new internationalist
issue 197 - July 1989

[image, unknown] Peruvians
The NI talks to seven people
caught up in Peru's emergency.
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All photos: Vanessa Baird


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There was an attempt on my life earlier this year - by Sendero Luminoso. They have killed many provincial mayors and community leaders, including my predecessor in Huancayo.

I was shot in the arm and the side and had to spend two months in hospital. Now I am back at work and intend to stay. It's a dangerous job, of course. I have to live under tight security, constantly changing address, never following the same route. What happened to me was probably a 'one off', an accident, you could say. But I have to think of my wife and children, which is why they now live in Lima.

Like many other provinicial mayors I am opposed to the State of Emergency - it doesn't help combat terrorism. What we need to do is help the poorest. In this way we can combat subversion, little by little.

In the case of Sendero Luminoso we are clearly dealing with an ideology, a political party - the Communist Party Sendero Luminoso. It is not easy to defeat an ideology overnight. It has to be a gradual process of educating the people themselves to reject terrorism and to collaborate with the police.

Ricardo Bohorquez is Mayor of Huancayo in the central Andes. He is a member of the ruling APRA party.

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I have been a peasant farmer for 30 years - the last 18 years on the Laive agricultural co-operative. It was the best co-operative in Peru, possibly one of the best in Latin America. We were 800 workers from 29 communities breeding the highest quality cattle.

But there's not one cow in the co-operative today, not one animal left. The houses are in ruins. Sendero Luminoso attacked earlier this year and destroyed everything. I don't know why they did it. We do not understand the politics of Sendero Luminoso.

What will happen now? Where are people going to get milk, or cheese, or meat? We were producing 7,000 litres of milk a day - and still there was a shortage. And what are we, the co-op workers, going to do? We are jobless and there is little hope of finding work. How are we to feed our families? I have eight children dying of hunger. I feel desperate and sad.

I blame the Government for what has happened. We asked for protection because of threats from the armed groups but they did not help us. They told us to defend ourselves.

Bautista Martel Romero was a cattle health worker on the Laive co-operative in the district of Huancayo.

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Yesterday there was a massive meeting here in San Miguel to celebrate the anniversary of the 'Glass of Milk'* campaign. There were women from all over the capital. When I saw all the mothers with their banners and flags I burst into tears. It was so beautiful, so grand, so happy

But we have had to fight hard to defend the campaign. This Govemment wanted to end it. We made a huge protest. There were thousands of women marching through the city-centre. All way down Abancay Avenue. Some were beaten up by the police and arrested. It was horrible. But we managed to save the 'Glass of Milk'.

Where would I be now if not for the campaign? I would be stuck in the house, hungry, poor, hopeless. With no way to feed my children. I would go mad. Instead I am now involved in setting up a communal kitchen. This way we can buy food together and eat healthily.

This campaign is about more than just milk. It is about health and education and making women feel strong and capable. And when a woman learns something it goes so much further. She teaches it to her children. She teaches it to other women.

We are not intellectual. We have not studied. I used to be afraid if I met a teacher or a lawyer. But not now. Now, these professionals say to us: 'we are learning from you because you are the best school - the way you organize yourselves teaches us more than any university faculty'. That is what they say.

Zoila Esterripa Sánchez is the District Co-ordinator for the Glass of Milk Campaign, San Miguel, Lima. She teaches sewing for a living.

* This is a Government-financed scheme, organized by local communities, which gives each child in Lima a glass of milk a day.

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Isolina Valqui de Sifuentes

Husbands often do not like their wives taking part in political activities. In my case, when I have a meeting in the evening I first make sure that my husband has a full belly. Then, once he has fallen asleep I can creep out on tiptoe. If he wakes up when I come home and he asks me where I have been, I just say I went to the bathroom.

But there are some sad cases, too. One woman came to a meeting in tears. She told us that her husband had forbidden her to come; her duty was to be at home with her children, not out on the streets organizing. Then several months later she turned up again - with a big smile on her face. What happened? we asked. 'He died,' she replied.

