Peru: Local Peacebuilding

Challenging the Liberal-Peace theory: Local peacebuilding in post-conflict Peru

Despite the Liberal-peace theory’s hegemony in post-conflict societies, many countries, communities or social groups around the world have rebelled against its logic which frequently prioritizes ‘security and institutions, rather than social justice, community, everyday life’ and the indigenous (Richmond. 2011, p.7). In Peru, although the violence of the country’s Internal war of 1980-2000 was highly localized, with over 40% of the deaths in the Ayacucho department alone, the peacebuilding projects, narratives and indeed the Nation of “Peru” to emerge after the war has remained largely void of local initiatives and expressions from the region’s worst affected by the war. This situation replicates a common critique of the Liberal-Peace theory which argues that the theories practice in post-conflict societies often ‘engenders ethnocentrism, cultural biases, and a narrow set of interest’ (Richmond. 2011, p.2). This paper will examine the challenge of ANFASEP (Spanish: Asociacion Nacional de Familiares de Secuestrados, Detenidos y Desaparecidos del Peru, National Association of the Families of the Kidnapped, Detained and Disappeared of Peru), a Peruvian human rights organisation, and their Ayacucho memory museum to the hegemony of the Liberal-Peace and its narrative within post-conflict Peru (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.11). The space claimed by ANFASEP and their museum, of de-centralised counter-narratives and peacebuilding alternatives to those currently expressed in Peru, are presented in this paper.

Recent theory on peacebuilding has been dominated by the Liberal Peace Theory, ‘based on assumptions around the pacifying effects of open and integrated societies and markets framed by a liberal state and international institutions, laws and norms’ (Tadjbakhsh. 2011, p.1). Although in many post-conflict societies the practice of the liberal peace theory ‘offers a civil peace’, Richmond argues that ‘when viewed from…contextual or local perspectives, these top-down and distant processes often appear to represent power’ and ‘maintain existing normative and political hierarchies’ (Richmond. 2011, p.7). In Peru, a country in transition from a brutal internal conflict, the basic hegemonic tenants of the liberal peace theory – national security, free market economics, foreign investment and state building- has largely come at the expense of welfare, social justice, local agency and cultural inclusion.
Peru’s Internal war from 1980-2000 was primarily fought between the Maoist-inspired Shining Path insurgency and state forces, resulting in nearly 70 000 deaths and still today over 15 000 people remain “disappeared” (xxxx). The violence principally occurred in the poorest regions of Peru where the Shining Path, led by University Professor Abimael Guzman, attempted to exploit the Indigenous population’s legacy of poverty, mistreatment and social neglect, dating back to Spanish colonialism, to aid their insurgency against the Peruvian state. However Shining Path’s mobilisation was based on violence and indoctrination, killing thousands of so-called “counter-revolutionaries” as they took control of the Andean highlands (Kruijt & Del Pilar Tello. 2002, p.43). The Peruvian armed forces responded with a ‘brutal counterinsurgency war in which “Andean peasant” became conflated with “terrorist”’, resulting in massive indiscriminate violence against the ethnically-indigenous population as the army established martial law in the region (Theidon. 2010, p.93). Additionally the Peruvian state armed Indigenous self-defence communities, which, while helping to defend against Shining Path, carried out further massacres and extrajudicial killings of suspects. In 1990, with Shining Path violence reaching Lima, Alberto Fujimori became President of Peru, and shortly after dissolved congress and opposition parties whilst assuming dictatorial powers “justified” by national security. In the milieu of these draconian laws, Abimael Guzman and key Shining Path leaders were captured, affectively defeating Shining Path. Nevertheless Fujimori’s government would remain in power until 2000, utilizing control of the media, death squads and fear of Shining Path terrorism to legitimate its power until collapsing under huge allegations of bribery and fraud.
