Peru, EU & UN Sign Agreement for Memory Museum

The European Union, United Nations and Peru’s government signed an agreement at the end of the week to finance the Memory Museum, according to a statement from the EU.

According to the agreement, the EU has committed to provide 2 million Euros ($2.8 million) that will be administered by the United Nations Development Program for the implementation of the museum.

The museum is being built overlooking Lima’s Costa Verde ocean front on a lot donated by the Miraflores municipal government.  A bid was called for the architectural design in 2009 and the building is scheduled to be completed in February 2012.

The museum is to honor the 70,000 people who died and the hundreds more reported missing during the 20 years of political violence in Peru between the Maoist Shining Path insurgents and government security forces.

The current exhibition, Yuyanapaq (To Remember, in Quechua), was originally opened in 2003 — after the presentation of the Truth and Reconciliation Report– and is temporarily housed on the 6th floor of the Museo de la Nacion.  It includes videos, audio tapes of victims at public hearings, and a rich photographic archive of images taken by some of Peru’s leading investigative journalists at the time.

According to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which was headed by Salomon Lerner Febres, the former rector of the Universidad Catolica, 54 percent of all deaths in the conflict were attributed to the Shining Path rebels. The armed forces and police were found responsible for 30 percent, and most of the remaining fatalities were blamed on government-backed peasant militias. The greater number of the victims, by both sides of the conflict, were Quechua-speaking peasants in rural Andean communities.

“Now we are going to see our Memory Museum, which will remind the future generation of Peruvians what happened in this country in the decades of the 80s and 90s,” said Fernando de Szyszlo, the president of the Memory Museum commission. Szyszlo, one of Peru’s leading artists and an active defender of democracy and human rights, is expected to officially announce his resignation from the post this coming week, for personal reasons. 

“The project that we signed [Thursday] supports two big areas,” said Hans Allden, the head of the EU delegation in Peru. “It contributes to the construction and equipping of the Memory Museum. As well, it implements a mechanism for dialogue that allows for the participation of citizens to determine the contents of the Museum.”

Allden continued: “We did this effort because together we want to construct a living space where the past can be seen, known, analyzed and represented under art and the study of future generations, remembering what happened in the past, recognizing it and in that way building peace and reconciliation.”  

In 2009, the German government donated $2 million towards the project. The donation was initially turned down by then President Alan Garcia, but later  reluctantly accepted.  In his first administration, 1985-1990, Garcia made a number of questionable decisions in the height of the violence, including the quelling of simultaneous mutinies at the Lurigancho and El Fronto prisons which resulted in the killing of  close to 300 prisoners, many of whom had surrendered.

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