December 10, 1999
Web posted at: 9:21 AM EST (1421 GMT)
LIMA, Peru (AP) -- Flanked by military commanders, President Alberto
Fujimori asked Peruvians to take part in a minute of silence to honor more
than 25,000 people killed during Peru's bloody war with leftist rebels.
"How can we not remember the humble peasants massacred brutally for not
collaborating with terrorist bands that laid waste the Andes," he said after
standing in silence at noon Thursday in a Lima park to commemorate a new
monument to the dead.
"In the strictest sense, we are survivors of one of the darkest periods
history," Fujimori said. "Above all, we have the duty not to forget."
Fujimori's political adversaries and human rights groups, however, say
forgetting is just what the president and his military allies want.
They accuse him of exploiting the terrorism theme for an as-yet unannounced
re-election bid next April and of rewriting history to leave out any mention of
killings and atrocities committed by Peru's armed forces.
Fujimori was elected in 1990 and was swept back into office in 1995 by
Peruvians grateful to him for capturing leftist rebel leaders, stemming guerrilla
violence and halting the economic chaos of the 1980s.
"It is important to condemn the crimes of terrorist groups, but the
responsibility of this and previous governments should not be concealed,"
said Francisco Soberon, director of the Pro Human Rights Association.
In recent weeks the government has flooded television stations with
advertisements reminding Peruvians of the victims of the fight against leftist
"A one-sided and deceitful version is being created," Soberon said. "An
official history is being written."
Peruvians are trying to forget the violent years of the 1980s and early
But in those years army units swept through the Andes and committed
massacres in isolated villages that were well publicized at the time.
In Ayacucho district, the birthplace of the Shining Path insurgency, troops
1985 killed more than 60 people, including small children, in the village of
Accomarca. In 1988 soldiers killed 28 men in the village of Cayara, after
first torturing them for hours.
In both cases army patrols suspected the villagers of being sympathetic
the Shining Path rebels.
In an example of the impunity enjoyed by the military, the lieutenant who
responsible for the massacre in Accomarca and who supposedly was
sentenced to prison by a secret military tribunal, in fact, received a
promotion. A recent newspaper investigation revealed he was now a major
and had never served time.
As many as 30,000 people are believed to have died in Peru's political
violence since 1980. Human rights groups also blame the armed forces for
the disappearance of another 3,000 people.
Carlos Tapia, a leading expert on the leftist insurgencies, calculates
least 20 percent of the civilians were killed by the security forces.
Angelica Mendoza is a poor Quechua-speaking woman in the city of
Ayacucho whose son was dragged from their home by soldiers one night in
the early years of the war. She never saw him again.
"Why does the government say that 25,000 have been killed only by the
terrorists?" she asked in broken Spanish. "And what of those killed by the
soldiers and the police? And those who were taken away and never
Copyright 1999 The Associated Press.