Within 10 minutes of leaving Putis, one car in our six-car brigade broke down, delaying us an hour and a half. Before arriving to Huanta three hours later, the wheel of one of our trailers burst, leaving another group briefly stranded along a treacherous, rocky road. The normal five-hour trip to Ayacucho soon became nine hours. One person on our team ventured that the essence of what EPAF had uncovered over the previous two weeks was doing everything it could to keep us there.
My stay in Putis was a fascinating experience of vivid contrasts. The bitter cold of clear, star-filled nights and the heat of sunny afternoons. The serenity of my surroundings yet the brutality of the area´s history. Over two weeks, EPAF was physically protected from harm by the Peruvian military – the very actor responsible for the actual 1984 Putis massacre.
Have things changed? The Putis case was a breakthrough for EPAF in Peru – and the world took notice. Fox News, CNN, Reuters, MSNBC, BBC, La Republica, take your pick. But any notion of swift justice remains doubtful. Look no further than Sunday´s edition of La Republica, one of Peru´s leading newspapers. The General Commander of the Peruvian military, Edwin Donayre, in response to questions about the Putis exhumation: “Any excesses and human rights violations should be addressed in the moment and situation during which they took place. How easy it is to talk now after 20 years!”
Things have sadly not changed. Gerardo Fernandez Mendoza, the president of an association of 250 Putis relatives, claims that 360 victims remain buried in 13 separate mass graves in the Putis area. In two weeks, EPAF returns to Putis to exhume four more graves. Though the aliases of those responsible for the Putis massacre are known, the Peruvian military has consistently refused to identify the individuals stationed at the Putis military base in 1984. Without names, a legal case cannot be filed. Some within the military claim the salient files were burned and no longer exist. Though the military now articulates its refusal to release names with precision and exactitude, the entire Putis area in 1984 was indiscriminately marked by the military as “red,” asserted to be irrevocably broken by the ideological poison of the Shining Path. Everyone – men, women, and children – paid the price. That may be the starkest contrast yet.
Posted By Ash Kosiewicz
Posted Jun 9th, 2008