Following the comprehensive state victory, the divergence of public memory and indifference to the internal conflict are most obviously witnessed between the areas greatly affected, particularly the Ayacucho department, scene of over 40% of the deaths, and the urban, globalized centres such as Lima: whose hegemonic power largely controls the national level (Rojas-Perez. 2013). The deaths, 85% occurring in 6 of Peru’s 25 poorest departments, were stratified such that many were unconcerned or unaware of the conflict’s scale until it left the countryside and still today many Peruvians remain apathetic to wars’ complexity, causes and consequences, whilst other Peruvians live in its shadow (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.3). The national peacebuilding process in Peru is largely an expression of the Liberal Peace theory particularly concerning free market economics, security, and state-building, what Burt calls the ‘persistence of the neoliberal hegemony in Peru’ (2013). Merino argues that Peru’s post-conflict ‘governmental rhetoric of “social inclusion” is embedded in the logic of neoliberal assimilation’ whereby the ideology of “liberal peace” often denies or marginalises the diversity and indigeneity of its population (2012, p.1). Nevertheless there are attempts to challenge the liberal peace consensus in Peru, both on the national and local level. This paper explores the human-rights organisation ANFASEP which emerged during the war in the conflicts epicentre of Ayacucho. Founded by Indigenous Quechua women, ANFASEP has provided social support for affected groups and struggled for social justice, truth and accountability while even creating their own memory museum that challenge certain Peruvian collective memories of the war years. Therefore ANFASEP and their memory museum in Ayacucho will be examined as a local opposition to Peru’s national peacebuilding process and its logic of Liberal Peace. Indeed ANFASEP’s local museum offers an alternative, de-centralised form of memorialisation and memory especially compared to large-scale national projects, such as Lima’s new multi-million dollar Museum of Memory, Tolerance and Social Inclusion funded largely by the European Union (EU) (xxxx).
The theory of Peacebuilding was not a ‘subject of study until the 1960s and 1970s’ as inter-state politics began moving from Realist concepts of conquest and survival to Liberal themes of trade, inter-state cooperation and mutual interest (Chetail. 2009, p.1). The recent theoretical domination of the Liberal Peace theory as the “template” for peacebuilding in countries emerging from conflict reflects the neoliberal revolution that occurred during this period (Harvey. 2007). Neoliberalism here refers to contemporary liberal ideas around economics and society: viewing private business, not the state, as central to economic development, thus theoretically reducing state’s key role to administration, national security, upholding law and order, and creating favourable circumstances to attract business and investment (Harvey. 2007). Richmond argues the liberal peace theory has ‘attempted to unite the world under a hegemonic system that replicates liberal institutions, norms, political, social, and economic systems’ (2011, p.1).
The liberal peace theory’s approach to free-market economics, encouraging investment, strengthening security, and state-building has been the largely accepted approach in Peru’s post-conflict milieu. Nevertheless despite such policies helping to accelerate Peru’s post-conflict economy, Nueman notes how ‘the new prosperity is unevenly distributed, concentrated in the cities and along the coast’ (2013). Arana emphasises this arguing that similar pre-conflict inequalities remain in the post-conflict years as ‘according to the World Bank [in 2013], a citizen of Lima earns 21 times more’ than in the Andean and Amazonian regions, ‘where the rural poverty rate is a staggering 54 percent’ (Arana. 2013). Furthermore the centrality of the free market to Peru’s peace process has regularly disregarded issues such as Indigenous or local community rights, lands and welfare against the interests of extractive industries, central to Peru’s economy (Arana. 2013). Wilson highlights how between 2006 and 2012 ‘social conflicts in Peru increased by 300%’ most ‘related to the social or environmental issues’ of mining, indeed Peruvian Human-rights lawyer Sally Ccotarma reiterates this stating: “Rural and indigenous communities don’t feel protected by the state…it was the armed conflict; now it’s the mining companies’ (2012) (Cited in Martinez. 2013).
In the context of a war that devastated the nation’s poorest regions, Peru’s liberal peace hegemony ‘has supported the classical view that liberal states and peoples are effectively superior in rights and status to others’ thereby justifying ‘subtle forms of colonialism, interventionism, and local depoliticisation to occur’ (Richmond. 2011, p.9). Indeed Richmond argues that in post-conflict societies adhering to the principals of the liberal peace theory, frequently ‘local culture is seen to be inherently flawed or violent’ and finds itself marginalised (2011, p.48). As Boesten explains: ‘the Quechua-speaking rural population of Ayacucho and surroundings was perceived to be inferior’ during the war: a legacy continuing through the undervaluing of local initiatives for peace and reconciliation within Peru’s affected regions (2008, p.208). Additionally the Indigenous people of these regions continue to suffer what Theidon calls ‘ethnically saturated category of terrorist’ as ’the image of the violent ethnic “other” became a remarkably resilient personae of the war’ (Theidon. 2001 & 2010, p.20 & p.109). This raises concern in diverse nations such as Peru where many citizens find themselves disenfranchised from its central epistemology where ‘the liberal is to be distinguishable from the illiberal’ (Jabri. 2010, p.41). In this context the indigenous can becomes the liberal’s opposite, the ‘non-liberal’, the ‘traditional’, the unpredictable, “the other” through a form of categorisation that ‘distances the supposed non-liberal subject’ allowing for them to be governed in ways that may not be consented against ‘liberal subjects’ (Richmond. 2011, p.50-52).
