December 7, 1998
Peru war survivors live violent legacy


                  QUINRAPAQ, Peru (Reuters) -- Isabel Rodriguez, a 39-year-old mother
                  with the haggard face of a grandparent, stood in the hot sun fighting back
                  tears as she spoke of her children's demons.

                  Quinrapaq, a village in the southern Andean highlands, was in the cross-fire
                  between soldiers and leftist guerrillas for years. She told how its violent past
                  became etched in the minds of her children and changed her family life

                  Ten years ago, a shivering Rodriguez hid with her children for three days in a
                  sewage-filled ditch as soldiers in ski masks ransacked the village searching
                  for "terrorists." Her brother-in-law was kidnapped and has been missing
                  ever since.

                  Her children, now teenagers, "are still traumatized. They fear soldiers or
                  terrorists will return. They are scared whenever there is a knock on the door
                  at night," she said in an interview in the dusty main square of this remote
                  village near Ayacucho, 357 miles (575 km) southeast of Lima.

                  SURVIVORS SCARRED BY WAR

                  Rodriguez recounted her children's aggression and schooling problems and
                  the ruined lives of dozens of widows in the town-- some mentally ill, others
                  left so poor after their husbands' deaths their only daily meal was soup of
                  left-over animal fat.

                  Human rights groups say they are some of thousands of Peruvians who cope
                  with the legacy of a war between Shining Path rebels and the army that has
                  caused more than 30,000 deaths since 1980 and left many survivors
                  emotionally scarred.

                  The armed forces killed thousands, mainly poor peasants in isolated
                  mountain villages, during the war with the Maoist rebels, the rights groups
                  say. About 6,000 people disappeared, kidnapped and murdered by the
                  military, they say.

                  The Shining Path, the region's most violent rebel group, massacred villagers
                  whom they suspected of collaborating with the government. Many were
                  clubbed or stoned to death and some children had their ears cut off,
                  according to rights groups.

                  By 1992 the rebels had gained control of huge swathes of countryside, but
                  the capture of their leader Abimael Guzman that year decimated the
                  movement, which now counts on only a few hundred militants in remote
                  jungle regions.


                  "Peru is a country where, although the war has ended, the impact of the
                  violence has not. It is an impact that affects the daily life of thousands,"
                  Oscar Maldonado, a psychologist who treats political violence victims, said.

                  Depression, child abuse and domestic violence are common among
                  Peruvians, mostly poor farmers or widows of the hundreds of dead
                  policemen and soldiers, who struggle to overcome past trauma,
                  psychologists say.

                  A policeman's widow, incapable of getting work, who has dreamed of her
                  husband every night for six years, and a suicidal 15-year-old whose mother
                  blames her for her father's disappearance are some of the dozens of cases
                  they cite.

                  "For many of them it is like time has not passed. They still live the trauma of
                  years ago," Maria Pia Costa, a social worker with Peru's national human
                  rights group, said.

                  The government of President Alberto Fujimori, who virtually pacified the
                  countryside and formed a stable economy, bringing the country back from
                  the brink of chaos in the early 1990s, has largely buried the issue, rights
                  groups say.

                  'CULTURE OF DENIAL' IN PERU

                  "In Peru there is a culture of denial. They do not want to face the past, deal
                  with it," Costa said.

                  In August, relatives of thousands of people who disappeared took to the
                  streets for the first time to protest in front of Government Palace. But few
                  among the dozens of poor farmers faced the reality of their children's almost
                  certain deaths.

                  "Of course my son is alive. We have heard they are being kept in
                  underground concentration camps in the jungle," Teodosia Esquivel said,
                  thrusting forward a worn photo of her son who disappeared in Ayacucho 15
                  years ago at the age of 24. "We want the government to return him."

                  But in Peru there are few details of the whereabouts of the victims and few
                  military officers have been tried for abuses.

                  Although the war legacy has not been dealt with in the courts or the media,
                  social workers see it now in different forms, including street gangs of war
                  orphans who roam Peru's inner cities.

                  "The Shining Path left a culture of violence. One sees that in the increasing
                  street crime throughout Peru," Jaime Antesana, who works with victims of
                  violence, said.

                  In remote Quinrapaq, the talk of the village of windowless mud huts where
                  refugees from the war live is the increase in banditry, the drunks who roam
                  at night and the children who run away to the cities.

                  "Peru's violence has bred a larva in society. The question for the future is
                  whether the larva turns out to be a silk worm or a monster," Maldonado

                   Copyright 1998 Reuters.