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10/7/08

Peru: The country of extrajudicial killings and media silencing they don't tell you about


"What? Peru's army goes around shooting innocent people? What? Peru closes down opposition radio stations? Isn't that supposed to be the hated Chávez and Venezuela? I thought that Peru was our friend and a true democracy?"


Dear friend (probably) sitting up North, prepare to be confused by the truth. What follows under the line is my translation of this quite magnificent post at Susana Villarán's blog today called "When Impunity Reigns" (Spanish language). With all the financial woes going on right now, it's easy (for me at least) to get immersed in the world of stocks and bonds. But this blog is also about LatAm political and social issues and what follows is about as important as it gets.

Peru cannot be allowed to slip back into a state of military terror and authoritarian dictates. Neither from insurgent terrorist groups nor its government who (although Peruvians still have a hard time in admitting it) were also responsible for thousands of extrajudicial murders not so very long ago. Although it's a long post that follows, please take time out and read. Otto

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What happens in our regions and provinces doesn't make headlines. The efforts of websites and alternative forms of communication allows us to know what happens at first hand. In this post I want to highlight two acts that should make all Peruvians react:

  • The executions and disappearances under the guise of a military operation against Sendero in VRAE (Ottonote; the Shining Path terrorist organization operating in VRAE, the coca/cocaine producing region of Peru) on September 14th which has been shrouded in disinformation by the Ministry of Defence to avoid punishment. Reports of the killings have been made from the zone by human rights organizations such as 'Paz y Esperanza' (in English, "Peace and Hope") via its base in Ayacocho, and APRODEH (Ottonote: Peruvian human rights group). These disappearances and extrajudicial killings must be investigated and their authors severely sanctioned.
  • The other issue concerns the closure of Radio Mercurio Huancavelica, a radio station that serves the people of the Huancavelica region and its demands. A few days ago I was told about the threats from the Ministry of Transport and Communication to close 'Radio Uno' in Tacna (South Peru), a station with by far the highest audience ratings in its region and a station that we should feel proud about for its unstoppable fight for people's rights and its excellent information. Does it bother Mrs Aljovín, close ally of Minister Zavala, that Radio Uno easily beats RPP's audience in Tacna?
But its not just Radio Mercurio and Radio Uno: Radio Marañon is also under threat. Father Francisco Muguiro, director of this radio station in the North of the country, has recently been accused by police of inciting indigenous rebellion.

We defend freedom of speech and stand up to be counted against those who wish to silence the voice of the people. Regional, local and community radios are open spaces for public and organizations, and are being clamped down upon by the authorities.



From the INFOREGION network:
Huamanga - Ayacucho (6 October 2008 - 18:09)

The Dead were Not Terrorists; They were Locals that Disappeared After the VRAE Military Incursion

This morning, after waiting several hours, the families of the campesinos (Ottonote: rural dwellers. Literally 'peasants', but the Spanish word does not carry the stigma of the direct translation) that disappeared on September 14th at the annex to Rio Seco, located 1km from the village of Mayobamba, were finally allowed to identify the four bodies recently brought from VRAE and which had been in the installations of the Institute of Legal Medicine of the Minister of Public.

Family members and their lawyers, along with the member of parliament for Ayacucho Elizabeth León Minaya, entered the installations of the Huamanga Institute of Legal Medicine to begin the indentification process of the dead who had been labeled as terrorists in an offical Defence Ministry communique.

Outside the building, Frank Canchanya Rimachi, brother of José Félix Canchaya Rimachi emotionally said that he had indentified his brother even though the body showed signs of decomposure. He asked for human rights organizations to speak out and demanded severe sanctions for those responsible.

Another family member that went into the building was Marcelino Pichardo, who identified his son Maximiliano, his daughter-in-law who was five months pregnant and his young son Alejandro.

The Victims Were from the Village Defence Committee

Alexis Avilés, lawyer of the families, stated that "humble people have been assassinated and they have tried to cover up the crime. First they denied their existence and later they accused them of being terrorists."

The lawyer said that fortunately they could prove the victims' identity, who were mainly members of the Autodefence Committe of Mayobamba, "a fact that proves false any association with terrorist groups."

The mortal remains that were identified belonged to Maximiliano Pichardo Fernández, vicepresident of the Autodefence Committe of Mayobamba, his wife Rosa Chávez, 22 and five months pregnant, José Félix Canchanya Rimachi, husband of Lucy Pichardo, the woman who reported the attack in Huanta, and Alejandro Pichardo Fernández, just 16 years old.

Up to now Moisés Pichardo Pariona and Rosalinda Pichardo Chávez, just one year old, are still missing. To accelerate the investigations, Public Ministry authorities have asked for the use of X-ray equipment.

