smarting from criticism early in 1982 for doing little about the two problems, is counterattacking and scoring some victories on both fronts.

The President said at the weekend that his government would act firmly if he learned that international organizations ''were exporting terrorism'' to Peru.

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