Peru: Amnesty Speaks Out

September 25, 2007

A report recently released by Amnesty International entitled "Peru: Torture and Extra-judicial Executions," has served to con- firm allegations by the Lima press and human rights organizations in Peru concerning the government's use of unchecked violence in at- tempting to eradicate the Maoist guerrilla movement, "Sendero Luminoso." Confining its investi- gation to complaints filed within the southern Andean departments (states) where the fighting has been the heaviest, Amnesty has concluded that the nature and ex- tent of human rights abuse occur- ring in the context of the guerrilla war has reached proportions un- 40 precedented in Peru. These south- ern departments-Ayacucho, Apurimac and Huancavelica-- have been under military occupa- tion since December 1982. The report appeared in the wake of a series of bombings and attacks by Sendero in the capital, with President Belaunde's Popu- lar Action Party headquarters and a number of police stations the major targets. In these attempts to discredit the conservative civilian regime as a "democratic farce," Sendero has gained some mo- mentum by provoking the state into responding with more visible authoritarian measures. The dire economic situation also continues to give Sendero leverage. Under the guidance of Finance Minister Rodriguez Pastor, a strict ortho- dox monetarist, Peru's major eco- nomic indicators have slumped to levels on a par with those witnes- sed at the end of the last century while the country was at war with Chile and Bolivia. In November's municipal elec- tions-widely viewed as a plebi- scite on government policy- Belaunde's administration met with resounding disapproval. The United Left won handily in Lima and the other principal opposition party, the centrist APRA, took the rest of the country. Belaunde re- sponded promptly by relieving NACLA Reportupdate . update . update * update his finance minister of duties ef- fective January 1. As the polarization between Sendero and the state approach- es its highest pitch, Amnesty's findings provoked an expected round of denials on the part of President Belaunde. He accused the organization of having "com- munist ties," and of being part of a subversive network abroad which he has consistently blamed for Peru's present "terrorist cancer." Subsequent to the release of the report, the appearance in Lima of two Ayacucho school teachers whom Amnesty had listed as dead lent some credence to the presi- dent's criticisms. The general public, concerned over the obvi- ous rise in terrorism and govern- ment repression, has been more receptive to Amnesty's findings despite the report's errors. Verdict: Collective Guilt At least half the 66-page report is devoted to analyzing the still controversial events surrounding the brutal massacre of eight jour- nalists last January in the village of Uchuraccay.* Here, Amnesty questions the final conclusions drawn by the government's inves- tigative commission headed by celebrated Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. Contrary to the official verdict of collective guilt with impunity for the peasants involved in the grisly incident, and complete government ablution, Amnesty points to the massacre as a direct result of government security policy in the military oc- cupied zone. The report notes the widespread bloodshed which has resulted from the indoctrination and payoff by the military of peas- ant community patrols organized to fight Sendero. Because of the *See "Peru: 'Dirty War' in Ayacucho," NACLA Report on the Americas (May- June 1983). JanlFeb 1984 many unresolved contradictions and inconsistencies in the gov- ern's testimony, Amnesty has ap- pealed-unsuccessfully-to the Peruvian government to reopen the investigation of the massacre and initiate the proper prosecu- tion proceedings. In its documentation of torture and extra-judicial executions in the occupied zone, Amnesty pro- vides a slant quite different from the picture painted by Vargas Llosa in his New York Times Magazine (July 31, 1983) account of conflict in the Andes. The novel- ist's portrayal of a military and police force committing some in- fractions because they are "out of training" for democracy, yet fight- ing to maintain Peru's vulnerable democratic institutions, is a far cry from the nightly roundups and ar- bitrary murders documented in the report. Eye witness testimony gathered by Amnesty directly con- tradicts military communiques which state that the majority of deaths are occurring during ac- tive combat against the guerrillas. The report becomes particularly heated in its descriptions of torture tactics employed on suspects, many of them minors. Victims have been systematically beaten and held under water-to the point of drowning-at "Los Cabi- tos," Ayacucho's military barracks and torture center. This is not a novel practice in 41update * update . update * update E ( Counterinsurgency squads arrive in Ayacucho in August 1982. Peru, although the torturing of youths in this manner is something new. Amnesty discounts official estimates of disappearances and extra-judicial deaths as superfici- ally low, due to the information blackout in the south, and a total disregard for due process on the part of the military command. The government puts the total deaths at 1,500 since May 1980 when Sendero surfaced. Colombian-Style Stalemate Although Amnesty's findings corroborate what has been sus- pected all along, the organization is certainly not telling the govern- ment anything it does not already know. Among opposition political forces, there is a mounting senti- ment that a blitzkrieg development 42 effort is the only viable solution to the problems of the improverished sierra region where Sendero is strong. Yet the government re- mains committed to its own form of terrorism. Press disclosures in- dicate that defense expenditures now consume 30% of the national budget. President Reagan's fiscal 1984 budget requests a five-fold increase in military aid to Peru to support the purchase of high-tech counterinsurgency equipment. Given the government's con- tinuing disregard for even minimal economic justice and the ineffi- cacy of warfare tactics to date, as well as Sendero's dogmatic ad- herence to violent and non-parlia- mentary solutions, the most likely scenario is that put forth by ex- President Morales Bermtidez in a recent speech in Lima. That is, a stalemate, regardless of military or civilian rule, which resembles the current situation in Colombia. There, a similar mix of political and economic contingencies has perpetuated a deadlock between the state and guerrilla insurgents for some 20 years. The international business com- munity seems to share this future vision for Peru. Since Sendero's last campaign on Lima, American International Underwriters has notified the state insurance com- pany that it will not be issuing terrorist protection policies to new clients this year. Carol Wise is a graduate student in political science at Columbia Univer- sity and recently spent a year as a visting researcher at Lima's Pacific University.

Tags: Peru, Amnesty International, Shining Path, repression, Francisco Belaunde Terry

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