Huamanga - Ayacucho, 6 October 2008 The Mayobamba Dead Received Weapons from the Army the Help Fight Against Terrorism. Documents Prove that the Missing People in VRAE were Members of the Autodefence Committee

Family members and lawyers showed a community agreement that demostrates that the people who disappeared during the VRAE military operations against terrorism were members of the Autodefence Committee of Mayobamba and had been recognized as such by the army, an entity that had given various weapons to the group to help fight against the remnants of Sendero Luminoso.

This confirms the existence of the people and proves they they not part of any terrorist group. On September 14th, according to testimoies from locals at the Rio Seco annex, approximately 125 were at the National Pavilion when about shots and explosions were heard coming from one kilometre away.

Immediately members of the Autodefence Committee of Mayobamba sent their leader Carlos Gutarra Ayala to find out what had happened. However he was detained by army troops and tortured.

Gutarra Ayala was released several hours later and found by locals in the community of Jésus María with evident signs of mistreatment. Because of this, dozens of Mayobamba locals decided to leave their land and go to other communities in VRAE.

According to the head of the Myobamba locals, the following people are still missing: José Félix Canchanya Rimachi, Maximiliano Pichardo Fernández, Moisés Pichardo Pariona, Alejandro Pichardo Fernández, Rosalinda Pichardo Chávez y Rosa Chávez, 22 years old and five months pregnant.

The multisectoral committee visited the zone

Last weekend representatives of public institutions traveled to VRAE to investigate the occurances. The Commission for Peace and Development of Ayacucho, representatives of PRONAA and FONCODES were part of the group along with lawyers and human rights defence organizations such as the Peace and Hope Association and APRODEH.

This working party collected testimonies and confirmed that the army troops violated human rights. Alexis Avilés, one of the defence lawyers of local woman Lucy Pichardo Fernández who managed to survive the armed forces attack, stated that there was sufficient evidence to demonstrate presumed forced disappearances, as there are testimonial declarations from a person who was witness to the occurances.

"General EP Raymundo Flores has admitted the existence of a military operaton in the zone by orders of his command and we therefore request that the State hand over the bodies of the people still missing", he said.






In Huancavelica, the Closure of Radio Mercurio

Press Release

Faced with the arbitrary intervention and confiscation of the transmission equipment of Radio "Majestad SAC" by the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the city of Lima, Fiscal for the Prevention of Crimes and the Peruvian National Police last Tuesday September 30th 2008, the following needs to be said:

First: That freedom of expression and freedom of the press are inalienable rights recognized by the Political Constitution of Peru, the Convention of Human Rights and other national and international laws, as well as their full use in any form such as free opinion, reporting of injustice and irregularities, the demand for change etc. They also constitute a basic element for a country's democratic life.

Second: Part of the work of the Centre for Andean Development (SISAY) is the strengthening of citizens' organizations in Huancavelica, allowing room to govern and promoting the exercise, defence and compliance of respective human rights. Therefore the radio programs directed by our institution as well as other organizations (Frente de Defensa de Huancavelica, Bio Ritmo Periodismo Escolar directed by the student of the Francisca Diez Canseco College in Castilla, amongst others) have been using this to report the actions of regional governors and reporting irregularies including the control in the use of natural resources, which has obviously become a problem to the current authorities.
Third: Because of this it is easy to deduce that said authorities have asked the Ministry of Transport and Communications of the city of Lima to interrupt this station's broadcasts under the pretext that it is a "pirate" radio station with the name "Maxima", that is to say without licence to operate. This is not true, as the radio station was broadcasting at frequency 95.5FM under the name Radio Majestad, something that can be verified by the authors of the intervention, and that this frequency and radio station is correctly authorized via a contractual agreement. Therefore the station is clearly compliant with the law.

Fourth: Accordingly, the behaviour of the functionaries of the Ministry of Transport and Communications of Lima is both abusive and arbitrary, because even though they had a resolution with the authorization of closure, this was against Radio Máxima and not against Radio Mercurio that at the time of closure was broadcasting at frequency 95.5FM; respective legal action will therefore proceed.

Fifth: The right to free speech is generally violated in dictatorial and oppressive states, and in the present context we have been witness to an APRA government that has used this mechanism to silence the voice of the people. Apparently the regional government are supporting these acts in order to be able to govern without any type of opposition or accountability from social organizations.

BECAUSE OF THESE CONSIDERATIONS

1. We reject the arbitrary acts of the funactionaries of the Ministry of Transport and Communication
2. We reject the non-transparent attitude of local authorities.
3. We reaffirm our service to organizations and the people by broadcasting true and objective information in our information spaces

Down with Authoritarianism! Long Live Freedom of Speech!
For a free and independent press