Monday, 17 September 2012

Peru: CVR's Salomón Lerner interviewed by Caretas

Caretas magazine has run an interview with the former president of Peru's truth commission, Salomón Lerner Febres. It's looooong, but it seemed to me worth translating, so here we go - I've put some care into this but as I say, it is very extensive, so please excuse any errors. It also assumes a lot of background knowledge which the magazine's Peruvian readers can be expected to have; if anything is particularly unclear, feel free to ask in the comments and I'll do my best to explain.

Here is the original:

Lerner Febres Contraataca (Caretas)

The former president of the truth commission (CVR) responds to the new offensive against the final report published nine years ago.

The death of Comrade "William" sparked a new offensive against the Final Report of the CVR, which has just celebrated its ninth anniversary. In the end, the critics were wrong, but the barrage was accompanied by successive headlines in the newspaper “El Comercio” and reached a high point on the Sunday front page, which claims that the former commissioners had acknowledged "errors" .

Salomón Lerner Febres, former president of the CVR and rector emeritus of the Catholic University (PUCP), defended the document as "a solid starting point for reflection. What a nerve some people have to say that we spoke as the ultimate authority and we said that it is the truth that cannot be moved!".

Surrounded by Ayacuchan retablos in his office, he talks in his usual leisurely tone, but with almost unprecedented frankness.

-[Former commissioner] Sofia Macher said on Canal N that it was a mistake for the Commission not to invite members of the armed forces to the public hearings. What do you think?
-Sofia Macher should think more before she speaks. We did not call on the actors of war to testify, but on those who were victims. And they included relatives of police and military who suffered. There was even a police officer who had ended up blind. So what she says is not true. Annex 5 of the Report is the ratio of fatalities of the Armed Forces. The fact that among the former commissioners there is also a lack of memory is alarming.

- Did they walk into a trap?
-Yes. Enrique Bernales should not have given statements to El Comercio that, given the circumstances, were going to be distorted. I was called by phone and refused to talk to them because they are reporting in such a biased way. That very day, without knowing whether it was true, they ran the headline that we had been wrong in the case of "William". That morning I was called by Peru.21, which is the same group, I gave them a 15 minute interview, and the next day the only thing that appears is in a photo caption that reads "curious statement from Lerner saying that the terrorism had been brainwashed”. And yesterday El Comercio was casting doubt because I don’t make a statement. It's really despicable what they have done. It smells bad.

- Why do you think the articles in El Comercio coincided with the fujimorista attempt to revise the CVR?
- It's not a newspaper. It’s the El Comercio group. It's a deliberate issue and the million-dollar question is why that is. You know what's funny? That in this country, where committees are formed each week and committee reports last as long as the mood of the people, we have marked the ninth year since the presentation of the report, 11 years since the Commission began work, and are still talking about it. That is something for the psychoanalysts. The main people keeping awareness on the report are those trying to discredit it because they do not have a clear conscience, they have skeletons in their closets. It's there, like a pebble in the shoe. I think it will eventually become clear that history will take a negative view of people who wanted to become part of the country’s history in a positive light.

Three years ago you pointed out in an article in CARETAS that Hugo Guerra, former editor of El Comercio, had acknowledged to the CVR the errors of the paper in its editorial line over issues like the anti-terrorism legislation with which Fujimori justified the self-coup .
-Right. But in a recent column, he has shown himself to be absolutely opposed to the CVR that he once praised. I think that besides the personal stories, there are corporate designs and in some media, certain issues cannot be addressed or are addressed in some way in which the journalist is just a simple worker who can be fired. I wonder why there were changes at Perú.21 affecting the orientation and direction.

- Why did Augusto Alvarez have an agenda which was favourable to human rights?
-And that was something that a newspaper like El Comercio could not be allowed. On the other hand, there are personal stories. I understood that Hugo Guerra was a political adviser to admiral Luis Giampietri, and being a very polite and friendly person, he cannot fail to express an attitude of not understanding that an institution reaches the highest levels of excellence when it recognizes its mistakes and purges its bad elements.

-Former commissioner Luis Arias Graziani also criticized the commission this week.
-He demonstrates very poor memory.

