Reconciliation in Peru still uncertain on five-year anniversary of Truth and Reconciliation Commission report

Five years after Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued its report on two decades of political violence that left nearly  70,000 people dead, the nation is far from reconciled.

Supporters of jailed ex-President Alberto Fujimori, who is now on trial for human rights violations, violently disrupted a ceremony Thursday commemorating the report’s 5-year anniversary, as a litany of Peruvian military establishment leaders continued to reject the commission’s conclusions.

“The former members of the TRC are acting as though they were still part of an ongoing process,” Defense Minister Antero Flores Aroaz told daily La Republica. “These gentlemen are ‘ex,’ they have accomplished their mission, they published their report, however everyday they’re still pointing out the report’s virtues and defects and asking the state to comply with the recommendations.”

That would bring the state, “which defended all of us,” to its knees, Flores argued, after he refused to present an official apology for the excesses committed by Peru’s armed forces during the 1980-2000 internal conflict.

“I frankly believe that it would be an error,” he said.

The truth commission, “has in no way contributed to pacification,” said Peruvian Vice-President Luis Giampietri, a retired navy admiral. “On the contrary, it has polarized positions defended by the armed forces and by those who accuse them of human rights violations.”

“It is thanks to the armed forces and the self-defense committees that we are now living a situation of peace, tranquility and in a state based on the rule of law,” army Gen. Edwin Donayre Gotzch, head of Peru’s miliary Joint Chiefs of Staff, told state news agency Andina. “We must never lower our guard. A sharp eye and a rifle ready,” he added.

The commission produced its nine-volume, 5,000-page final report in August 2003,  after collecting 17,000 private and public testimonies, some coming from 14 public hearings. The report determined that 54 percent of all deaths in the conflict were caused by the Maoist Shining Path insurgency. Peru’s armed forces were blamed for 30 percent, and most of the rest by government-backed peasant militias.

Eighty-five percent of the victims were poor Quechua-speaking Indians from the Ayacucho region and five other departments in Peru’s Andean highlands.

The government has failed follow through with reparations to the families of victims or to exhume bodies from mass graves identified in the truth commission report — a job that has fallen to the independent Peruvian Forensic Anthropology Team, a non-profit NGO.  Human rights groups estimate that approximately 14,000 disappeared persons are still unaccounted for, and that nearly 5,000 clandestine graves have yet to be excavated.

On Thursday approximately 30 Fujimori supporters violently interrupted the truth commission report’s anniversary ceremony in the “Eye that Cries” memorial park, where a vivid monument to the victims of the country’s internal war stands in a mini-amphitheater in the heart of Peru’s capital, Lima.

Many of them were clad in T-shirts imprinted with Fujimori’s face and the number “2011” in reference to the upcoming presidential elections.

The Fujimori supporters mingled among the large crowd made up of victims’ family members, school groups and members of NGOs until former Truth Commission president, Salomón Lerner, began his address.

They then pulled out signs that read “How much did they pay you? Sellout!” and “Long live the Armed Forces!” and began yelling out cheers for the former president, who has always considered the monument an affront to his legacy.

The shouting led to a commotion and a brawl that lasted several minutes before police guarding the park’s entrance intervened.

The incident seemed to have been deliberately planned, Andina reported, as the shouts were perfectly timed to Lerner’s speech and the protesters positioned in several distinct points around the park.

The work of Peru’s Truth Commission is similar to experiences since the 1980s in other Latin American countries such as El Salvador, Guatemala, Chile and Argentina, which popularized the famous slogan nunca más or “never again.”

Peru’s truth commission was created in 2001 by interim President Valentin Paniagua, months after Fujimori fled to Japan and his 10-year authoritarian government collapsed under the weight of corruption scandals spawned by his shadowy intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.

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