(above) Professor Burt at the lectern and discussant Anel Townsend. Photo courtesy of Spence Limbocker, Peru (66-68)

New Book on Peru’s Shameful Decade
Gloria Levin (Peru 06-08)

George Mason University Associate Professor Jo-Marie Burt lectured at the GMU campus in Fairfax, VA about Peru’s recent and sad history on April 3, 2008. Interviews she conducted in Lima’s pueblos jovenes informed her ethnographic research for her recently published book, Political Violence and the Authoritarian State in Peru: Silencing Civil Society, (2007, Palgrave Macmillan, $74.95). She discussed the devastating effects on Peruvian civil society by both insurgent violence imposed by terrorist groups and the State’s use of repressive counterinsurgency tactics. A Fulbright Scholar in Lima in 2006 and a consultant to the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission (2002-3), she has written widely on urban Peruvian politics and covers the trial of ex-President Fujimori for http://www.wola.org

The urban poor were caught between the Senderos Luminosos’ efforts to spread revolution to the capital city on the one hand and the Government’s despotism and corruption in the name of fighting terrorism on the other.  “The book illuminates the way societies sacrifice freedom and democracy in the name of fighting terrorism, and how ruling elites manipulate societal fears to perpetuate their power and privilege.”

Anel Townsend, a consultant at the Inter-American Development Bank (Washington, DC) currently, served as a discussant. She was (1995-2006) a progressive member of the Peruvian Congress . She praised the book for documenting the bravery of ordinary Peruvians but worried about remnants of repression in Peru. She observed that Peruvian communities still feel estranged from their legislators and leaders, complaining that they only show interest in the masses when electioneering.  Similarly, the military is still distanced from the populace.  She argued convincingly that the insurgency could have been fought within legal bounds.