September 25, 2007

OCTOBER 1982. IN THE COMMUNITY OF NIN- acushma, of the department of Huancavelica, a guer- rilla column is holding one of its habitual sessions of indoc- trination. All the townspeople are obliged to congregate in the main plaza. People are relieved that no "settling of ac- counts" is on the agenda. However, the party decides to make an example of a family little inclinedto fulfill the norms of the "new morality." A witness told me: "The woman was given 50 lashes because she complained about the poor distribution of the harvest. They were a poor family, and they drank as well. And they cut her hair, leaving her all "cachi" [bald]. The husband also got 50 lashes and they cut off one of his ears with a pair of scissors. He's still mad.' "And the people, what did they say?" "Nothing. Punish, but don't kill, that's all they said." A PRIL 22, 1984, MARKET DAY IN THE AYA- cuchan community of Huamanguilla. All of a sudden, guerrillas explode dynamite caps in the four corners of the plaza. They march into the town hall and drag out the mayor, a member of Izquierda Unida, A witness told me: "They took him to the center of the plaza, they tied him up with rope and yelled out: 'This is a stool pigeon and stool pigeons have to die, like dogs have to die.' A young woman with a large knife approached him. Then his wife and kids turned up and started shouting, 'Don't kill him, don't kill him.' The se~iora offered them everything she had in her store, but the woman paid her no heed and plunged the knife into his heart-in front of his family, in our presence. "Now people are unhappy because [the Senderistas] have killed innocent people, saying they are stool pigeons. I think that if people make mistakes they should just be punished. their hair should be shorn...but they shouldn't be treated like this. They killed him like a pig..." T HE PHRASE "PUNISH BUT DON'T KILL" INDI- cates how far campesinos seem to be willing to go along with Sendero. The following episode is from Chuschi, the community where Sendero launched its first armed action. A witness told me: "A few people were going around collecting money saying it was fbr Sendero, and the party caught them. They were given a trial in the town plaza. The townspeople were asked: 'These men have done this and this athis and this. What do you say, should we kill them or punish them?' "The community spoke: 'Why should you kill them? Give them a punishment.' "'Ah, you always have these archaic notions of defend- ing yourselves. From now on we aren't going to ask. We're going to cut off their heads, because weeds have to be dug up completely. If we start forgiving weeds we'll never succeed, we'll never progress' they said." The interview continued: "But if they were delinquents, why were the people against killing them?' "And their children? Who would take care of their children?" There are decisive moments in which the logic of "pro- longed popular war" contradicts the logic of campesino life. It is not pacifism, but the pragmatism of a subsistence-level existence that marks the limits of campesinos' willingness to go along. The intricate networks of relationships and com- plex strategies of reproduction must not be violated if the community is to survive. When Sendero punishes a cattle thief oran unfaithful husband, it wins approval; it "corrects" them, that is, makes them once again functional within the community. But when Sendero kills them, it tears apart a delicate social fabric and opens up a Pandora's box.

Tags: Peru, Shining Path, ideology, Violence

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