The witness who prepared bone soup
By Martin Riepl
Destiny at times can be emphatic with certain signs. The life of Guillermo Catacora had been determined by bones. He learned to carve them while imprisoned for the first time, in the 1950s, by taking the lunch remains left by other prisoners. Catacora was recruited by a communist group that indoctrinated him in the armed struggle that would send him to jail multiple times. There, he met Justo Arizapana, an agitator whom he would befriend. Arizapana was the man who, in 1993, discovered the clandestine graves of students murdered by the Colina Group, a death squad of the Armed Forces. Catacora convinced Arizapana to make his discovering public and to draw a map leading to the bones that would change Peruvian history: it became the fundamental proof of the Cantuta Case for which it achieved the sentencing of former president Alberto Fujimori. The communist artist, however, got lost in the margins of history. He lived many years fleeing due to fear of vengeance. Eventually, he ended up trapped in poverty and oblivion. He survived by preparing bone soup out of rib pieces he bought at a slaughterhouse. Catacora passed away sunk in a diabetic coma in June 2018, he was 87 years old. His paradoxical dying wish was to be cremated. Ashes last longer in an urn than bones buried underground.
Reconstructing a crime committed against humanity
The expression “theater of operations” refers to the actions of war. It also suggest the image of a death scenario. While in Lima the high ranking government officials have doubts on how to tell the history through educational texts in Cayara, Ayacucho, the theater is a ritual of memory: schoolchildren recreate episodes that have marked the lives of their town. Cayara is a milestone in the universal history of cruelty. In May 1988, the terrorist group Shining Path perpetrated a military convoy, killed an officer, three soldiers, and left 15 wounded. Then, left the area in order to expose the villagers to the Army’s reprisals. The next day, the contingent of 200 soldiers entered the area and executed 39 people, looting and burning homes. During the fiscal investigation, the murder of witnesses and the removal of remains by unknown persons occurred to hide the facts. The original prosecutor had to ask for asylum in the U.S., where he went to work in a curtain factory. The case stood within a legal limbo for thirty years, the kind of official oblivion that has buried so many stories of the internal armed conflict. While the public in Lima discovers them through new movies and theater plays, the Cayarinos have been recreating them for years in their public ceremonies. The people do not need anyone to tell them what to remember.
Survivors of an extermination
Is it possible to force a person to modify his body for the good of the society? In 1996, the Peruvian State organized the sterilization of about 200 thousand women in a family planning program which was subsequently accused of serious human rights abuses. In many cases, the so-called Voluntary Surgical Contraception was applied under lies and threats by state medical personnel. There were women who were taken by force in order to be sterilized. At least 18 women died during the operations or as a result of post-complications. Many others were left with serious consequences. A group of 2.166 victims have taken a lawsuit for this case that involves former president Alberto Fujimori and three of his health ministers, whom reject the charges and shift the blame to the doctors. Universal history warns about a State that tried to implement a population control program directed to a specific human group. The resulting atrocities marked the bodies of the victims.
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