Conflicts & War

Peruvian community strives to heal wounds from 1985 massacre

Accomarca, Peru, May 19 (EFE).- This community in the Andean region of Ayacucho made a start Thursday on healing the wounds from the slaughter of 69 residents in 1985 by Peruvian army troops who falsely accused the villagers of supporting Shining Path guerrillas.

After a wait of 37 years, Accomarca this week received the remains of 37 of the 69 victims.

Ten soldiers were sentenced in 2016 to between 10 and 25 years in prison for one of the worst atrocities in a conflict that claimed 69,000 lives between 1980 and 2000.

On Aug. 14, 1985, according to the report of Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission, a contingent of troops under the command of Lt. Telmo Hurtado, known as the “Butcher of the Andes,” entered Accomarca on a hunt for “terrorist elements.”

Yet a hut-by-hut search of the village – where the army had already executed a dozen people in 1983 – found no weapons, munitions, or Shining Path propaganda.

Even so, the soldiers rounded up residents, forced them into a house, and then tossed a grenade into the adobe structure.

“I was in front, I saw it,” 78-year-old Anastasio Quispe, whose mother was killed in the 1983 raid, tells Efe, recounting that he came upon the horrific scene after being held for more than an hour by soldiers who finally released him when he told them he had done military service.

Early Thursday, survivors of the massacre and family members of the victims lit candles, placed flowers, and observed a minute of silence at the home where the killings took place, which has been left in ruins as a memorial.

The families of the other 32 victims are to receive empty coffins representing slain loved ones whose bodies were never recovered.

Terensia Gamboa Polido, 60, told Efe tearfully that while her mother’s remains have not been found, she got the chance to handle “little pieces” of the skeletons of her brother and sister, who also perished in the flames.

And the return of remains does not mark the end of Accomarca’s struggle for justice, as residents are determine to see that the 2016 court verdict is honored.

“There is no justice for us. For the people who have money, yes. For the poor people, we have no justice. Thirty-seven years of suffering,” Gamboa said.

Ayacucho was the birthplace of the Maoist-inspired Shining Path insurgency, blamed by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission for the largest share of deaths in the conflict. EFE am-csr/dr

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