Peru: unrest follows Ayacucho ambush

The wives of eight campesinos from Ayacucho, Peru, who were arrested for involvement in a December ambush on a police patrol have began a hunger strike to demand the their release. Peru’s Interior Minister Pilar Mazzetti admitted in a press conference Jan. 9 that National Police investigators have not find any relation between the arrested men and the Shining Path guerilla movement.

Mazzetti admitted that gunpowder residue tests were negative and the firearms found in their possession were not used in the ambush that killed eight, including five police officers. But he also said it is still not clear how the campesinos, who are detained at Yanamila maximum security prison, obtained the weapons used predominantly by military forces, or if they had been used in other crimes.

Mazzetti and Defense Minister Allan Wagner appeared before the Permanent Congressional Commission to update lawmakers on the investigation. Both ministers defended the arrests and detention and assured they were done according to law and respecting human rights. (Living in Peru, Jan. 10)

The attack took place Dec. 16 when, 20 heavily-armed individuals opened fire on a patrol from the Machente Anti-Drug Base, klling five National Police officers and three workers frm Peruvian State Coca Company (ENACO). Two days later, the eight campesinos were arrested while working their fields. They protest that they were found with no weapons, but at a military prison they were coerced into signing statements saying they had been arrested with high-caliber firearms. The National Police immediately stated that they were Shining Path guerillas. (Living In Peru, Dec. 17; Radio Mundo Real, Jan. 8)

See our last post on Peru.