AP PHOTOS: Peru slow in exhuming war's victims

September 3, 2013
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In this June 15, 2013 photo, Eusebio Velasque mourns over the coffin containing the remains of his father Edwin Velasque during a mass burial at the local cemetery in Chaca, Peru. Velasque is one of the Chaca residents tortured and killed on Jan. 8,1988 by Shining Path militants in retaliation for forming a self-defense committee. Their remains were exhumed in 2012 from a mass grave and released to family members on June 13, 2013. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

CHACA, Peru (AP) — It was Alejandrina Torres' first time back in her native village since Shining Path rebels cut her parents' throats while she hid, a terrified 4-year-old, beneath the skirts of a neighbor.

She joined relatives of other villagers slain by insurgents nearly three decades ago to formally bury the remains of 21 people, including her parents, exhumed from a common grave in the remote region of Ayacucho state that endured some of the worst atrocities of Peru's 1980-2000 conflict.

Both security forces and Maoist-inspired insurgents committed grave human rights violations.

A Truth and Reconciliation Commission estimated the conflict claimed nearly 70,000 lives, most of them poor, Quechua-speaking people such as Torres. Some 15,000 of them disappeared. Yet fewer than 3,000 bodies have been exhumed because Peru has lagged in healing the wounds of its war.

The villagers in Chaca wept quietly as they carried white coffins through a eucalyptus grove from the town square to a cemetery.

"I can just see the 'senderistas' (rebels) coming down from the hills, shouting in Quechua, 'Die, traitorous dogs!'" Torres said as she walked.

Chaca's victims were killed in retaliation for forming a self-defense committee. As weapons they had little more than slingshots and poles with knives tied on.

"A lot of battles without names happened here," said Constantino Urbano.

He recalled watching, hidden on a nearby hillside, as insurgents killed his father and burned down the village's wooden Roman Catholic church. He was 9 at the time.

Chaca is among thousands of communities still waiting for reparations money promised by the state eight years ago. It lacks running water and telephone service, medical attention is precarious and, during the four-month rainy season, it's inaccessible by vehicle because the dirt road becomes mud.


Associated Press writer Frank Bajak in Lima, Peru, contributed to this report.