Home Topics Human Rights PERU: WHEN IS A MUSEUM NOT A MUSEUM?

PERU: WHEN IS A MUSEUM NOT A MUSEUM?

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Herbert Morote*

museo_de_la_memoriaThe Place of Memory being built on the Costa Verde in LimaTwo years ago, the German government donated two million UD dollars to Peru for the construction of a Museum of Memory. Alan García’s initial reaction was to refuse the offer, with the excuse that Peru had more urgent problems to sort out.

The popular reaction to this refusal was massive: the bodies of more than 70,000 compatriots who died in our civil conflict are still warm. Most of them were killed by Shining Path, but 30% of the innocent victims died because of the bloody, indiscriminate repression carried out by state security forces.

As a result of the scandal caused by Alan García’s rejection of the donation, the Nobel-prize winning writer Mario Vargas Llosa joined the protests. The García government found itself forced to accept the donation and to appoint Vargas Llosa as president of the commission established to oversee the construction of the project, in the face of opposition from the army high command and the Neanderthal Minister of Defence, Rafael Rey.

The first concession made was to change the name, so that instead of Museum of Memory, a term everyone understands, it became known as Place of Memory. In several articles which can be read in this blog (tagged Museum of Memory) we expressed out concern over this change, but we were to some extent re-assured when Dr. Salomón Lerner Febres, the former president of the Commission for Truth and Reconcilation, was appointed vice-president of the new commission.

Soon afterwards, Vargas Llosa resigned in protest at some supreme decrees which attacked human rights, and it was his close friend, the octogenarian painter Fernando Szyszlo who took over as president. Then Dr. Salomón Lerner Febres also resigned.

While the names, ideas, and governments changed, the construction of the project began in Miraflores: but what it is to contain has not been made public or discussed with the victims’ associations. In other words, they are building a container without knowing what it is going to hold.

It was generally thought that under Ollanta Humala’s government from mid-2011 things would be better, and that the Museum of Memory could recover its name and its principles. Unfortunately, exactly the reverse has been the case. When Szyszlo was forced to step down, a new president of the commission was named, and the name of the project was changed yet again: it will no longer be the Museum of Memory, or the Place of Memory. Now it has been re-baptized as the Place of Memory, Tolerance, and Social Inclusion.

Don’t let anyone say that the name is unimportant: that simply is not true. The name of a project indicates its aim, and in this case tolerance and social inclusion have been added so that by broadening its scope the main objective is lost: that of remembering what happened so that it never happens again.

This crude deception on the part of the government is an insult to our intelligence. Those in power still think we are idiots, that we are not going to spot the manoeuvre by the military high command so that they are no longer seen as responsible for part of what happened. Yes, we know it was the wretched guerrillas who caused the most damage. We are well aware of that. But we also know that some members of the state security forces committed heinous crimes which should never be repeated.

What a name: Place of Memory, Tolerance, and Social Inclusion. What on earth has social inclusion got to do with the crimes Shining Path committed? Perhaps a Humala supporter would argue that the lack of social inclusion was the reason its leaders had for creating Shining Path, but please, it was not just that, it was many other things as well, as detailed in the group’s manuals. The new name could also have included private property, anti-imperialism, solidarity, education, not to mention centralism in Peru and above all, racism. What Humala is trying to do with this new name is to try to dilute the crimes of the security forces by including social problems that have existed in Peru from the very beginning.

Tolerance? Social Inclusion? What not add Racism, Lack of Solidarity, Neo-Liberalism or Centralism? What a disgrace! What will the relatives of the victims think, or those of the thousands of disappeared, the thousands of raped women, the hundreds of thousands of Peruvians forced to leave their homes, the relatives of all those buried in the 6,000 common graves that have been identified but not dug up? Is this the Humala we elected? What made him change, or has he always been like this?

We have to raise our voice: the street is the people’s right to demand justice.

Many of the members of the new commission are people worthy of our respect: Monseñor Bambarén, Hilaria Supa, Javier Sota Nadal; let’s see how long they last.

28 December 2011.


* Herbert Morote (1935) author of the books Réquiem por Perú, mi patria; Pero, ¿tiene el Perú salvación?; Bolívar libertador y enemigo Nº1 del Perú, among others. He is director of the Biblioteca virtual del genocidio en Ayacucho. translated by Nick Caistor, LAB.

Source: Blog de Genocidio Ayacucho: http://www.genocidioayacucho.blogspot.com/

See also : Biblioteca Virtual del Genocidio en Ayacucho

The original of this article is in Spanish and can be retrieved at: http://servindi.org/actualidad/56479 .