In May 1988, during Pope John Paul II’s visit to Peru, military troops reportedly killed at least 80 peasants who were corn harvesting in Cayara, in the department of Ayacucho. According to a statement from the Ayacucho Provincial Council, the region’s top elective body, the massacre was in retaliation against a leftist guerrilla attack against the army convoy hours earlier. An army of over 100 soldiers tortured and killed young men who had been working in the fields as well as countless other members of the community in the local chapel. Following the massacre, witnesses reported a massive army cover-up. Soldiers allegedly removed bodies by helicopters and horseback and cleaned the bloodstained church. Eyewitnesses who came forward to testify about the massacre and cover-up became new targets. Many of them disappeared or were killed.

Although the government initially denied the claim, stating the town was empty when their troops arrived, they were eventually forced to acknowledge the killings. Within the broader context, the massacre was a premeditated act that was part of a campaign of terror. The government aimed to destroy the Shining Path guerilla movement’s support base through severe repression and pacification techniques. Sadly, the Cayara Massacre was not an isolated incident of military brutality. Although a criminal investigation and inquiry ensued, the case was eventually dropped. The tragedy has left deep scars on the indigenous community and to this day they are still hurting.
Jul 11, 2016
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