The key hegemonic narratives of Peru’s war both emanate from urban centres that witnessed comparatively little of the conflicts atrocities. One position, epitomised through the 2003 Truth and Reconciliation Commission (PTRC) and national scale museum’s (i.e. the Yuyanapaq (to remember) memorial exhibit in Lima’s National Museum; and the new Place of Memory, Tolerance and Social Inclusion museum), centres around democracy, human rights and national reconciliation (Corntassel & Holder. 2008). Nevertheless the more dominant position within Peru is summed up by ex-President Alan Garcia who stated ‘there is no reconciliation possible with the assassins of Shining Path’ and fellow politician Lourdes Flores Nano who remarked: ‘with Shining Path there can be no pact, no political solution and no form of reconciliation’ (cited in Theidon. 2011, p.324). This narrative justifies or ‘refuses to admit that the state was directly responsible for many of the violations that took place’ (the PTRC held the military responsible for approximately 37% and Shining Path 54% of the 69 280 estimated deaths), indeed to this day very few military officials have been convicted (Burt. 2009, p.392-3) (Correa. 2013). Some Peruvians, Theidon argues, regard the balanced approach of the PTRC as an ‘apology for terror’ whilst Shining Path ’remain monolithically demonized’ as a terrorist organisation without considering Shining Path combatants many whom were forced, manipulated, or underage (Theidon. 2010, p.99).
Considering the PTRC ‘estimated 85 per cent [of deaths] were indigenous and rural-dwelling’, it’s unsurprising that many Peruvians, particularly those in urban settings, have very different ideas of the post-war peace process than those in critically affected regions (Martinez. 2013). Consequently the peace being constructed within Peru, expressed through the liberal peace theory’s paradigm, arguably reflects the fight over the internal-conflict’s collective historical narrative that generate what Hattam et al call ‘common-sense’, which ‘dominates our views of the past and present, and shape our visions for the future’ (2012, p.5). These ‘memories can assign to an actor a historical position of villain, victim, or liberator, allowing for the framing of…issues and negotiations’ which ‘policymakers invoke…to legitimize their current dispositions and future plans’ (Langenbacher & Shain. 2010, p.6 & 11). In Peru’s context such memories play strong roles in victimizing, criminalizing and glorifying various groups involved in the conflict. Watkins & Shulman highlight ‘where violence and inequality have become normalized, a kind of amnesia sets in among the privileged…[who] begin to think of the marginalized as unalterably other and alien’ (2008, p.115). Consequently Laplante & Phenicie stress how many Peruvians ‘view the thousands of slain and disappeared victims- largely indigenous farmers- as terrorists deserving their punishment’- dehumanised enough to warrant their death (Laplante & Phenicie. 2010, p.273). Therefore Peru’s contemporary peace fails to properly consider the complexities of the war and its continuing implications.
In 1983, during the conflict’s height, ANFASEP was founded ‘to protest the state abuses’ against rural peasants and seek assistance from outside sources (Feldman. 2012, p.492). The organisation became a vital space for preserving civil society in the form of soup kitchens, health programs and ‘organizing rallies, vigils, clandestine meetings and peace marches to call attention to the devastating effects of war in Ayacucho’ (Feldman. 2012, p.492). Although the Peruvian government labelled ANFASEP ‘terrorists’ for protesting state abuses abroad, the strong ties with International human rights groups helped highlight to the world the extent of violence in Peru (Feldman. 2012, p.492). The group ‘contributed considerably to the formation of the PTRC’ and in 2005 opened its memory museum in the city of Ayacucho (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.12). Over three decades since their foundation, ANFASEP, supported by the youth wing Juventud ANFASEP, continues to fighting for social justice, truth and compensation from the government.
