Monday, April 3, 2017

Health Professionals Strive to Undo 1980s Damage in Peru

Dr. Antonio Bullon, the medical director of the geriatric and neuropsychiatry treatment unit at MetroWest Medical Center in Massachusetts, is a volunteer psychiatrist at Ayacucho-Peru. As a volunteer, Dr. Antonio Bullon travels to the Peruvian Andes’ small town every six months to train health care staff and visit with patients who experienced the political violence based in Ayacucho in the 1980s.

Ayacucho is the capital of an isolated, poor area. It is best known for the 1980s and 1990s Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) Maoist revolution that sought to take over the government. This movement was based in Ayacucho and led by Professor Abimael Guzman. The revolution was stirred on by the economic problems that worsened ongoing social issues; Alberto Fujimori was the president of Peru during the revolution, and his government policies were founded on human rights abuse, corruption, authoritarian leadership, and bribery.

The poor economy grew even worse after El Nino weather patterns from 1982 through 1983, resulting in flooding, loss of fish, and serious droughts, further strengthening the guerrilla movement. Eventually, Fujimori relinquished the presidency and exiled himself to Japan, effectively sidestepping prosecution for corruption and human rights violations. Between 1980 and 2000, an estimated 69,280 people died or disappeared because of the war. 

Despite the town’s sad history, it has a strong, independent atmosphere. Today, Ayacucho hosts diverse festivals that celebrate the town’s culture and self-sufficiency.