HUAMANGA, Peru (HPD) — Shots fired a week ago by soldiers in the Peruvian Andes, in their deadliest response to protesters so far in the 21st century, reminded Victoria Prado of the abuses she suffered while searching for her brother disappeared by the Army in March 1990.
Prado, 70, saw a helicopter throwing tear gas canisters and red smoke grenades to obscure the vision of the protesters who were trying to take over the Ayacucho airport, motivated by the demand for the dissolution of Parliament and the resignation of President Dina Boluarte. .
“In 1990 it was the same, the military stopped shooting,” said Prado, referring to the period of political violence in Peru (1980-2000) that had its epicenter in Ayacucho. Shining Path began its bloody fight to seize power in Peru and the military response was so forceful and brutal that it committed serious human rights violations, as determined later by a truth commission.
The confrontation on December 15 took place near a park, next to the cemetery and the Ayacucho airport. Although the military indicated that they acted with “unrestricted respect for human rights,” videos recorded by residents of the area and reviewed by The Associated Press show several soldiers firing horizontally. “They have shot at the body, not in the air,” said Natividad Alcarraz, a teacher who witnessed the shooting.
Some of the first victims fell in the surroundings of the park, including two parents: Edgard Prado, 51, and José Aguilar, 20. The first tried to help the wounded and was shot in the back, destroying his liver. and the lungs. The second, also a resident of the area, was returning from work when he was killed by a shot to the head. The 10 dead in Ayacucho were by firearms. Eight hospitalized also have projectile impacts, according to authorities.
“The whole city heard the shots for more than two hours,” said Lola Muñoz, a 40-year-old hotel employee who at the age of six escaped death when the military entered her home in San Miguel, a town north of Ayacucho. and they killed their grandparents. Others indicated that more sporadic shootings went past midnight.
The military response in Ayacucho has been the most violent among the demonstrations in various parts of the country, after then-President Pedro Castillo (2021-2022) was ousted on December 7 after he tried to shut down Parliament. Since then he has remained in pretrial detention while being investigated for rebellion. The protests that followed the political crisis left 27 civilians dead and more than 600 injured, of which almost half of the contusions are police officers.
An HPD reporter toured the area of the confrontation in Ayacucho and found electricity poles riddled with bullets, bloodstains on a sidewalk that refused to disappear despite the rain, and dozens of cardboard boxes of 5.56mm caliber bullets scattered around floor.
“There is anger, anger, indignation” in the protesters, summed up Lurgio Gavilán, who at the age of 12 joined Sendero Luminoso, later became a soldier and is now an anthropology professor at the San Cristóbal de Huamanga University, where Sendero’s founder, Abimael Guzmán, taught philosophy.
Gavilán, 51, recalled that during the armed conflict all the authorities were subordinated to the Army in Ayacucho and atrocities were committed. “I see that memory when I see the soldier with the rifle pointing at the civilians” in the streets, he added. “That past becomes present,” he said.
Victoria Prado recalled that in 1990 the military entered her house firing shots and took her brother Graciano, a 25-year-old teacher, whom they accused of being a terrorist. Despite having two children, she had raised her brother from a young age and had seen him grow up and become the first schoolteacher in her family, made up entirely of illiterate peasants.
He searched without luck for Graciano the following years. He walked to a valley where the soldiers dumped the corpses, he saw how packs of dogs ate some bodies, he dreamed of Graciano who asked him not to tire of looking for him.
She was demanding for her brother like hundreds of mothers for their disappeared children at the door of the Ayacucho barracks, the same one from which decades later the soldiers who shot at the protesters left on December 15. The treatment is the same, Prado said and recalled that in the past the military also fired their rifles to scare them away, when they raised their voices demanding to see the disappeared.
A truth commission said in 2003 that the armed conflict left 70,000 victims, mainly poor, Quechua-speaking peasants. Prado joined the National Association of Relatives of the Kidnapped, Detained and Disappeared of Peru and when he visits the organization’s headquarters in downtown Huamanga, he goes up to the museum that remembers the years of violence.
Gavilán, author of the autobiography “Memoirs of an Unknown Soldier,” said that Peru’s governments have always used violence instead of honest dialogue. “Anger is built, which with the passage of time ferments,” he said, adding that this view from the distant power of the capital is marked by racism, disinterest and disqualification.
Before leaving the post of prime minister, Pedro Angulo, said on Tuesday that the Quechua-speaking peasants who protested in Apurímac —a nearby region where six have died— were manipulated and that “misfortunes” occurred when they did not understand warnings in Spanish. The head of the Joint Command of the Armed Forces Manuel Gómez de la Torre commented —two days after the deadly repression and in the presence of President Boluarte— that there are “very bad Peruvians” who are going from generating “violent actions to generating terrorist actions ”.
The anthropologist Gavilán lamented the constant disqualification by the authorities of those who protest, considering them savage, manipulable, incapable of thinking, dirty and uncivilized.
Mrs. Prado — who searched for her teacher brother for 30 years without luck — says her life has hardly changed and that she never saw part of the South American country’s mineral-driven economic boom pass through her hands. “Years and years and the same thing, the Peruvian peoples are still behind; there is nothing, there is no support, ”she indicated as she took care of a goat.
“I don’t know how to read or write, but I have thoughts,” he said.