Peru: disappearances in Ayacucho

Forensic examinations have determined that five bodies found in Ayacucho department, Peru, are relations of Lucy Pichardo, a peasant woman who reported the disappearance of 11 family members after the National Police had conducted a “counter-subversive” operation in the area. The bodies are reportedly those of her husband, brothers and a sister-in-law, who had been pregnant. Pichardo says two children and four adults remain missing.

The disappearances were reported to authorities in the community of Pichis Río Seco, Huarcatán municipality, Ayahuanco district, Huanta province, Ayacucho, on Sept. 14, after security forces carried out operations in search of remnants of the Sendero Luminoso guerilla movement. (La Primera, Lima, Oct. 6)

Ironically, some of the disappeared were apparently members of the rondas, a peasant self-defense militia established to defend local communities against Sendero Luminoso attack at the height of the insurgency in the late ’80s and ’90s. The regional administrator for Huanta, Zacarías Morales, told judicial authorities in Ayacucho that five of the disappeared were members of the local ronda organization, the Comités de Autodefensa del Valle de los Ríos Apurimac-Ene (VRAE). (La Primera, Oct. 6)

Peruvian opposition Congress member Isaac Mekler has called for a special multi-party commission to investigate the disappearances, and the leader of Peru’s human rights ombudsman’s office (Defensoría del Pueblo), Beatriz Merino, has sent a team of investigators to Río Seco. Merino is requesting military cooperation in the investigation, including an escort for her commissioners in the region. (Prensa Latina, Oct. 2)

The disappearances took place while US troops were in Ayacucho on a supposed “humanitarian” mission—occasioning much speculation in Peru’s press that Washington is seeking military bases in the country. Ambassador Peter Michael McKinley told Lima’s El Comercio the US has no intention of establishing a military base on Peruvian soil, and said the detachment in Ayacucho had left the country after building three clinics, remodeling two schools and donating medical equipment. (Living in Peru, Oct. 6)

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