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"I want to find justice for my dad" or when Peru decided to rebel again

"I want to find justice for my dad" or when Peru decided to rebel again
Photo: Miguel Gutierrez. P360P

By Ingrid Sanchez. Video: Candy Sotomayor.

"No, no, we are not satisfied and we will not be satisfied
until justice runs like waters and righteousness 
like a rushing torrent."
Martin Luther King Jr.

«I reject the use of violence and the attempted assault of Congress and the presidency in Brazil. My solidarity with Lula da Silva and the Brazilian people in the face of this intolerant attack by those who seek to impose their political vision, without respecting the law and democratic institutions." 

Dina Boluarte, president of Peru, wrote on her Twitter account?@DinaErcilla? moments after Bolsonaristas -right-wing- took the headquarters of Brazilian powers on January 8, while the blood of protesters, "terruqueros" for her, her government and the current Peruvian elites, flowed on her land.

41 days after Boluarte assumed the Executive Power to replace Pedro Castillo -who is accused of "self-coup"-, the 60-year-old Chalhuanquina has to her credit the death of 49 of her compatriots, almost one per day as a balance of the violent response of the State to the demonstrations against it. 

It is the biggest political crisis in the Andean nation in the last 30 years. 

While the military fire bullets, pellets and tear gas bombs, the local media bombard the spectrum with the epithet "terruqueo" - as all those who disagree with the government are called - at every opportunity. 

It is a war on several fronts, the previous ones and one more: the political persecution of the best-known social leaders.

They violate the "public tranquility"

As if the current State had gone back three decades, popular leaders are assassinated, kidnapped; taken from their land are taken to the facilities of the "Dircote"? Directorate Against Terrorism? name that shudders those who mention it. 

This is the case of Rocío Leandro Melgar, Stefany Alanya Chumbes, Fernando Quinto, Piero Giles, Alejando Manay, Yuliza Gómez and Alex Gómez, university leaders who were arrested in these critical days. 

Smear does not distinguish gender. This is how Rocío Leandro lives it, of whom there is no day in which the headlines point out and criminalize her for directing the Ayacucho Defense Front ?Fredepa? and having gone to jail for his political activism, as he explained to Peninsula 360 Press:

«I have been linked by other facts, but to which it has not been clear; I have been sentenced and served the years dictated. I have recovered my right like every citizen and I have cleared my documents and I have done the paperwork so that I do not have a criminal record. 

On January 12 Leandro was arrested at the headquarters of Fredepa ?Huamanga, Ayacucho? and transferred to the local police station, but under pressure from the people of Ayacucho, it was sent to "Los Cabitos", a sinister barracks where hundreds of remains of the victims of military repression between 1980 and 1990 have been located.

Leandro, and the university leaders were beaten after their arrest - the residents of Ayacucho accuse - and in the middle of the night, the Army transferred them by air to the Dircote in Lima. 

The seven are accused of crimes "against public tranquility" and "membership of a terrorist organization." 

They are appointed to urge the Ayucuchanos on December 15 to take the Coronel Alfredo Mendívil Duarte Airport. The takeover provoked an intense reaction from the military that resulted in 10 lives.

That day, what began as a peaceful mobilization in the historic center of Huamanga -the capital of Ayacucho- turned into popular fury as the repressive acts of the State became known in other places, such as Andahuaylas.

The social organizations of that region called on the people of Ayacucho to block the departure of the Alfredo Mendívil Duarte flights on suspicion that the Boluarte government would send more troops to Andahuaylas via Ayacucho. 

Despite the complicated and dangerous nature of the events, Fredepa called for calm, for the popular fury to stop momentarily:

«For a moment we were protecting ourselves because at that moment anyone could die, including us. Rather, we tried to protect, organize ourselves to call the population and what we wanted was for the shooting to stop and we said ?Stop! Stop!? We said and they didn't listen to us because what we wanted was to transfer the wounded to the area where the ambulance was, but were they interested?».

Share Stefany Alanya, the vice president of the Ayacucho Defense Front, whose testimony is diametrically opposed to the statements of the State that point to the Front setting fire to spirits that day in December; they called for withdrawal and not to face the repression already unleashed. 

Witnesses on December 15 report that the protesters peacefully took over the terminal while the uniformed officers withdrew to one end of the runway, before which the group advanced further. Moments later the Army attacked the unarmed civilians. 

The military response was worse than expected and ended in a massacre. To the stones of the civilians, the Government responded with ammunition, pellets and tear gas by land and air; Fredepa has denounced that there were infiltrated police officers who broke up the protest. 

In the chaos, the protesters scattered through the streets surrounding the airport. It was of no use to them. The military opened fire - without regard - against the people of Ayacucho and anyone who crossed their path.

