Monday, 3 September 2012

Peru: The sound of the disappeared

This is a translation of a comment piece in La Republica by Jorge Bruce, which I felt it was worthwhile putting here:
Many of the misunderstandings that have plagued us in recent times are linked to our inability to process the terrible truths told in the report of the TRC, which was submitted nine years ago. These include the growth of MOVADEF and its unsettling amnesia, and the decision of the court led by Villa Stein to remove the character of crimes against humanity for the atrocities of the Colina group, and indeed the disgrace of the Peruvian State before the CIDH, which all come from the same reluctance to accept the complexity of what happened during two decades of devastating violence.

No one who has read the report or at least the summary of it, and done so in good faith, can doubt the historical importance of this document and its obvious room for improvement (is there any interpretive text which cannot be improved?). However, after reading it, it is impossible to ignore the deep and ancient social fractures that allowed the timing and extent of these violations against the most vulnerable people in our country. Or rather, it should be impossible, but the negacionismo [denial], to use a term in vogue, attacks from different ideological extremes.

I was present that day in 2003, at the Government Palace, listening to the words of Salomón Lerner, who gave that historic document to the nation. Several years later I had the privilege of meeting several women in the region of Huamanga and Huanta, relatives of disappeared people. The point is that these people are still waiting, until today, for news of the remains of their loved ones. The perpetrators of these crimes were Sendero, the Armed Forces or the rondas [peasant patrols], I was told. In none of them did I notice a grudge against anyone in particular, just an unquenchable desire to know and be able to achieve closure for this pain that never stops. We're talking about disappearances over twenty years ago, in many of these stories. In fact, several of those relatives have now died.

August 30 was the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances. After more than a decade devoted to clarifying cases of enforced disappearances in our country, the Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team (EPAF) reminds us that there are more than 15,000 victims of this crime. That after three regimes, very little progress has been made "with respect to truth, justice and reparations for survivors of violence and the families of the victims." This is the most blatant proof that there is a stubborn desire not to know, because that would force us to accept the obscene inequality which our social contract is based on.

While the disappeared are members of the lower "castes", political noise is very faint and there are many interested in seeing that this remains so. This is the basis of a privilege system that interfaces with situations as seemingly remote as the imposition of mining concessions in the face of regional opinion or low wages (cholo barato). Where racism functions as a vital support. However, there are laws such as that against negacionismo which will enable us to confront these unsettling truths. Until there is a critical mass of informed citizens, able to discuss things instead of attacking, willing to tolerate the existence of complex and even contradictory truths, we will continue to be seduced by economic growth indicators, ignoring the bones of corpses on which we build our fragile prosperity.

Here's the original again: El ruido de los desaparecidos (La Republica)

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