- But did he not sign the report with reservations?
-What the general did not endorse was that there had been systematic violations by the armed forces, and he also objected to reparations. Otherwise, we worked shoulder to shoulder. What he does not remember is the letter he sent to me on 27 August 2003, in which he recognizes that the CVR fulfilled "its mission seriously and with commendable dedication." Now there is no mention of the recognition which we gave to the armed forces because they defended us, of the homage which we paid to the heroes.

- Does the criticism really hide the responsibility of fujimorismo?
- I think so. And the APRA regime is like its little brother. I think [Alan] García does not like the Yuyanapaq exhibition in which he appears looking at the corpses in Los Molinos. We recall that he opposed the Place of Memory, which eventually succeeded thanks to Mario Vargas Llosa, and hopefully it will turn out well. But, when they attack the CVR, the fujimoristas do not realize that the argument of the report itself convicted Abimael Guzmán, because he did not kill anyone with his own hands.

- What do you think of the persistence of Sendero Luminoso via movements like Movadef?
-They don’t educate, they don’t inform, they don’t debate. They insult. That's the worst that can happen. They deny the past in such a blunt way that it opens up a niche for the followers of Sendero to position themselves as the victimized, the persecuted.

-The fact is that we have not been able to defeat them as a society.
-The fact is that we did not want to remember. Some people say "we don’t look back", we are growing, we are on the up. This is fujimorismo and all those who believe in a certain political orientation, ways of thinking about government and society: authoritarianism, a strong hand, pragmatism, the value of money, the ends justify the means, the economy has priority, and the big gap between rich and poor doesn’t matter.

-Now there’s a lot of talk about inclusion, the final report is actually a history of exclusion.
-When he was a candidate, president Humala endorsed the report of the CVR. I would remind him that his former vice president Omar Chehade signed a document pledging reparations for victims of terrorism.

-That budget has not been spent.
-Before leaving office, Alan García issued a decree which set very complicated conditions to register victims. These conditions were not changed by the then-minister of justice, who is now prime minister, who knew very well how the CVR worked and who (when interviewed last February in El Comercio) said it gave political status to Sendero Luminoso. [Juan] Jiménez has a poor memory. But each has their own fears and ambitions.

- What do you think of the recent judgment of the Colina Group?
-I think it's a very unreasonable judgment and inconsistent with what has been the position of the judiciary. (Javier) Villa Stein cannot, with some blood on his face, say that there are no crimes against humanity when they kill people because they are suspected terrorists. It is an admission of state terrorism. The prestige won by the Peruvian justice system with Fujimori's sentence has been diminished. More with the debacle of the Interamerican Court. The political contacts and friends of Villa Stein have influenced a biased judgment.

- And what about the government's change of strategy in the Chavín de Huantar case, abandoning the thesis of the “vultures”?

-They're comparing apples and oranges. I think there is ample evidence pointing to action which was different to the commands. A minister like Aurelio Loret de Mola said so, and there are also several testimonies.

-There has been speculation that the cardinal's anger with the authorities of the Catholic university has to do with the CVR.
-If there is a sector that is not in favour of the PUCP it is because they consider it "caviar". The CVR, for those who do not want to look in the mirror, is also "socialist" and progressive. There's a man out there, who does not do honour to the craft of journalism, who has come to say I'm “the king of the caviar”.

- Aldo Mariátegui of the newspaper “Correo”?
-Yes, of whom I do not say I have not had the pleasure, but that happily I do not know him. That man has been criticizing me since the time of the Commission. “Salomón Lerner is even thicker than fat Macher”. It does not surprise me that somehow my role as rector here has been linked to my work in the CVR in which I had to, with pain, point out those institutions and individuals who did not live up to what was expected of them. We said that the Catholic Church did well in parts of the southern Andean country but it was not the same in Ayacucho. There are sins of commission and omission. When you can do something and save lives and do not, you share part of the responsibility. I guess that can influence the stubbornness and malice which is going on behind the university. Sometimes hate can blind us or you want to control an institution to take not only assets but, above all, the prestige and history which is not theirs so that they can celebrate the centenary in five years. Let’s hope not.

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