Saturday, July 10, 2010

Stories of Truth,... ¿Justice and Reparation?

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About 2700 meters above the sea level, amid the rugged geography of the Andes in southeastern Peru, it raises the legendary city of Ayacucho. Nearby, in 1824, the battle of independence of Peru was fought, which also sealed the independence of South America. Decades later, due to economic problems caused by international conflicts and following a pattern typical of many governments in the region, Ayacucho became virtually forgotten by the government in Lima and went into a state of extreme marginalization, with little communication with the rest of the country and in an advanced level of poverty. The victims of this exclusion shared one main characteristic: they were mainly indigenous, Quechua-speakers and, therefore, considered second-class citizens by the national elites.

As a response to a long history of exclusion and neglect, in 1980 the Maoist-Leninist movement Shining Path declares war against the state and plunges the region of Ayacucho in Peru's bloodiest confrontation in its Republican life. After important years of inactivity or complacency with the rebels, the peruvian State under President Alan Garcia decides to respond with all the available force but without the corresponding intelligence and, thus, the persecution of peasants and indigenous people of the region become everyday news. Human rights violations, tortures, extrajudicial killings, sexual and other type of abuses by both members of the military and the guerrillas, increased dramatically. The book by journalist Ricardo Ucceda "Death on the Pentagonito. Secrets of the Peruvian Army" offers a detailed account of many of these grotesque events; Mario Vargas Llosa summarizes the cruelty of this war by saying that the reading of the text is not easy and that "many of his revelations produce shudder and nausea".

In the midst of a conflict that spans over the whole country and begins to threaten exclusive neighborhoods in Lima, Alberto Fujimori comes to the presidency in 1990 by the hand of his advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos, and quickly assumes extraordinary powers to exercise his government. Following the closure of the Congress and the issuance of a series of emergency regulations, these two men self-granted special privileges to persecute the opposition, journalists, human rights advocates, and anyone with suspected links to the terrorists. Montesinos used the instruments of the State for his personal enrichment, which he achieved carrying out activities that go from the granting of preferential contracts to the concession of special permits for cocaine trafficking. Hundreds of crimes are carried out directly from the central command of the army, using the intelligence services of the State and with the approval of the President of the Republic or his star adviser.

Some years later, after the capture of Abimael Guzman -the terrorist leader- the subsequent dismantling of Shining Path and the consolidation of the Fujimori-Montesinos power, supported by a large national popularity, Ayacucho recovers its state of oblivion and abandonment. This time, however, with the aggravation of having given birth to the terrorist group and having been at the center of the armed conflict. As a result of the crossfire between the army and the senderistas in which civilians were trapped, over sixty-nine thousand Peruvians lost their lives, being the Ayacucho region and indigenous peoples the main victims of this war.

In Ayacucho -which name in Quechua is translated by some experts as "the corner of the death"- the images of the conflict are now a constant in the collective consciousness. After arriving in the city the unaware visitor becomes familiar with the stories of violence, the tales of the survivors, the places where Shining Path forged its strategy and the streets full of that tense peace. This feeling of horror is gradually transformed into a numbness and indifference to the most atrocious narrations; there appears an unpleasant immunity to the stories about the disappeared, tortured and killed. Perhaps the closest thing is the feeling that has the reader of 2666 before the multiple and grotesque cases of rape and murder of women that -in a different context- are told by Roberto Bolaño. This apathy is an accomplice in countless stories of violence in many latitudes and it is also a great ally of hundreds of murderers who feel free to continue committing their crimes when seeing the lethargic response of the population.

But the Ayacuchano is not this unaware visitor and, thus, in the late years there have appeared multiple civil society organizations dedicated to the psychological repair of the victims, their inclusion in the economic life of the community and the support of the children of the murdered or disappeared. The main objective of these entities is to revive hope in a city that has historically been plagued by several kinds of violence: insurgent, military, economic and racial. However, these individual efforts have not been accompanied by a determined attitude by the central government. A little over a year, the government of Alan Garcia was reluctant to the construction of the Museum of Memory arguing "the need to meet other more critical needs". Similarly, today Ollanta Humala -candidate to the presidency- is still heard demanding an increase in the government's presence in the region and surrounding territories given the possibility of new outbreaks of insurgency, some of them remnants of Shining Path.

Although Fujimori, Montesinos and Guzman now pay sentences for repeated human rights violations, many organizations of relatives of the murdered and disappeared are still calling for justice. Many of its members have aged or died without reaching the goal that drew them together more than twenty years ago: Truth, Justice and Reparation. The State continues ignoring the demands of the victims; the stigmatization of these people for alleged links with terrorists also continues and, finally, the attitude of exclusion and rejection that has been characteristic for almost 200 years remains intact. This attitude, mixed with the fanaticism of a bloody revolution, wrote one of the most tragic pages in Peruvian history.

For the families affected by the violence, the ideals of Truth, Justice and Reparation mean the possibility of returning to life, to feeling they are part of a society that has never taken them into account. On the contrary, ignoring their demands is not only turning the back on a population that lost everything in the middle of a conflict of which it had no side, but it is also forgetting the hard lessons taught by history. And the oblivion of history, as it is well known, is the first step to repeat it.

1 comment:

  1. Una historia llena de sangre, pero con lecciones para aprender y nunca olvidar. Una historia aterradora que pareciera dibujada en todos los rincones de latinoamerica. Es tiempo de conocer la verdad de todas las atrocidades de los Estados, los paramilitares y las guerrillas. Gracias Julian por compartir este video y articulo.