Saturday, February 4, 2023

Deadly response to protests in Peru reopens wounds

HUAMANGA, Peru ( Associated Press) – A week ago, soldiers opened fire in the Peruvian Andes in the deadliest retaliatory fire in the 21st century, reminding Victoria Prado of the abuse she endured while searching for her brother. Jheli, who was made missing by the army. March 1990.

Prado, 70, fired tear gas shells and red smoke grenades from a helicopter to obscure the vision of protesters trying to take over the Ayacucho airport, prompted by calls to dissolve parliament and resign President Dina Boluarte Saw throwing.

“It was the same in 1990, the army stopped shooting,” Prado said, referring to a period of political violence in Peru (1980–2000). The Shining Path began its bloody fight to seize power in Peru and the military response was so vigorous and brutal that it committed serious human rights violations, as was later determined by a truth commission.

The confrontation took place on 15 December near a park, next to a cemetery and the Ayacucho airport. Although the military indicated that they acted with “unrestricted respect for human rights”, video recorded by residents of the area and reviewed by the Associated Press showed several soldiers firing horizontally. Natwid Alcaraz, a teacher who witnessed the shootings, said, “They shot at the body, not in the air.”

Some of the first victims fell around the park, including two parents: Edgard Prado, 51, and Jose Aguilar, 20. The other, also a resident of the area, was returning from work when he was killed by a shot in the head. 10 of those killed in Ayacucho were from firearms. The projectile impact also left eight hospitalized people, according to officials.

“The whole town heard the shots for more than two hours,” said Lola Muñoz, a 40-year-old hotel worker who narrowly escaped death at the age of six when the army stormed her home in San Miguel, a town north of Ayacucho. had entered. And they killed their grandparents. Others indicated that more sporadic shootings occurred after midnight.

The military response in Ayacucho has been the most violent of the demonstrations in different parts of the country, after then-President Pedro Castillo (2021-2022) was ousted on December 7 after trying to shut down parliament. Since then, he has been in pre-trial detention pending investigation for insurrection. The protests that followed the political crisis left 27 civilians dead and more than 600 injured, nearly half of them police officers.

An Associated Press reporter visited the area of ​​the confrontation in Ayacucho and found electric poles riddled with bullets, blood stains on the pavement that did not disappear despite rain, and dozens of cardboard boxes of 5.56 mm caliber bullets scattered on the floor .

There is “anger, rage, fury” among the protesters, summed up Lurzio Gavilan, who joined Sendero Luminoso at age 12, later became a soldier and is now professor of anthropology at the University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga. where the founder of Sendero, Abimel Guzmán, taught philosophy.

Gavilan, 51, recalled that during the armed struggle all the officers in Ayacucho were subordinate to the military and were tortured. “I look back on that memory when I see soldiers with rifles pointed at civilians”, he said. “That past becomes present,” he said.

Victoria Prado recalled that in 1990 the military fired into her home and took her brother, a 25-year-old teacher Graciano, whom she accused of being a terrorist. Despite having two children, she raised her brother from a young age and watched him grow up and became the first schoolteacher in their family, which was composed entirely of illiterate farmers.

He searched for Graciano over the following years without luck. He walked into a valley where soldiers dumped corpses, he saw how packs of dogs devoured some of the bodies, he dreamed of Graciano who told him not to tire of looking for him.

She stood at the door of the Ayacucho barracks asking for her brother like hundreds of mothers for their missing children, the same door decades later the soldiers who opened fire on protesters on December 15 walked through. The treatment is the same, Prado said and recalled that in the past the army had even fired their rifles to intimidate them when they raised their voices demanding to see the missing.

A truth commission stated in 2003 that the armed conflict left 70,000 victims, mainly poor, Quechua-speaking farmers. Prado joined the National Federation of Relatives of the Abducted, Detained and Disappeared of Peru and when he visits the organization’s headquarters in the city of Humanga, he visits the museum that commemorates the years of violence.

Gavilan, author of the autobiography “Memoirs of an Unknown Soldier,” said Peruvian governments have always used violence instead of honest dialogue. “Anger builds, which happens with the passage of time,” he pointed out, indicating that this view from the distant power of capital is marked by racism, distaste, and ineptitude.

Before stepping down as prime minister, Pedro Angulo said Tuesday that Quechua-speaking farmers protesting in Apurimac—the area near where six people have been killed—had been manhandled and that “misfortune” happened when they spoke Spanish. I didn’t understand the warnings. Manuel Gómez de la Torre, head of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces, commented – two days after the deadly crackdown and in the presence of President Boluaarte – that there are “very bad Peruvians” who go from creating “violent actions” to producing terrorists. are going the verbs “.

Anthropologist Gavilan lamented the frequent disqualification of protestors by the authorities, considering them barbaric, manipulative, incapable of thinking, dirty, and uncivilized.

Mrs Prado – who searched for her teacher brother for 30 years without luck – says her life has hardly changed and she has never seen her share of the South American country’s mineral-driven economic boom pass by. “Year and year and the same thing, the Peruvians are still behind; There is nothing, there is no support”, she pointed out while taking care of a goat.

“I don’t know how to read or write, but I have thoughts,” he said.

Nation World News Desk
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