September 25, 2007


By Carol Andreas


A year ago NACLA published an article by Peruvian feminist Virginia Vargas, "Women: Tragic Encounters with the Left" [Vol. XXV, No. 5]. It featured the assassination of Villa El Salvador's lieutenant mayor, María Elena Moyano, and the electoral Left's "half-hearted" support for her in her "defiance of the Maoist guerrillas." Since the Moyano case has become the focus of campaigns against the Peruvian revolution, I would like to add my voice to those who–whatever our views of the tactics engaged in by the Communist Party of Peru (PCP, or Shining Path)–do not eulogize Moyano.

When Moyano took the position that the inhabitants of Villa El Salvador should provide the Fujimori government with information about the identity and activities of Shining Path sympathizers, and when she refused to recognize Shining Path sympathizers as legitimate elected leaders in the community's three most powerful organizations (including the women's federation), she was defying widely accepted norms and acting out of desperation. Shining Path led a march of some 30,000 women on the government palace a few months before her death. The march not only denounced the government, but specifically denounced corruption in the Glass of Milk program which Moyano headed. In fact, the Catholic Church had already removed itself from the program because of scandals over the administration of aid. Months after Moyano's death, several of her associates were arrested on charges of corruption.

The day before Moyano's assassination, she had been confronted at a big community meeting, and accused of hiring people to blow up the community warehouse in order to discredit the Shining Path. (She had accused Shining Path of the act.) Moyano refused requests to open up community accounts for inspection and refused to resign her post. In an action which has since been described by the mainstream press as "courageous," she walked out of the meeting with 38 supporters, defying a strike which paralyzed the entire city on that day. Those who attended her funeral were mainly government functionaries and supporters of electoral parties that had been calling for collaboration with the government in forming neighborhood paramilitary organizations.

It is true that Moyano did not want government troops occupying Villa El Salvador. She was, however, no pacifist. She welcomed the deployment of troops in Pachacamac, an outlying shantytown that served as a base of active support for Shining Path. Moyano can hardly be held up as a shining example of a "non-violent grassroots community organizer" for attempting to perpetuate a politics of external commodity aid as a substitute for structural change in Peru's economy. She did organize soup kitchens, lead marches, and join forces with other feminists in promoting the empowerment of women. The tragedy is that she betrayed her community in the end, and that revolutionaries felt they had no alternative but to end her life. 

Virginia Vargas responds:

"The assassination of María Elena Moyano is truly 'the chronicle of a death foretold.' I have tried to find explanations for it that I do not have. What else could we have done? Undoubtedly more, and perhaps much more than we did, because we knew, because it had been foretold. But our resources, our imagination, our creativity and our love were insufficient, because they are of different world. We are of a world of living energy–personal and social. We are of the world of life, and not the world of terror and of death."


I wrote that a year ago, just a few days after the assassination of María Elena. I have neither the desire nor the energy to reply to Carol Andreas' letter because it will simply mean we are playing with the logic of death and terror. As for Shining Path's justifications for the assassination of María Elena, that she was corrupt and a traitor–accusations which Andreas supports–it is difficult for me to begin to affirm the contrary, and furthermore, I don't think it is worth the effort. Attempts to dishonor María Elena will remain unsuccessful precisely because, as Carol Andreas herself acknowledges, it was María Elena's assassination, more than any other terrorist action undertaken by Shining Path, that galvanized the growing popular repudiation of this group which arrogantly claims to be the only bearer of the truth, and assassinates all those who disagree with it. Those of us who respond to Shining Path not with the weapons of terror, but with the weapons of democracy and the defense of human rights would defend its captured leader Abimael Guzmán if the government called for the death penalty–this despite his moral, political and historical responsibility for this dirty war. That is our difference.



By Jorge Martinez


The article on gays and lesbiam by James Green and Enrique Asis, "The Closet Door Swings Open," which you published in your February 1993 issue [Vol XXVI, No. 4] is very timely because the question of gays in Latin America is one that most people choose to ignore. That machismo mentality so prevalent throughout the hemisphere is a major force behind Latin America's widespread homophobia. This mentality is based, in great part, on the age-old feeling of male dominance and the perception ol women as weak and subservient to men both in family and community. This label of "weak" is also attached to men who act in non-macho ways, including homosexuals. To perpetuate this machismo, Latin American men have constantly felt compelled to prove their masculinity not only by exerting their dominance over women, but by putting down homosexuality as well. Add to this the homophobic stance of the Catholic Church-we all know the great influence the church has historically exerted throughout Latin America-and what you have is complete repression of individual sexual preferences. Latin America is changing, however, and it is good to read about the steps that the people there are taking to open up the closet doors and debunk the machismo mystique. It will take time. It took a while in the United States–it's been 25 years since the Stonewall riots in New York–and we have much left to do. But the first step is awareness, and Latin America seems to have already taken that step. 



Read the rest of NACLA's July/August 1993 issue: "Latin American Women: The Gendering Of Politics And Culture."


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