Former Peruvian army officer’s deportation from U.S. to Peru imminent to face massacre charges

Retired Peruvian army Maj. Juan Rivera Rondón, an alleged accomplice to the 1985 Accomarca massacre of 69 Indian peasants in Peru’s southern Andes, will be deported to Peru from the United States Friday, said Karin Ninaquispe, a lawyer representing the victims.

“The Accomarca victims’ family members had to wait 23 years for justice to be done,” Ninaquispe told reporters. “They will finally be able to see the authors of this horrific massacre detained. They put into mourning 69 families and left behind hundreds of orphans as well as a large gaping wound that will only heal once all those responsible are punished.”

Rivera, who thwarted his initial deportation July 1, when he refused to board a charter flight in the state of Maryland, will be brought to Peru in a U.S. lightweight military aircraft on Friday, said Ninaquispe. “We have faith in the U.S. immigration authorities because they have shown that they do not give refuge to people who have violated human rights in their home countries.”

“For us, it’s like reliving, after 23 years, the loss of our families, mercilessly killed by savage soldiers, especially the women and elderly,” said Celestino Baldeón, President of the Association of Family Members Affected by the Political Violence in the Accomarca District, or AFAVPDA.

Rivera, and ex-Major Telmo Hurtado — an attendee of the notorious U.S. Army School of the Americas in 1981-82 — led the Peruvian army unit that machine-gunned 23 children, 16 elderly men and 30 women on August 14 1985 in the village of Accomarca, located 240 miles southeast of Lima in Peru’s Ayacucho Department. Many of the men were tortured with cactus spines and the women raped before being killed.

The young men had fled the village, which the military suspected of cooperating with the Maoist-inspired Shining Path insurgency during its brutal campaign to overthrow the government and install a communist state.

Hurtado was accused of carrying out the killings under the orders of Gen. Wilfredo Mori. Rivera allegedly stationed troops around the houses where the victims were rounded up, shot and incinerated, and a third military official, David Castañeda, was accused of blocking the road and paths leading into the village with additional troops.

“There is resounding proof,” said Ninaquispe, “but justice has not been done. We are caught in a very slow judicial process; the bodies have been exhumed but the remains have yet to be identified or returned to the family members so that they can be given a Christian burial.”

Shortly after the massacre, Hurtado was called before a military court and confessed to being responsible for the killings, executing the injured and picking up the shell casings and any other evidence that might have tied the soldiers to the incident. He also testified that Rivera stationed troops around the houses where the victims were rounded up, shot and incinerated, and that a third military official, David Castañeda, blocked the road and paths leading into the village with additional troops.

In 1995, the military court summoned Hurtado again to review the case. He testified that he benefitted from protection from the army high command and that he was offered financial compensation if he declared that he acted on his own accord in Accomarca. Hurtado is accused of carrying out the killings under the orders of then Ayacucho military chief Gen. Wilfredo Mori, who was forced into early retirement after the massacre.

Hurtado, who is scheduled to be deported to Peru next week, was sentenced to 6 years in prison for “abuse of authority” in 1993. But a declassified U.S. Defense Intelligence Agency document released in February of 1994 reported that Hurtado was on active duty and had been promoted to captain.

Then, three years later, in 1997, all three officials sought refuge in the United States.

Both Rivera and Hurtado were arrested in April 2007 for violating the U.S. immigration law and jailed.

“Hurtado was arrested in April 2007 in connection with false statements on his December 2002 U.S. visa application,” U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of Florida said in a statement posted on it’s Web site.

“In that application, Hurtado stated that he had never been arrested or convicted of a crime. In fact, however, Hurtado was convicted in 1993 in Peru on charges of abuse of authority and giving false statements in connection with his involvement in the 1985 Accomarca massacre of suspected guerrillas in Peru, during which 69 villagers were killed.”

A year later, in March 2008, a Miami federal judge, presiding over a civil trial brought against Hurtado by the San Francisco-based Center for Justice and Accountabilityunder the U.S. Torture Victim Protection Act of 1991, ordered the retired Peruvian army major to pay $37 million for his role in the Accomarca massacre.

The damages were awarded to two women, Teofila Ochoa Lizarbe and Cirilia Pulido Baldeon, who were both 12 years old when soldiers executed their mothers and siblings. Twenty-nine people are presently on trial for the Accomarca massacre, including Gen. Sinesio Jarama, who was the chief Ayacucho’s military police at the time of the massacre.

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