September 25, 2007

IT WAS A FEW MINUTES BEFORE NOON ON APRIL 8, 1987 when a Senderista "annihilation commando" entered San Juan de Salinas, in the department of Puno near the Bolivian border. ZenobioHuarsala knew who they were after. As a long-time campesino leader. founder of the powerful Federacion Departmental de Campesinos de Puno, his radicalism had led him to sympathize with Sendero. But at the end of 1986, when the townspeople asked him to run for mayor on the Izquierda Unida ticket, Huarsalla agreed. Sendero considered him a traitor, a servant of the "old state." Soon after his overwhelming victory at the polls, the town hall was dynamited. Now, as they drag him toward the center of the plaza he sees his wife and his parents among the crowd that is gathering to watch the "popular trial." The commando commits the error of asking the crowd if Huarsalla should be executed. The response is an emphatic "No!" The Sender- istas argue with the crowd, and it finally falls silent. Then Huarsalla. who has been kneeling under the muzzles of two rifles, jumps to his feet. "I have been jailed five times," he says looking at his executioners. "I know who you are, but I have never given you away." Then he speaks to the townspeople: "If you ask me to. I will resign." Cries of "No!" again fill the plaza. The campesinos begin to close in on the Senderistas. The com- mando is nervous. Then "La Gringa" jumps forward. She is a white woman famous in Puno for the savagery of her attacks. People say she has even gouged out the eyes and cut out the tongues of her victims. La Gringa moves toward Huarsalla and with one shot blows out his brains. Amid the cries and confusion, the Senderistas retreat. Since Zenobio Huarsalla was murdered, at least eight other Izquierda Unida mayors have been assassinated by Sendero, including Ayacucho mayor Fermin Azparrent. Between 1987 and 1989, Sendero killed five leaders of the mineworkers union. In April 1989, a dozen community leaders who had opposed Sendero in the Cunas Valley of the central Andes were massacred; several of them were merm- bers of the leftist Confederaci6n Campesina del Peru. In "Lima. at the beginning of 1989, the president of the textile workers union, Enrique Castilla, was murdered; a sign was left on his body: "This is how traitors who sell out the workers die." Castilla was a member of the Partido Unifi- cado Mariateguista(PUM) the most radical of the legal Left. PUM leaders maintain that twenty of their members have been gunned down by Sendero to date, most of them in the southern Andes.

Tags: Peru, Shining Path, leftists, Violence

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