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Speeches in press conferences

January 21st 2003
Press Conference
TRC work, findings and messages


For the Truth and Reconciliation Commission it is extremely pleasing to have your attendance in this morning in which we wish to provide the country, through you, important information on the course of work during the last eighteen months. Along this year and a half of effective work, the press has always accompanied us and has become an echo of our concerns. We thank them much for this effort and express them our desire of keeping their company until the end of this process already in its final stretch.

As we know, the makeup of this commission, created by the government of President Agustín Paniagua and ratified and expanded during the current administration of President Alejandro Toledo, was a response to the demand from broad social and political sectors of the country. Organizations and collectivities of many different kinds pointed out, when we were restarting democracy after the recent authoritarian experience, that this new attempt would not have too much success opportunities if it did not coincide with a search for deep responses to the country’s problems, in which the recent history of violence and transgression against the human rights by subversive organizations and state agents have a central position.

This is how the executive order that they gave to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission charged it with “clarifying the processes, facts and responsibilities of terrorist violence and violation of human rights” produced between May 1980 and November 2000 and immediately after ordered it to “propose initiatives aimed at establishing peace and concord among Peruvians”.

By accepting this task, the members of this commission assumed the commitment of giving way to truth, no matter how painful it may be and of exposing it publicly, regardless of any secondary consideration, so that truth and only truth becomes the starting point of the new way of organizing our lives in common, of building a country reconciled with itself and reconciled with the aching victims who are still wait for justice.

During this time you have asked us many times and even with a disapproval spirit why we should open the way to such a hard truth. There are many answers to this question. The first one has to do with the strict consideration of justice. The person who has suffered an abuse, who has been victim of a transgression, who has been unfairly deprived of his or her freedom, of his or her dignity and even of his or her life, has a first and foremost: “to inform others what happened to him or her, that the rest of citizens learn that one among them, that one equal to them, has been deprived from something to which all of us have a right”

And besides that consideration of elementary justice, we must say that truth is also necessary so history does not repeat itself, so death, grief, hopelessness and fear lived through by our society and specially intensely by our countrymen from the most forgotten areas never happen again.

When we assumed the position trusted to us and we started our work, we knew that the history that had to be exposed was tragic, hard and so cruel that it could even be difficult to believe. However, I must now say that our imagination, our capacity to foretell the future did not prepare us for what we in fact found. In the work carried out during these eighteen months, the Commission has found acts of cruelty and painful facts that largely exceed our forecast. We believe now more than ever that the whole country must know about this and that the history we shall expose when submitting our Final Report be remembered as our history.

Thus, we must accept that the bloodiest conflict since our country became a Republic was precisely this one, a confrontation between Peruvians that reached the dimension of a truth national tragedy. Such confrontation, it is impossible to ignore it, has marked contemporary life in our country, has printed its seal in more than one generation and, hence, it would not only be unfair but also irrational to turn the page over without daring to look at it in the face and extract indispensable lessons from that examination.

In 1980, the Shining Path started an internal war against the whole state. They did so from the poor and distant world of the Ayacucho and south central highlands fields.

Democracy, broad but fragile, was challenged by this surprising war that had been declared, besides, from a social reality that the modern part of the country still ignores, forgets or discriminates. In this context, the dilemma was between respecting the law and the supposed efficacy of a rapid repressive action, but prone to break essential rules.

The self called “people’s war” by the Shining Path, which disavowed the elementary rules of democratic life lingered for more than one decade and was often answered with human rights abuse by state agents. These were years in which fear became the master, in which generalized fright seized the country, a heart beat still alive in the victims’ stories and whose memory still startles even those Peruvians who, like in the case of Lima middle classes, were fortunate enough of not living between two fires, as it happened to the homeless peasants in the Andes.

On the other hand, it is truth that as we have seen the pain, the cruelty and the useless costs of this war, we have also learnt about thousands of examples of responsible civic behavior, of generosity, solidarity and selflessness, as well as about the active resistance to violence, collective action movements which, first, limited the expansion of subversion and, then, prevented violence to go unfettered. The people of Puno and other places in the country have left us that teaching we want to include in our final report for all Peruvians.

