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
sewage-filled ditch as soldiers in ski masks ransacked the village searching
for "terrorists." Her brother-in-law was kidnapped and has been missing
Her children, now teenagers, "are still traumatized. They fear soldiers
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
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
VIOLENCE PERSISTS IN DIFFERENT FORMS
"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,
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
"For many of them it is like time has not passed. They still live the trauma
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
'CULTURE OF DENIAL' IN PERU
"In Peru there is a culture of denial. They do not want to face the past,
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
"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
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
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
whether the larva turns out to be a silk worm or a monster," Maldonado
Copyright 1998 Reuters.