Saturday, 28 February 2009

Peru: More on that Museum Donation

Peru's apparent rejection of a German donation to build a museum of memory has reached the ears of the English-language media. Says the BBC:
The government in Lima initially failed to respond to the offer, saying the money would be better spent tackling poverty and hunger.

It continues:
Peruvian Defence Minister Antero Flores has said a museum to remember victims of the conflict would be of no use to anybody.

Hmm, Defence Minister Flores? That's the same guy who attacked the TRC commissioners as interfering busybodies who were just looking to attack the armed forces. I think it's safe to say he's not big on memory gestures.

When the news of the rejection was first leaked, the government refused to comment.
Now it has changed tack.
Prime Minister Yehude Simon has suggested the money go towards reparations for the victims not a museum.

The BBC's final comment is that
...the German donation has opened old wounds between those who want to remember and those who would rather forget.

The 'opened old wounds' phrase rolls easily off the tongue, but it's not sure it's quite like that. I don't see that Peru's wounds in this respect were ever closed, quite frankly. Nevertheless, I sincerely hope that this doesn't end up being framed as a 'memory vs. reparations' issue.

Here's where I stand on this, for what it's worth:
- Reparations are an issue, especially in a country where the majority of victims were very poor. Their families deserve reparations in some form (I've heard that some communities would be in favour of services, e.g. a village school, rather than a cash payment to individuals, and that would seem reasonable to me - no, I don't have a source for that though).
- I understand finances are always stretched, but it shouldn't be presented as a question of "well, do you want to compensate some deserving people or do you want to make a fancy museum for middle class people". It's not either/or. I suspect that the easy remarks about hunger are straw arguments because no one would disagree that starving children are crucial; the German government wasn't offering the money for that, however. We can't wait until every single other challenge in Peru has been met before, maybe, sparing a few coins for cultural issues, because by then the dead are already forgotten. Justice for the victims includes memorial projects, otherwise reparations can easily become pay-offs.
- A huge amount of time and work has already gone into really important projects like Yuyanapaq; I have personally met some of the people involved in this and they are so dedicated and their work is stunning. It's a vital tool with which to teach the next generation of Peruvians - as well as visitors - about the discrimination which led to such horror in their country.
- A whole patchwork of complex issues comes together in the commemoration of a tragedy like this, but I believe that a national centrepiece may a useful part of this. In Argentina, after decades of prevaricating, this is coming together in the ESMA. It would be great if it didn't take as long in Peru.

Peru furore over museum donation (BBC)

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