Why are the women so much more politically active than their husbands? Well, I suppose it is because the woman is the backbone: she holds everything together. This is not generally recognized, of course; she remains super-exploited. Exploited by her husband. Exploited by her children. Often she does not recognize this herself. My task is to mobilize such women. We are living in a time of great violence. We must work together more.

Isolina Valqui de Sifuentes, is active in the Movement for Christian Workers.

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Israél Galván Things have changed dramatically in Huancayo over the past two years, due to Sendero Luminoso and the MRTA guerillas. I personally have received death threats from Sendero. I wrote a story about the Sendero presence in the University which provoked an army invasion. Sendero said they would kill me 'like a dog'. Now I have written about their presence in one of the shanty towns - so I am afraid again.

Provincial journalists are much more vulnerable than those in the capital. We are poorly paid and easy to find. A colleague was gunned down recently while he was taking his child to school. He was a member of the ruling APRA party and everybody knew it.

But the danger does not come only from the terrorists. The bullet can just as easily come from the forces of repression - the army, the police. Especially if, like me, you have interviewed members of the subversive groups. This puts you under suspicion. Several journalists have died this way.

Why do I carry on? Well, it is very important to work for one's people and to communicate what is happening. Also it is interesting and is what I was trained for. I can't do anything else.

lsraél Galván has been journalist in the highland market town of Huancayo for 25 years. He works on the local paper, La Voz, and also sends news to Reuter.

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Pamela Orlandini Many people are leaving Peru. But not me. I am investing here. I have just bought a travel agency because I still feel there is a great hope for this country. We can still attract tourists and we shall try to look after them very carefully and get them to places which are not too dangerous.

I am planning to visit all the tourist spots myself soon. Arequipa, for example is still a good safe place. I think you can still go to Cuzco. Now Ayacucho, I would visit, but I doubt I would take groups there right now. Then there is Trujillo, Cajamarca, Nazca and, for bird-watchers, Madre de Dios. I really don't believe these places are more dangerous than parts of Europe.

You can get bombs in Spain or Ireland. There isn't too much of that in Lima. In 1987, 370,000 tourists came to Peru. We could, of course, receive many more than that. It's a question of inspiring confidence.

Whatever the economic climate people do have to travel. The airport is still packed these days. But a tot of the traffic is one way: many people are leaving the country.

Do I ever think of going? No. My husband and I are happy here. There is no point in changing unless things get so bad ... but I don't want to think about that ... that we might be forced to leave.

We have a pleasant house and the most wonderful country clubs. I went to swim in one today. You can play golf if you want to. We have a marvelous beach club in Santa Maria. We enjoy it tremendously.

We do have perks here but we don't live in a luxurious way. We are not rich; we live off what we earn which is why I have to make this travel agency pay. What would force us to Leave? Welt, I suppose if there were a civil war. I hope not ... I don't even want to talk about it.

Pamela Orlandini owns and runs the travel agency Aurora in Lima.

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Gloria Mayo Porras With all the violence the children themselves are becoming more violent. Especially the boys, aged between 15 and 17. There are so many social and psychological problems - caused by poverty and overcrowding. Many children want to dominate and manipulate others. As to politics in the school, senderistas recently came in and daubed the courtyard with slogans. I do not think the pupils were involved. They do express themselves politically, but less directly.

The increasing poverty is very obvious. Many of the children now come to school without having had breakfast. And many must work at night because their parents can no longer afford to keep them. They are tired out for school the next day. Children used to be able to study much better.

Then you have those whose parents have been killed or have disappeared: these are children without hope.

As a teacher, I think the most important thing is to try and give pupils guidance in these difficult times. We must instill in them the desire to work and struggle together to make things better. But not with violence.

Gloria Mayo Porras is a secondary school teacher, at the Colegio Santa Isabel in Huancayo.

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New Internationalist issue 197 magazine cover This article is from the July 1989 issue of New Internationalist.
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