LIMA, Peru (Reuters) -- Relatives of the thousands of people who
disappeared during Peru's war on leftist guerrillas protested against human
rights abuses on Tuesday, their first demonstration during Alberto Fujimori's
Scores of Andean peasants, mainly women, arrived in Lima to urge Fujimori
to form a "truth commission" to investigate about 5,000 cases of people
allegedly kidnapped and murdered during a 1980s and early 1990s war
against Shining Path rebels.
Wearing traditional brown hats and long, arched highland dresses the
women clasped pictures of relatives to their chests. Facing the high iron
gates of Government Palace, they chanted "Justice!" and raised placards that
read: "They took them away alive. We want them back alive."
"We have been asking for justice for years. We want to be able to bury
children," said Angelica Mendoza, head of the association of disappeared
relatives in the central Andean region of Ayacucho. Her 19-year-old son
disappeared in 1983.
Peru's armed forces killed thousands of people, mainly poor peasants in
isolated mountain villages, during the war with the violent Maoist rebels,
according to human rights groups.
The Shining Path also carried out a violent campaign, openly massacring
thousands of villagers, many clubbed or stoned to death, whom they
suspected of collaborating with the government.
Public awareness of the "disappeared" is strong in neighbouring Chile,
has documented many abuses, and Argentina where the well-known
Mothers of Plaza de Mayo have sought information on the fates of their
kidnapped children from the 1976-83 military dictatorship.
But in Peru there are few details of the whereabouts of the victims of
violence and few military officers have been tried for abuses.
"There is little consciousness in Peru about the disappeared. We are trying
raise it," Sofia Macher, head of Peru's national human rights organization,
said. "This is the first demonstration under Fujimori by relatives of the
In 1995, Fujimori's government passed a law granting amnesty to those
military officers responsible for human rights abuses, causing widespread
street protests by Peru's opposition.
Guerrilla wars unleashed by Shining Path and the smaller Revolutionary
Tupac Amaru Movement have caused about 30,000 deaths and $25 billion
in infrastructure damage since 1980.
The government said the Shining Path was destroyed after the 1992 capture
of its leader Abimael Guzman, but it has made a gradual resurgence and
reorganized small guerrilla bands in the northeastern jungle and Ayacucho in
Copyright 1998 Reuters Limited.