The Ghost of Terrorism Revived: Psychological Campaign on the Eve of the Report by Perú's Commission of Truth and Reconciliation

Lori Berenson

The terrorist ghost is back. Someone uncaged the beast and once again it is time to fear. Perhaps it's just a simple 'coincidence' that the psychological campaign is being revived during the final public hearings of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission and just a few weeks before its final report is due to be published. Who would benefit from this resurging of 'terror'? Could it be that faced with the possibility that truth be known some prefer amnesia?

Although it certainly has been a concern of mine, I am not going to address how the present campaign is directly affecting political prisoners because there is something much worse. The work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission could be harmed. There are many accusing voices against the commission, against the uncovering of the truth about the political violence. This limits the possibilities for society to understand what happened during those years and thus learn from it.

Trying to create a cloud of amnesia doesn't help society deal with the recent past. In addition, the lack of self criticism by some direct and indirect participants in violence, demonstrated by their recent declarations or by their silence, doesn't contribute to a search for a better future. Without knowing the truth it is not possible to build a new relationship between the State and Peruvian society in a way that would include the whole of society, albeit the causes of political violence were based on the historic exclusion of the vast majority. In this sense the intended smoke screen that revives ghosts and damages and condemns the work of the commission will only prolong the necessary process of understanding, because I am certain that sooner or later the truth will be known.

However much I may question the Government's political utilization of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission since it was named, affecting everything from the terminology used to the spreading of propaganda about certain things and the ignoring of others, all of which could have affected certain aspects of the received testimonies, I truly believe that the presentation of the commission report could open the door to the possibility of addressing delicate and painful topics in society. Remembering back a year, opinion polls found that the majority of the population knew little or nothing about this commission and did not believe that the commission represented them or gave any thought to them. Opening the possibility of discussing these topics would help society advance, while creating ghosts and reviving fears would prevent that. What good would that do for society?

For example, how could it be helpful to society in general (and to those directly involved) when officials refer to the exhumation of mass graves as 'circus-like'? How is it helpful to anyone when the issue of political violence is addressed outside of its social context? Is the creating of smoke screens, demons, and fears doing any good for society? Only those who want impunity will benefit from the hiding of the truth.

Today there is a real possibility to come to an understanding of the truth and recognition of ignored and avoided realities. This would greatly contribute to making a sincere and open discussion which will aid in the building of a better future. It would be a great waste if this opportunity were missed. There is still time. The Government, State institutions, the direct participants, and principally society as a whole will have the final say.

Lori Berenson
Huacariz Prison
Cajamarca, Perú
July 21, 2003