Sunday, 15 March 2009

Peru: Attacks on Integrity of Yuyanapaq

Last week, I posted a partial translation of an article protesting the aspersions that military amnesty supporter Edgar Núñez was casting against the photographic exhibition Yuyanapaq (Para recordar/For remembering). Núñez is President of the Defense Committee of the Peruvian Congress. Now, on the website of magazine Caretas, you can see a video of the incident in which he discusses this image by Oscar Medrano (who works for Caretas, hence their particular interest):

Holding up the photograph, he stresses that its subject, Edmundo Camana, is still alive and in possession of his two eyes. I'm not sure who ever denied that; here is a range of photographs taken by the same photographer:

In her article 'Making Yuyanapaq', Robin Hoecker notes that
The photograph was taken by Oscar Medrano for the magazine Caretas, but it was never published. Instead, another image ran of the man where his bandage is raised, showing a gruesome and disfigured eye. Mohanna explained why the Yuyanapaq editors chose to use the version with the bandage: "For us, this photo [with the bandage] dignifies the victim. And the other one [without the bandage] documents the evidence of what happened, of the pain. But you can still see the pain in this [good] eye. And for us, this one [with the bandage] is much stronger than the other one [without the bandage]. We made decisions like this all the time. "

For Núñez to claim, therefore, that the image is a 'trick' designed to make the audience believe that the man had lost his eye is a nonsense. He goes on to state that the problem with the subject's eye is not that he had been attacked by Shining Path with a machete; oh no! He just had a stye, a simple eye infection. This is absurd. Finally, Núñez repeats that the man is still living - again, who denied that? Caretas sent Medrano to catch up with him last year, on the 25th anniversary of the photograph:

Núñez also states, with emphasis, that Camana has never received any compensation from anyone. It was not the CVR's job to hand out financial compensation; they recommended that the government do this.

After Núñez and a response by Ayacuchan congresswoman Juana Huancahuari, fujimorista Cecilia Chacon de Vettori shouts and waves her pen around while proclaiming that it is impossible to talk of state terrorism and that Peru was merely defending itself against terrorists. At the end of the video, Huancahuari takes the microphone again and begins by saying that some politicians feel a profound contempt for indigenous highland people (campesinos, lit 'peasants'). Quite frankly, given the ingrained racism in Peruvian society, I took this as a simple statement of fact. There are cries of protest and she is ordered to retract her statement. When she refuses, the session is called to a halt.

The whole scene is rather bizarre. But one thing is clear; Núñez is attacking the integrity of the photographer Oscar Medrano, of the curators of Yuyanapaq Mayu Mohanna and Nancy Chappell, and by extension of the truth commission (CVR) itself, which authorised the photographic exhibition. He shows a clear desire to undermine the memory of the Peruvian conflict itself and remember only one side; those unambiguously murdered by the Shining Path. The fact is that the state did commit crimes during the conflict as well and it needs to face up to the memory of those, but it will struggle against amnesia while those in power oppose an honest assessment of the past.

Video of the session of the congressional committee here, in Spanish:
Este ojo llora (Caretas)

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