For women in post-conflict societies, whom are frequently underrepresented in powerful state and elite institutions, the incorporation of local initiatives into national peacebuilding processes often creates the possibility for greater agency (Porter. 2007). This is one of ANFASEP’s strengths, as they question the category of Andean women as helpless victims, instead becoming agents in peacebuilding. Feldman argues ANFASEP’s museum, by focusing on women, ‘critiques an ideology of masculine heroism’ common in Peru. Theidon highlights how ‘parallel to the losses and injustices’ are the ‘liberating aspects of the internal armed conflict’ whereby women ‘take on non-traditional roles and [often] assume much greater responsibilities’, typified by ANFASEP (2013, p.117). Indeed ‘the post-conflict environment cannot be characterized as one in which life for women invariably returns to “normal”’, nor for many women is this ‘desirable or even possible’ (Pankhurst. 2008, p.3). Pankhurst highlights this in post-conflict El Salvador where ‘considerable social animosity and pressure was brought to bear on women who had challenged gender roles during the conflict and those who wanted to continue to do so afterwards’ (2008, p.4-5). Boesten & Fisher likewise explain how ‘extremely high and largely unpunished post-war sexual and domestic violence’ continues in Peru often attempting to put women back in their pre-war place and reaffirm narratives of masculinity (2012). Therefore ANFASEP’s role in challenging stereotypes of gender and ethnicity, struggles against the Peru’s expression of the Liberal Peace theory which, while overemphasising national-level institution building and free-market economics, neglects the ongoing structural mistreatment of women and the indigenous. The notable success of ANFASEP- Director of the Peruvian Commission of Human Rights Pablo Rojas even stated ‘the formation of a Commission of Truth would not have been realized without the staying power of ANFASEP’- is contrasted with the ‘limited degree of recognition of the ANFASEP museum’ and organisation on the ‘national level’ (cited in Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.30) (Feldman. 2012, p.507). Feldman reiterates this noting how in the milieu of Peru’s new multi-million dollar museum in Lima ‘virtually absent in the national conversation…was any mention of memorialisation initiatives…in Ayacucho in recent years’ (2012, p.488).
ANFASEP’s small museum situates itself within other worldwide forms of local memorialisation, such as South Africa’s District Six Museum in contrast to the National Apartheid Museum. These small-scale efforts help create a decentralised space for multiple truths, memories and narratives to contest a singular “official story”, which, while important, can re-tell the events through its authoritative historical memorialising. In the case of South Africa McEachern explains how the District Six Museum ‘generates [its] narrative of the nation’s past in the gaps, the interstices of both the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission and the media…version of apartheid’ (2002, p.67).
This section uses ANFASEP’s museum English-language information-guide to analyse the museum’s content and exhibits, all present in the guide, as as a critique of the liberal peace-building process within Peru.
The museum
The booklet’s information situates the museum and “grassroot” ANFASEP within the large-scale projects of peacebuilding within Peru such as the PTRC, and continues this insertion of the local processes within the national, reinforcing the localised nature of the conflict and post-conflict. Not only does the museum frequently highlight the region of Ayacucho when discussing “Peru’s” Internal Conflict (e.g. ‘the department of Ayacucho was located at the centre of the armed internal conflict that ravaged Peru’), but draws emphasis to its victims: ‘the majority of the victims belonged to the poorest parts of Peruvian society: the Quechua-speaking peasants’ (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.3). These themes, the victims local geography and indigenous-identity, are continued throughout the museum, indeed ANFASEP describe themselves ‘founded by a group of Quechua-speaking women…many of whom can neither read nor write and had lost close family members during the civil war’, thus depicting ANFASEP and its museum as projects “of the victims” (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.11). Additionally the museum emphasises the racialised nature of the conflict and its legacy, for example stressing the ‘marginalization and exploitation…by the non-indigenous upper-classes’ in creating the conditions for Shining Path, while ‘for the armed forces…anyone of indigenous origin was under general suspicion of terrorism’ (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.4-5). This theme, stressing the victim’s indigeneity, present throughout the museum, suggests a strong critique of Peru’s peace which fails to reconfigure the countries historical racism and indifference, central to the armed conflict. Indeed the PTRC’s final report concluded ‘the tragedy suffered by rural communities, from the Andes and from the jungle, Quechua and Ashaninka, farmers, poor, and uneducated was not felt by the rest of the country’ (cited in Martinez. 2013). This legacy continues under Peru’s liberal peace whereby ‘the contended classes…who have enjoyed the economic benefits…without having to incur any of the political costs’, may see reconciling with the conflict’s sufferers as ‘an unwelcome intrusions into more or less settled lifestyles’ (Porter. 2003, p.40). In this perspective liberal peacebuilding, emphasising private gain and institution-building, is contrasted with thoroughly reconciling and incorporating the countries indigenous population and structural inequality.
Nevertheless ANFASEP’s museum does not separate the “local” and “national”, rather stressing local representation within the national sphere, such as: calling their museum ‘an implementation of the PTRC’s’ recommendations; devoting one section to explaining the PTRC’s work; and another section to the Peruvian Director of the Commission of Human Rights’ in praise of ANFASEP (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.25-30). This position allows ANFASEP and their museum to include themselves within the national peacebuilding milieu. By bridging the local projects with the national suggests the possibility of dialogue between the two levels of peacebuilding, crucial to improving Peru’s peace, and not alienating much of the country.
