Peru to Pay Relatives for Massacre

Associated Press -- 23 August 2001

LIMA, Peru -- Peru has agreed to pay $3.3 million in compensation to four survivors and the relatives of 15 people murdered by a state-sponsored death squad in a massacre 10 years ago.

President Alejandro Toledo and Justice Minister Fernando Olivera handed over checks Wednesday for $2,000 to the survivors and family members, promising to give the remainder of $175,000 to each by next year.

"This is a government, a Peru, that has taken the firm decision to do absolutely everything in its power to keep what has occurred in the last 20 years from happening again," Toledo said.

The shadowy La Colina death squad, allegedly run by ex-spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos, gunned down the 15 victims in 1991 while they were having a fund-raising barbecue in Barrios Altos, a poor downtown Lima neighborhood.

The massacre is believed to have been a strike at sympathizers of the Maoist Shining Path insurgency, which ravaged Peru during the 1980s and early 1990s with car bomb attacks, sabotage and assassinations.

The Barrios Altos massacre and the 1992 assassinations of nine students and a professor at La Cantuta University have become symbols of the human rights violations committed during Peru's internal conflict.

The fighting has left some 30,000 dead since 1980, including members of security forces, rebels and civilians. The violence dropped off sharply after the capture of key guerrilla leaders in 1992.

In July, the government established a truth commission to investigate human rights abuses committed during the 1980-85 government of Fernando Belaunde, Alan Garcia's 1985-90 term and Alberto Fujimori's 1990-2000 administration.

Congress plans to vote in a special session Monday whether to press charges against the now-exiled Fujimori in connection with the death squad killings.