Forensic teams have begun the long-delayed exhumation of members of an Amazon tribe that suffered devastating losses during Peru's 1980-2000 conflict with Shining Path rebels.
The first body, unearthed over the weekend, wore the standard ochre robe of the Ashaninka tribe, said Ivan Rivasplata, leader of the forensic anthropologists from the Peruvian prosecutor's office engaged in the mission with army escorts.
He said in Lima that the team hoped to exhume about 130 bodies from five common graves in two communities in the Apurimac, Ene and Mantaro river valleys, where remnants of the Shining Path continue to exert influence, living off a vibrant cocaine trade.
Some 6,000 Ashaninka were killed, 5,000 enslaved and 10,000 forcibly displaced by the Shining Path during the conflict, according to a government-convened truth commission, which reported that 30 communities had disappeared. The entire ethnic group numbers only about 97,000, according to Peru's 2007 census.
The Ashaninka, a hunter-gatherer people, live primarily in an area where jungle meets mountain. It was there that the Shining Path tried to forge the cradle of a new, Maoist-inspired state. Most fiercely resisted the rebels. One Ashaninka survivor, Miguel Pachacamac, said in video taken by the forensic team that rebels did not even bother to bury the natives they killed. "They left them for the vultures."
The long valley where the Ashaninka live is the world's top cocaine-producing region and only in the past few years have authorities begun venturing into its backwaters to exhume victims of a conflict that claimed an estimated 70,000 lives.