Saturday 31 August 2013

Peru: El ojo que llora

Image source

I was looking at the pictures of the Lima memorial El ojo que llora (the eye that cries)  and its role in the recent marking of the decade since the truth commission report in Peru. I'm really pleased to see this memorial space actually being used and acting as a focal point for commemorations.

I saw the memorial being constructed and I don't seem to have shared many of those images, so I thought I'd put that straight. These were taken at the end of 2005.

Peru: 10th anniversary round-up

Image taken from Arte por la memoria's post on an exhibition marking the tenth anniversary of the report in Plaza San Martin, Lima. 

Here's some more on the situation in Peru, ten years after the final report of the truth and reconciliation commission.

On progress made in justice issues: The Peruvian ombudsman (defensoría del pueblo) has called for greater efforts to identfy the thousands of disappeared from the conflict. Eduardo Vega wants a special unit to be set up for this "humanitarian task". The number of disappeared is usually given as between 10,000 and 15,000.

Ombudsman Calls for Agency to Indentify Disappeared during Terrorism Years (Peruvian Times)
Piden crear entidad que busque a desaparecidos durante lucha contra terrorismo (Andina)

The former leader of the truth commission, Salomon Lerner, also acknowledges that the progress made in achieving the report's recommendations has been "insufficient". 
CVR: a diez años del informe, la deuda del Estado y la sociedad sigue (La Republica)
Peru Truth Commission: Recommendations for Reconciliation Not Being Implemented (Peruvian Times)

Eleanor Griffis reflects on the CVR and responses to it for the Peruvian Times:

The Truth and Reconciliation Report: Ten Years On (Peruvian Times)

At least some signs of progress are being made: over 200 bodies have been discovered at an area known as "Oreja del Perro" in Ayacucho, and exhumations start next week.

Hallan restos de más de 200 víctimas de la violencia en zona de 'Oreja de Perro' (La Republica)

On Sendero Luminoso: For the AP, Frank Bajak analyzes the continuing presence of the Shining Path despite the State's recent killing of several high-ranking members, while the Christian Science Monitor looks at the rise of Movadef, the political movement inspired by SL ideology. 

Analysts: Shining Path bruised, far from defeated (AP)
Is Peru's history of terrorism coming back to haunt it? (Christian Science Monitor)

Wednesday 28 August 2013

Peru: 10th anniversary of the CVR report

28 August 2013 is the tenth anniversary of the presentation of the final report of Peru's truth and reconciliation commission (CVR).

As a reminder, general conclusions of the report may be found in English here, and the entire report can be downloaded in Spanish here.

In Lima, the anniversary has been marked at the memorial El ojo que llora in Jesús María, an event attended by the former head of the CVR, Salomón Lerner Febres. Lima mayor Susana Villarán spoke of the need to ensure that the country never faces such horror again and to ensure that the victims receive adequate reparation.

Victims' relatives called for a national plan for the location of disappeared persons.

As far as the media is concerned, El Comercio criticised the slow pace of reparations. La Republica also picks up on remarks about the lack of progress made in implementing the report's recommendations. Correo, meanwhile, seeks to cast doubt on the commission's achievements and believes that it should have talked to ultraconservative cardinal Cipriani.

Saturday 10 August 2013

Argentina: Welcome, grandchild number 109

This week, the Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo announced the restitution of identity to the 109th found grandchild.

Pablo Germán Athanasiu Laschan was abducted in 1976 aged five months old. His parents, Frida Laschan Mellado and Ángel Athanasiu, were both Chilean and moved to Argentina to escape the Pinochet dictatorship. Unfortunately, right-wing violence caught up with them and they were both disappeared, and possibly held in Automotores Orletti, the main clandestine detention centre dealing with Operation Condor victims.

Pablo was contacted by the Grandmothers several months ago and agreed to a DNA test. He did not attend the press conference, although two of his aunts were connected from Chile via video-link and various other found grandchildren were also present. 
Guillermo Pérez Roisinblit, another recovered grandson, said: “Pablo, we know how you are feeling. We have been looking for you and we will also be waiting for you.”

The names of the couple who brought up Pablo were not given, but they were said to have close ties to the regime and the man has been convicted of human rights abuses.

The grandchildren are now heading towards 40 and their grandparents are, obviously, very old. It's amazing that they are still being identified, but it's also true that,
“This is a battle against time,” added FpV lawmaker Remo Carlotto [Estela's son]. “The clock is ticking.”

