Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The Accomarca Massacre: Peru’s ‘My Lai’

Following up on yesterday’s feature story, it seems that old wounds are being re-opened in Peru as well, with the case of a Peruvian Army major, Telmo Ricardo Hurtado-Hurtado. Hurtado was involved in the murder of 69 unarmed men in 1985 in Accomarca, Lima on grounds that they were members of the Shining Path, a Maoist guerilla organization in Peru, and thus ‘fair game.’

A recent blog post by Jo-Marie Burt chronicles the details of the story and provides links to recently declassified official US documents from the office of the ambassador to Peru. The documents provide evidence in support of Hurtado’s direct and planned involvement with the massacre, including a comment in which the interim ambassador refers to Accomarca as ‘Peru’s My Lai.’

Hurtado was convicted and sentenced to 6 years in prison immediately following the Accomarca massacre, but never actually served any time. Instead, he continued working with Peru’s military institution, even receiving high honors for his work. He fled to Miami in 2002 after the law of amnesty was nullified by the Inter-American Human Rights Court until he was finally detained and extradited in July. The Immigration and Customs Enforcement department provides more detailed coverage of his detainment and extradition. In January 2009, the ICE created the Human Rights Violators and War Crimes Center in an effort to better fulfill their commitment to keeping human rights violators out of the U.S. and properly brought to justice.

The trial brings into question whether the massacre was a single outrageous event or part of a systematic and planned campaign of human rights violations against the Peruvian people. According to Jo-Marie Burt, the answer is clear—Hurtado was not only directly involved with the planning of the massacre, but acted to cover up it’s existence and dispose of any related evidence.

Top News Stories

  • In a news analysis published this weekend, the NY Times covers the rise in number of women incarcerated for federal crimes in Mexico, many of which are linked to drug trafficking.

  • Guillermo Torres Cueter, a senior commander of the FARC wanted on charges of homicide, kidnapping, and rebellion was recently captured in Venezuela. His transfer to Colombia is currently being delayed while Venezuela’s Justice Ministry considers a request for asylum.

  • The marriage of a transgender woman and a gay man in Cuba sheds light on changing attitudes towards sexuality in a previously persecuting environment, reports AP and BBC. While gay marriage is still illegal in Cuba, this might be a sign of more progressive changes to come.

  • In Argentina, farmers who traditionally relied on the ranching business as a way of life, are now being pushed into soybean production, partly due to global market pressures and tough economic policies put in place under President Kirchner.

  • A Chicago group is filing a class-action lawsuit against the Department of Homeland Security on the grounds that local police are illegally detaining immigrants under the request of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement department—a violation of the 4th and 5th amendment rights, which apply to all individuals residing within the U.S., regardless of immigrant status.

  • Chavez returned to Venezuela on Sunday after a second round of chemotherapy treatment in Cuba and says he will be undergoing daily evaluations. Monday morning, Vice President Elias Jaua had a chance to shine when he stood in for the President at an athletic competition, but apparently stumbled over his words and pronunciation, leading some to question his charismatic abilities.

  • Four Mexican navy personnel were allegedly kidnapped by drug traffickers in Veracruz earlier this month and have yet to be found. According to the AP, the incident is unusual in that, typically, the bodies of victims turn up shortly after their disappearance.

  • The leader of the FARC, Guillermo Leon Saenz, otherwise known as ‘Alfonso Cano,’ released a video calling for peace negotiations and open dialogue with the Colombian government, reports InSight Crime.

  • Two members of the Rastrojos, a powerful gang in Colombia, came forward after murdering their boss and leader, ‘Sebastian,’ with the group’s payroll records, revealing how security forces in the Bajo Cauca region have been receiving regular payments and bribes from the gang, InSight Crime and El Tiempo report. The information demonstrates frequent collaboration between security forces and gang members, with local authorities even providing guns or valuable information at times.

  • According to El Tiempo, Colombian police uncovered a link between major Colombian drug-traffickers and los Zetas, a powerful Mexican gang. InSight Crime delves further into the story, questioning the validity of the evidence as unfounded and a hyperbole.

  • In Bolivia, hundreds of Amazonian Indians began what will be a 310 mile month-long march to La Paz in protest of the construction of a highway (funded and backed by Brazil) through a rainforest preserve, an area also home to many indigenous communities. BBC provides a short and informative video here.

  • A land dispute in Honduras left 11 people dead, reports the AP, after a group of about 300 armed peasants tried to take over a ranch in the northern part of the country.