Ayacucho In Peru
issue 321 - March 2000
Peru is not exactly a land of milk, honey and tranquillity. But the
people of Ayacucho have had more than their share of its misfortune.
In spite of recent interest and investment, the trend persists.
Ayacucho, and its highland neighbours Huancavelica and
Apurímac, are still the nation’s poorest departments.
Literacy (actual and projections):
Infant mortality (1995, per 1,000 live births)
Chronic malnutrition (% of population)
Health Resources (per 100,000 inhabitants)
Tolls of violence
Those who died
Of the 25,000-30,000 people who died of political violence between 1980 and 1993, 10,561 were in Ayacucho. If the same proportion of the population had died nationwide the death toll would have been 16 times greater at 450,000. Most civilian victims were peasants, followed by teachers, then students.5
Those who killed
SENDERO LUMINOSO: Killed 13,167 people between 1984 and 1996.6
GOVERNMENT FORCES: Believed to be responsible for roughly half the 25,000-30,000 deaths due to political violence in 1980-97.7
MRTA (Movimiento RevolucionariO Túpac Amaru): Responsible for just three per cent of killings by insurgents; Sendero Luminoso for all the rest.6
In the early 1990s peasant militias, encouraged by the military, rose to combat Sendero Luminoso. By 1994 2,400 peasant patrols with 240,000 members were registered.4
Peaks of blood
At its height Sendero Luminoso had 5,000 members and many more sympathizers.7
Displacement and repopulation
While population in Peru increased during the 1980s and 1990s, violence caused it to fall by 3.5 per cent in the department of Ayacucho, and 23 per cent in its rural areas, between 1981 and 1993.3,5
On the run
• Between 1980 and 1992 an estimated 600,000 Peruvians fled their homelands and became internal refugees. Four-fifths of these came from the Andean ‘emergency zone’ of Ayacucho, Huancavelica and Apurimac.3
• In some areas 60 per cent of the rural population migrated to cities. Of the 135,000 hectares cultivated in Ayacucho in 1980 only 53,000 were still in use in 1985.3
• In 1993 peasants started returning home, aided by govern-ment and aid-agency programmes. By 1996 the Fujimori Government was claiming that 300,000 had returned. This claim was later scaled down to 120,000. But the independent National Platform on Displacement puts it much lower – at 68,574.4
Population with basic needs unmet
Population in extreme poverty
Value of economic activity in Ayacucho:
ON the hook
• Political prisoners: there are an estimated 22,000 people interned for terrorism and treason in Peru.10
• Anti-terrorism laws: Since 1992 new legislation has led to thousands of denunciations, arrests and imprisonment. Just appearing to be an apologist for insurgency is now classed as a crime, leading to imprisonment of human-rights activists and journalists.9
• Wanted: there are still arrest warrants outstanding against 5,200 on charges of terrorism. Most are natives of Ayacucho, now on the run or in hiding.10
• Innocents: 500 people who were wrongly imprisoned have been ‘pardoned’ and 900 have been absolved by the courts between 1996-99. The process has now halted, though there are hundreds more cases outstanding.10
• Torture: The use of torture as a method of interrogation remains widespread. When asked ‘have you suffered physical maltreatment or torture during detentions?’ 77.6 per cent of detainees answered ‘yes’.8
OFF the hook
• Amnesty: In 1995 the Fujimori Government gave an amnesty to all military personnel involved in anti-subversion.7
• Disappearances and extrajudicial killings: From 1980 to 1993 an estimated 5,000 went missing in Ayacucho after having been arrested by the armed forces; the bodies of 2,900 have never been found or accounted for. Ayacucho suffered the brunt of disappearances – 70 per cent of the national total.9
1 Instituto Nacional de Estadística e Informática, Compendio Estadístico Departmental, 1995-96, Lima.
2 UNDP, Human Development Report, New York, 1999.
3 Oxfam document, Retorno y Reconstruccion en los Andes del Peru, Lima, 1998.
4 Mesa Nacional Sobre Desplazamiento (National Platform for Displacement), Lima, 1999.
5 Carlos Ivan Degregori et al, Las Rondas Campesinas y la Derrota de Sendero Luminoso, IEP/UNSCH, Lima, 1996.
6 IDEELE magazine, No 55 March 1997, Lima.
7 Latin America Bureau, Peru in Focus, London, 1998.
8 IDEELE magazine, No 101 October 1997, Lima.
9 COMISEDH (Human Rights Commission), Lima, 1999.
10 Defensoria del Pueblo (Office of the Public Ombudsman), Lima.
11 US Census Bureau, 1998.