Abuelas de Plaza de Mayo restituyeron identidad al nieto 109 (Vanguardia, Mexico)
El 'nieto' 109 de la dictadura argentina (El Mundo)
Grandmothers present 109th grandson (Buenos Aires Herald)

Peru: Armed internal conflict

[Spanish speakers might want to skip directly to the links given below; in this post, I'm not claiming to be original. I just feel that the issues raised are interesting and worthy of flagging up on an English-language forum]

In view of the upcoming tenth anniversary of the final report of the truth and reconciliation commission (CVR), a debate has been ignited (or rather, reignited) in Peru regarding the use of the term "armed internal conflict" (conflicto armado interno) to refer to Peru's period of political violence.

Some would prefer the term "terrorism" to emphasise the fact that the main culpable parties were the Shining Path and MRTA. Others suggest "civil war".

This piece on Facebook from El utero de marita expresses the debate really well, pointing out that "terrorism" excludes the large numbers of victims caused by the actions of the state (think Accomarca, Los Cabitos, La Cantuta) and those who do not fall easily into either of the two categories (e.g. Uchuraccay). "Civil war", meanwhile, suggests a conflict with two more or less equally-matched and well-defined "sides", which is also not accurate. He concludes "armed internal conflict includes terrorism, but terrorism excludes many victims that we should not forget". Exactly.

Language is always a contentious issue in these contexts. As far as Peru is concerned, I've always acknowledged the particularly bloody violence of the Shining Path, in particular, by referring to them unequivocally as a terrorist group. I don't refer to the Montoneros as such, for example, nor do I call the Argentine dictatorship the "dirty war" (except occasionally in inverted commas). Argentina did experience some terrorist acts before the 1976 coup, but it did not suffer indiscriminate mass murder of unarmed civilians and the response of the state under the military regime was completely disproportionate. This is why, in Argentina, the armed forces were the primary human rights abusers. In Peru, the Shining Path (and to a far lesser extent, the MRTA) were the primary violent actors, but the state contributed a very significant number of victims as well.

So yes, Shining Path were (are) terrorists, but Peru's armed internal conflict had several actors.

Does it matter? I would suggest it does, since the label we give the period is connected to which victims we decide are worth remembering.

See also:
Sobre el termino conflicto armado interno (Desde el Tercer Piso)

Wednesday 7 August 2013

Chile: Iconic images 40 years on

To mark the 40th anniversary of the Chilean coup, the memory museum (Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos) is calling on people who recognise themselves in images taken by US photojournalist David Burnett to get in touch (

However, this photo is presumably not one where they actually need spectators to fill in information, as it's already famous and its main subject is known. I blogged it on previously, here.

Reencuentro y retrato de la memoria: A 40 años del Golpe de Estado (Cooperativa)

Tuesday 6 August 2013

Peru: The calm before the storm

The Centro Cultural Ramón Alonso Luzzy in Cartagena (Spain) is presenting a photography exhibition of the work of Baldomero Alejos. The photos were taken in Ayacucho, Peru, up to 1976 - before the region was hit by the conflict triggered by the uprising of Sendero Luminoso.

Some of the images are beautiful family portraits of a bygone age, like the one above, while others have historic interest, like the early passport shot of Sendero founder Abimael Guzmán:

How amazing that this unremarkable-looking man in a suit would soon unleash unparallelled violence in Ayacucho.

The exhibition runs until the end of August, if anyone is in the Murcia region!

El Perú en que nació Sendero Luminoso (La aventura de la historia)

Chile: Pinochet legacy cases

A couple of things are not happening in Chile.

Firstly, members of Augusto Pinochet's family are not facing corruption charges over the millions of dollars he hoarded away. A judge decided that there was not enough evidence to charge the relatives with involvement in corruption.

Chile judge drops inquiry into Pinochet's millions (BBC)
Chilean Judge Closes Pinochet Embezzlement Case, Family Not Charged (NY Times)
Chilean Judge Closes Pinochet Money Investigation (NY Times)

Secondly, there will be no charges against retired general Fernando Matthei for the murder of Alberto Bachelet, as a human rights lawyer had requested. This case is obviously politically focused: the two generals' daughters are the candidates for the presidency.

Chilean judge rejects murder charge against Gen Matthei (BBC)
Chile Judge Rejects Charging Candidate's Father (NY Times)

Thursday 1 August 2013

Peru: Routes of memory in Lima

Lima council, family members of victims of Peru's internal conflict and the forensic anthropology team EPAF have organised a series of tours taking in memory-related sites across the Peruvian capital. The initiative marks the tenth anniversary of the publication of the truth commission report. 

The points along the way include the Ojo que llora monument in Jesús María, the former Japanese embassy, the Lugar de la memoria in Miraflores, the site of the Tarata bombing, the university campuses and more. 

The tours are free but you have to register in advance; wish I could be there!