Sunday, 12 April 2009

Peru: Shining Path Ambush Kills 13

News of Shining Path assaults on two groups of soldiers in Ayacucho broke in the Peruvian press yesterday, but at that time it seems that there was only confirmation of one dead and some others injured or missing. The ambush took place on Thursday but this area is very remote and clearly communications were difficult.

The death toll has now risen to thirteen, with one soldier still missing and at least 4 injured.

El Gobierno confirmo la muerte de trece militares por la emboscada en Huanta (Peru21, includes list of the dead) (Here are very similar articles in La Republica and El Comercio)

Nevertheless, Defense Minister Flores-Aráoz has declared that Peru is "winning the war on terrorism". This is the obligatory statement at such times of course.

A worrying issue, as far as I'm concerned, is illustrated by the reactions in the comments sections at the bottom of the Peruvian articles - in particular Peru21, but also La Republica. One commenter speculates that the soldiers couldn't respond to the attack quickly enough because they were concerned about being accused of human rights abuses. Another uses caps to shout that presumably, the HROs don't believe that soldiers are human too. There are many more responses in the same vein. They are unfounded: if you read the report of the TRC or the recent human rights report in Peru they describe and condemn the killings of members of the security forces in detail. I can't think of an organisation that has not unreservedly condemned Shining Path or that has opposed the Peruvian army doing its rightful job or defending itself and the civilian population. The HROs DO oppose attacks on civilians from both sides. But the problem is that these ignorant commenters are actually parroting the official line from the likes of Defense Minister Flores-Aráoz and the President himself. When Ministers make open accusations that human rights defenders are pro-terrorist, then this idea becomes commonplace and it can be, quite literally, deadly for those accused. If you're not sure how dangerous it can be, take a look at this gobsmacking video in which President Uribe of Colombia calmly calls his opponents guerrillas and terrorists. He does this over and over and over until it has seeped into public consciousness. Peru is not quite Colombia, but in some senses, it is going in the wrong direction.

See also:

Rebels Kill 13 Soldiers in Peru

13 Peruvian Soldiers Killed in Rebel Ambush (AFP)

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