The wounds are proof of the repression: the majority in the head or thorax, both of the wounded and of the fallen.

José Luis Aguilar Yucra was one of the "collateral victims" - a military euphemism to refer to those who suffer their violence without being the objective. He was a worker at a local factory. 

The young man was returning home when he ran into the repression. At a street intersection he was shot in the head. A Samaritan took him away from the line of fire, but it was not enough: he bled to death in minutes next to a post where his family seeks to build a niche to remember him. 

The anguish to know the fate of the 10 fallen turned into anger that spilled over against the Army the next day -December 16- when the residents burned government buildings and the facilities of Telefónica Movistar, one of the main communication monopolies in Peru. . 

“The situation has spilled over (…) the main culprits are those who rule in this country. The Peruvian State and this class. Let it be clear why CONFIEP, the big businessmen, this corrupt bourgeois class, are the ones who have been in Odebrecht, Lava Jato, they are the ones who use these means of communication and now that it is not convenient for them that this lady, Dina Boluarte, leaves, they have practically wanted to instill and that it remains in the population that there has been vandalism and it is not so. It is not like this. We strongly reject it."

Stefany - vice president of the Front - stressed days before being arrested and sent to Dircote. In his testimony, he categorically rejected the State's statements that they are "terruqueros." 

Bullets for everyone, even for those who helped...

Citizens of all kinds joined the protests of those 48 hours, from workers like José Luis Yucra, who worked at the soft drink company, Ñor Kola; or students from the San Cristóbal de Huamanga National University ?UNSCH?, like Alex Ávila who contemplated the military repression from his home but who decided to go out and support those who were violated by the uniformed officers.

Avila describes those moments as "war" against unarmed civilians. Observing how the gas clouds became denser in the streets, he lowered his roof and went out and -at the moment he was helping an injured man- his flesh was sullied by the State:

«And there I just stop, I was starting to scream why see him there? and I started screaming and just out of nowhere they start shooting at us and whoosh, I felt like my arm was broken. And when I realized that they were running to grab all of us who were injured, I started running there." 

Alex explains and while showing his wound, he continues: 

«It has grazed my chest, here there was a burn and here there was a wound and here something like grease was coming out, everything wanted to come out. And from here was the hole and everyone told me ?Is it a miracle that it did not reach your bone and they would have amputated you?, another miracle that was the heart, and several have died like this with a bullet in the chest, others in the head". 

Despite his injuries, the young man continued his career, instinct told him that the military would not help him, quite the contrary. 

The persecution against the "enemies of public tranquility" continued to the hospital where the police arrived to ask for personal data of the injured who did not do so -thanks to the recommendation of the health personnel- due to the risk that crimes would be fabricated.

"Where are you, daddy?"

Alex wasn't the only one who got hit by bullets for helping. The case of Edgar Prado, a young man who was caught in the shooting on his way back from work, went viral on social networks.

In a clip circulating online, he is seen approaching a body lying some 60 steps from his home, and as he bends down to support it, he falls struck down by a bullet. 

"The last thing I did was call my dad and I said, 'Where are you, daddy? and he told me "I'm in the corner, the soldiers are shooting without conscience, they're shooting straight ahead, don't come, daughter, stay, go home", and I said "Now, daddy, take care of yourself too", and my dad told me says: ?Ya, daughter, bye? and hangs up the call. My dad had been shot in the chest." 

This is how Sheila narrated -through tears- ?17 years old? the last conversation he had with his father before his death. 

With pain and conviction, he always answers the same thing when asked about his father's death: 

"I want to find justice for my dad, his death cannot remain like this." 

Their demand is shared by the families of the murdered and wounded; The demand and indignation turned into an organization: as soon as 2023 began, the Association of Relatives of the Murdered and Injured on December 15 was formed, a group that seeks justice by suing the State. 

Faced with the horror of the Army boot, Ayacucho residents of all ages respond as they know best: with organization. 

official help

At the time of publishing this text, the State -according to testimonies- has not approached the bereaved or the injured to support them, although it has spread to the press that financial resources would be sent to them. 

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Health of Peru ?@Minsa_Peru? broadcast a video that reads: 

“We just want to help. Someone needs us. #Give me Pass. We save lives." 

President Boluarte gave him a retweet.

You can watch the video with interviews on the YouTube channel of Peninsula 360 Press.

This article was produced with the support of the organization Global Exchange in collaboration with Peninsula 360 Press.

You may be interested in: Peru's "corner of the dead" suffers -again- the pain of repression

Ingrid Sanchez
Ingrid Sanchez
Journalist and Latin Americanist. He has worked on issues of social movements, gender and violence.

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