Sunday, 1 March 2009

Peru: Articles on Museum of Memory (1)

La Republica has a trio of articles on the potential Museum of Memory today.

In an interview, former head of the TRC Salomon Lerner accuses the government of trying to avoid dealing with a past that makes it look bad. What he says is very interesting (trans and emphasis mine):

The Prime Minister claims that the government did not reject the German donation for the Museum of Memory, but asked the ambassador if the money could be used differently...

The Prime Minister is becoming less and less credible. The government gave a negative response via then ambassador Kauffmann and one way of covering that up was to propose that the money be administered by the State for other things, knowing that the donation was intended exclusively for the Museum of Memory.

Did [Prime Minister] Simon lie?

In the German embassy they told me that the donation had the exclusive objective of constructing the museum and maintaining it for 10 years. Saying that they suggest another alternative is turning it down.

Simon claims the opposite...

He says one thing when you're along with him, and then in public he gives a different version. I've met him, in the presence of a witness, and he regretted the negative response of the State.

What did he say?

That he would try to change the decision, that there were ministers who had opposed it, that they wanted to counteract the project with some cosmetic measures. He told me to write a letter to the President, and that he would give it to him. I wrote the letter and it was sent off. I haven't heard any more from him.


Isn't it also worthy of attention that the government wants to use the money for another type of reparations?

The request to use the money differently is immoral, it is about evading responsibility. If the situation is so bad in Ayacucho with the abandoned children, why didn't the government deal with it before? Why did they expect other people, not the goverment, to make a move so that the German goverment would help with something which has a very high symbolic and moral value in the field of reparations.

They're excuses, then?...

Why didn't they assist the poor of Huancavelica, Ayacucho, Junin, if they claim that there has been great economical growth? That's just a way out, not very intelligent.

What is the background?

It's about memory. They talk about culture, but they deny memory, which is a fundamental element which affirms our identities, our judgements, our mistakes, and which brings to light behaviour which wasn't the best, by citizens, but also by the State.

They don't want to take their share of responsibility for the violation of human rights?

The thing is, this is 15 years of government by Alan Garcia and Alberto Fujimori which is immortalised in these photos, which do not lie; they are not paintings, fruits of the artist's imagination, but photos, evidence of facts.

Did they reject the donation because of the photos from the Yuyanapaq exhibition, which is in the Museo de la Nacion?

They say that it doesn't help reconciliation, but that contradicts all the testimonies of the thousands who have seen the exhibition and who have left their views written in the visitors books at the end*. What is happening is that, in the end, the government does not want to face the past which in some sense is incriminating, and they also don't like that the museum is a way of accepting those who have always been excluded.

Like the photos of the murder of prisoners in El Fronton(1)...

There are photos which deal with El Fronton, and los Molinos, I don't know if there are any of Cayara, but there are also photos of what happened to the villages because of Sendero, of Guzman in a wild state when they arrested him, of the Shining Path indoctrination in the prison. It is a balanced exhibition.

Do you believe that the President decided not to accept the donation?

I believe that we live in a democracy, strictly speaking, but that there is a very authoritarian tendency, and a personal, wilful, autocratic one, and in this sense the President Garcia is the one who decides, beyond the opinions of the ministers, those who are convinced by his arguments and cling to them.

“El gobierno no quiere enfrentarse a un pasado que es incriminatorio”

* I've seen the books and this is true.

(1) The prison massacre that occurred during Garcia's first presidency. The prisoners staged an armed uprising that was put down so brutally by the armed forces that there were hardly any survivors. The few who did survive suggest that even those prisoners who surrendered were summarily executed. Such an order is likely to have come from the very top of the chain of command; in any case, ultimately the buck stops with Alan.

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