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Refugees blaze more hopeful shining path in Peru.

HUANCAYO, Peru - A strange and wonderful form of democracy is growing in the Peruvian city of Huancayo. It has nothing to do with ballot boxes or campaign speeches but rather concerns itself with things like hearty bowls of soup and mountains of potatoes, harvested thanks to the help of an entire community.

It is the democracy of a group of people known as internal refugees - some 80,000 who live in this city, 600,000 nationwide. The refugees came to the cities fleeing the violence of a civil war that has wracked Peru for 13 years, a war fought between the extremist Shining Path revolutionaries and the brutal armed forces, neither of which has respected the rights of the civilian population trapped in the conflict.

Fleeing the rape, torture and slaughter of their communities, scores of Peruvian peasants have fled their tiny rural farms in fear over the past decade. In the cities, these people, mostly Quechua-speaking peasants, have depended on each other and their ancient Incan customs of community and reciprocity to survive.

For years the refugees were ignored or abused by Peruvian government forces and exploited by people in the cities. Considered suspect because they come from zones where Shining Path guerrillas operate, Peru's internal refugees have been constantly targeted during police and army raids. Frequent disappearances and arbitrary detentions by the armed forces destroyed the very sanctuary the peasants had sought in escaping to the cities.

Gradually, the refugees joined together. They formed community soup kitchens and found ways to cultivate communal crops. Soon refugee organizations proliferated. For example, Jatariy Ayllu, the prominent refugee association in Huancayo, boasts 28 grassroots committees organized to help meet the health, legal, nutritional and educational needs of peasants displaced by violence.

"We gather together now to overcome our difficulties. If someone in our committee has a health or financial problem, we work together to solve it. We cannot let someone remain in crisis for a long time. We all chip in to make sure that person at least has enough to eat," explained 28-year-old Isabel Suasnabar. Like many refugees, Suasnabar lost family members in violent attacks from both the rebels and the armed forces. Her sister and brother-in-law were killed by the Shining Path, her uncle was murdered by the army after soldiers slashed his tongue and chopped off his hands. Her uncle's wife was subsequently raped by members of the military. His children fled to Huancayo.

After years of living in shame and silence, refugees like those in Huancayo have begun to draw the world's attention. According to U.N. estimates, internal refugees - people who flee violence but remain inside their own countries - number 24 million worldwide. Another 16 million seek exile outside their

national borders. The United Nations is considering adopting new mechanisms that would give protections to the internally displaced, similar to protections granted to refugees who have crossed national borders.

Human rights advocates in Lima say the situation of internal refugees should represent a major concern for members of the Clinton administration and Congress, presently conducting a review of foreign policy toward Peru. Diana Avila works at Consultants for Refugee Projects, a nongovernmental organization that channels development funds to people displaced by violence throughout Latin America.

"It is important that the civil society help the displaced find solutions to their problems," Avila said. "If this does not happen, foreign policy will only contribute to the counterinsurgency struggle in Peru."

Congressman Enrique Bernales headed a parliamentary commission on Peru before President Alberto Fujimori disbanded Congress as part of his April 1992 presidential coup. Bernales said the Peruvian government has done little to help the refugees rebuild their lives. "There really is no policy for those people displaced by violence," Bernales said. "Worse yet, the government is demanding that the people return to their places of origin, but where are the development projects? Some farms have been abandoned for eight or nine years. These people need to go back and have the infrastructure to work the land. If they only have soil to eat, they will die."

Bernales advocated strong international pressure to force the government to address the needs of the refugees, making the protection of these people one of the pillars of human rights policy in Peru.

"I believe organizations must say, |Hey there, Mr. Peruvian President, show us your project for the displaced!" Bernales added.

Congress suspended U.S. military aid to Peru in 1991 because of the country's dismal human rights record. But the United States still sends $75 million in humanitarian aid to Peru each year.

Leaders of refugee organizations say very little of this assistance gets channeled to the displaced. Worse yet, a good portion of the humanitarian aid ends up being used by the army and the police, who hand out foodstuffs during counterinsurgency sweeps in the cities.

"The military arrive in a poor neighborhood, where many displaced people live. They raid house by house, and anyone without identity papers is arrested and taken to the antiterrorism headquarters. The displaced, who come from the countryside, are considered especially suspect," explains Elmer Galvan, the Peruvian representative for Oxfam International. "In the morning, the soldiers raise the flag, make everyone sing the national anthem, then they hand out foodstuffs donated through international humanitarian aid channels - bags of rice, jars of cooking oil. This is a distortion of the use of humanitarian aid."

President Clinton has promised to make human rights the focus of U.S.-Peruvian bilateral relations. Actions taken in relation to Peru will define U.S. policy guidelines for Latin America.

Although progress on restoring autonomy to Peru's democratic institutions is sluggish, the United States is going ahead with plans to give aid, for example, to the judiciary. In this way, U.S. policymakers seem to be ignoring the submission of Peruvian judges to executive control, the absence of due process rights under emergency measures adopted after the coup and the total lack of prosecution of police and military officials implicated in human rights abuses. In addition, antiterrorist judicial norms enacted after the presidential coup have been used unjustly against human rights advocates, community organizers, left-wing politicians, investigative journalists and even environmental activists. Arbitrary detentions are widespread, and many innocent individuals have been jailed and accused of collaborating with terrorists.

U.S. policymakers have done little to urge Fujimori to set up a program for internal refugees or to democratize the distribution of humanitarian aid.

As the policy debate on human rights and U.S. aid continues in Washington, refugees like those in Huancayo struggle to fill the gaps created by government negligence and the indifference of the international community.

"Although they may not always realize it, the refugees are creating new ways to govern themselves. By finding collective solutions to their problems, they are learning how to rebuild their communities and their cultural identity in the cities," said Huancayo theologian Russe Trinidad. "The refugees do not make big speeches about what they are doing, but through their daily solidarity, they are creating a new society."
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Title Annotation:Huancayo, Peru
Author:Wirpsa, Leslie
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Date:Oct 1, 1993
Words:1174
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