An essential focus of ANFASEP’s museum are the victim with: exhibits ranging on victims demographics; torture techniques; explanations of mass graves and ovens to dispose of bodies; information on forced labor by women for Shining Path; focus on property loss; and ‘quotations from eyewitness reports of relatives of disappeared detainees’ where the message emphasises the suffering and innocence of the victims (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008). This position distinguishes itself with “othering” of the indigenous population as suspicious, a common perception held by military and state authorities during the war that continues to permeate Peruvian society. ANFASEP’s challenge to ‘othering’ the victims of Peru’s Internal Conflict counteracts the ‘business as usual’ methodology that Watkins & Shulman argue can allow nonvictims to feel ‘no responsibility for their (the victims) well-being’, a mythology which helps maintain Peru’s post-conflict structure of power (2008, p.125). Therefore the victims humanization in ANFASEP’s museum, contrasted with “official” histories and collective narratives that often undervalue the “human-level”, is a radical critique of the liberal peace theory and what Richmond calls the ‘coldness’ for the theories ‘concern with elites and states rather than society, community, and everyday experience’ (2011, p.13). Two exhibits exemplify the museum’s humanization of the victims: ‘La Olla’ (the pot) – a story of a pot given to a detainee by a soldier in order to eat; the other an exhibit on certain disappeared family members of ANFASEP (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.40-41). Both of these exhibits localise the suffering, without focusing on the political motivations – whether guilty or innocent- but rather on “whom” they were as people. The exhibit of the pot, accompanied by the detainee’s story, both “de-others” the solider and the prisoner, as detainee Edwin Enver states in the exhibit: ‘a military guard, secretly gave me this small pot, for the sake of the last bit of humanity he still had’ (cited in Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.41). In the other section, detailing the lives of 18 disappeared relatives of ANFASEP members- along with preserved articles of their clothing- the information focuses not on why they were captured, but rather who they were as people, their stories and ambitions: returning them their humanity. These counter-narrative memorials contrast with Peru’s liberal peace, which has failed to amend the perpetuating inequality of power, both over the living and “guilty” dead. Indeed ANFASEP’s goal of ‘truth, justice and compensation for victims’ is reflective of many victims within post-conflict societies, who require more localised changes than Peru’s peace offers (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.12). Rather than stressing prosecution, ANFASEP and their museum urge truth and economic justice. The final exhibit, the story of ANFASEP’s co-founder Mama Angelica Mendoza de Ascarza and the search for her disappeared son, highlights this centrality of truth, while the continued mention of reparations and economic justice are equally strong theme: the museum even has available Red-cross guide to seeking reparations (Baier & Weibenberg. 2008, p.27). Therefore ANFASEP and their museum, through exhibits, information and truth-telling suggest a grassroots form of peacebuilding, quite at odds with the one-size-fits-all style of the Liberal Peace Theory. The themes present by both ANFASEP and their museum are heavily contextual to the Peruvian reality and like South Africa’s District six museum, attempted to fill the gaps neglected by national-level processes. ANFASEP’s willingness to co-operate with national-level processes, such as the PTRC, reflects what Pouligny argues: that often ‘local communities ask for empowerment’ post-conflict. Nevertheless as Nilsson pertinently debates in the case of local peacebuilding in Nicaragua, these local-level movements’ success as counter-hegemonic spaces comes in spite of the ‘post-war governments…absence of sincere reconciliation efforts’ (2010).
This paper has highlighted the role ANFASEP and their museum play in challenging certain harmful norms that affect Peru in the post-conflict milieu. The paper does not argue the truthfulness of ANFASEP and their narration, rather how such groups create spaces for the multiple peacebuilding processes to balance one singular expression, such as the dominant liberal peace within Peru. As Theidon states, there is no clear dichotomy of truth between ‘official memory’ and that of local communities, (one “repressive’ the other ‘emancipatory’), as though ‘the repressed holds the key to the really real’, rather that groups like ANFASEP, within culturally diverse countries such as Peru, help democratize the truth and the peace constructed, away from monopolising peacebuilding logics. Therefore this paper, by exploring the role of ANFASEP, emphasises the theoretically restrictive premises of the liberal peace theory in post-conflict Peru, and seeks to provide a debate for peacebuilders to consider when imagining peace in complex societies: where an incorporation of “the local” is paramount.


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