Therefore, our purpose is to expose this process and its real complexity. An important part of this complexity are the indubitable responsibilities of different people, organizations or collectivities that played some role in the public affairs of those years. The Truth Commission wants its leaders, its public personalities to rise to this national challenge that is to recognize ourselves in our truth history and that, by doing so, they also contribute with elements to rebuild this process with courage and sincerity. By saying so we are sure we interpret a claim from all the country.

This public presentation of the Commission is, then, a way of responding the country for the trust in us. At the same time is a renewed invitation to the concerned people and institutions to become involved in this process in a candid and open fashion.

This schematic account of what we did as a Commission confirms and reiterates an idea we have not stopped repeating, we did not face only past facts, firstly because the victims’ pain is still there silently waiting for redress and justice, and, additionally, because many of the deep problems that cause violence are still present in our national life, dividing Peruvians and darkening their future.

Among the victims we have listened to, those belonging to the impoverished stratum that is usually the peasant population are clearly highlighted. This is a population that also suffered the insensitivity or indifference of the rest of society when their towns were devastated, their children recruited by force or their beloved ones were killed or abducted by subversive organizations or state agents, besides the secular oblivion they had always suffered.

All of this poses a question to us. What can we do to produce a true change in our way of being and cohabitating as Peruvians? At the TRC we think that our final report, which shall be submitted on July 13th this year, must be part of the process involving all with some basic objectives that collectively commit us as citizens and country.

Our first task is to do way to truth regarding little known events and about responsibilities that had been left unpunished to facilitate a correct application of justice by all competent organisms. The TRC has this first commitment and will do our best to prevent oblivion of criminal acts and illicit omission that must receive a sanction.

Secondly, we shall go on with dialogues already started with the most important institutional actors during this internal war period, such as parties that governed, state powers, military institutions, large press media, etc. We want to invite these players publicly to accompany us in an open reflection where they can expose before society, the society they wish to lead, their points of view and to make a balance that would allow to better understand the reasons for their actions and, eventually, for their error.

In fact, much of the usefulness of this national revision of our recent history depends on everybody’s participation and attitude, especially of those who played a relevant role at that time. This is the moment to listen to each other outside any political intention and to pay attention only to the responsibility we all have regarding the victims of violence and towards the future generations of Peruvians.

This is the time to recognize the public commitment of state institutions to help us in the task of obtaining the truth and starting an authentic reconciliation process. That is the intention we discovered and valued in those who, assuming the authority they exercise responsibly, pointed out the need of differentiating between the usual confrontations of war from assassination and barbarity.

In this effort for reconciliating the country with itself, the TRC is also talking, and shall continue doing so, with subversive groups leaders and commandos, a fact about which the country will be kept informed.

Thirdly, we shall promote some basic commitments about institutional reforms and legal proposals as the ones already mentioned, because they are indispensables to make peace and democracy viable and durable.

I want to specifically refer to the National Redressment Plan. We believe the country has a moral and social debt with the innocent victims and that we all have to contribute so they are treated with justice.


Certainly all of this will only be possible if the citizens, the political and social leaders, the parties, the state institutions and the society as a whole accompany us through a sound ethic commitment in the effort of making of these moments of our history, although painful, to pull out the best of ourselves to turn over, this time responsibly and fairly, one of the most deplorable pages of our national life.

We must say that these tasks and this mandate charged to the Commission I chaired are part of the process through which Peru seeks to build a new foundation for a life in common, affirming a truth Rule of Law and expelling not only violence but also corruption and authoritarianism.

And this is a great historical opportunity whose realization depends only on us, on all of us.

We are convinced that a future of peace and democracy is possible and it is in our hands to make it come truth if we identify everything that must never happen in our country again, never more subversive violence, never more a war among Peruvians, never more human rights abuse, never more indifference or silence before our countrymen’s misfortune.

There are occasions in which saying no is also a way to affirm. Saying no to injustice is, above all, a way to open the doors of reconciliation, and that is the message we want you to helps us convey to the country.

Thank you very much.

Salomon Lerner Febres
Truth and Reconciliation Commission