- Pierina Pighi Bel (@PierinaPighi)
- BBC News World
In an interview at the beginning of May, a journalist asked Pedro Castillo, one of the two candidates who will participate in the second round of the presidential elections in Peru, when he planned to present his technical team.
“I’m not going to expose my technical team. What for? terruqueen, so that they stigmatize them? “, answered Castillo, who will contest the presidency with Keiko Fujimori this Sunday, June 6.
With his reply, the candidate of the leftist Peru Libre party made reference to a very common practice in Peru: the “Terruqueo”.
This consists of accusing someone of “terruco” or what is the same: demonizing those who have ideas similar to the left or progressives, or anyone who questions in any way the the state, hinting that they sympathize with armed groups that operated in Peru, such as the Shining Path.
“It is an unfair practice in a democracy,” says Vicente Ávalos, professor of Political Science at the Universidad del Pacífico (UP), in conversation with BBC Mundo.
But where does the word “terruco” come from and why is its use questioned?
Origin of the word
In the 1980s, Peru was mired in the bloody war that the Shining Path (SL) and the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) unleashed against the Peruvian state to take power by armed means. The confrontation may have left around 69,000 dead or missing, according to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission (CVR).
Captured members of these subversive groups were convicted of “terrorism”.
In the years of the internal conflict, it is possible that the terrorist adjective acquired the ending “uco”, to become “terruco”, as a result of a process of “quechuization”, as the Peruvian historian Carlos Aguire pointed out in an essay, since “It is common among Quechua speakers to ‘Quechuize’ words by changing their ending to ‘uco'”.
“Terruco”, then, became a colloquial word for “terrorist” since the 1980s..
The oldest records of the use of the term “terruco” date from 1983 in Ayacucho, the southern highlands region of Peru where the Shining Path began to operate, says Aguirre.
Therefore, at that time, the word “terruco” was not only used to refer to terrorists. It also acquired a racist connotation, to denounce people with indigenous characteristics or from Ayacucho or the Andes in general, due to the stigma that weighed on the inhabitants of the sierra, of being suspected of “terrorism.”
The Ayacuchanos were called “terrucos” even by their friends, Aguirre details in his essay published in 2011 in the Historical magazine of the Pontificia Universidad Católica del Perú (PUCP).
Over time, the use of the word expanded. Throughout the internal conflict, “the use of the term ‘terrorist’ to discredit political opponents was constant,” Aguirre writes.
In the 1990s, the term “terruco” was used to refer to critics of then-president Alberto Fujimori, who presented as one of his achievements the capture of the founder and leader of the Shining Path, Abimael Guzmán, which occurred in 1992.
Once their government ended, in the 2000s, the Fujimori used the nickname “terruco” to disqualify anyone who was in favor of the sentences that Fujimori received, today a prisoner for human rights violations.
But in addition, “a certain Peruvian majority right created an association between the term ‘terrorist’ and criticisms of the economic model implemented in the 1990s,” Peruvian political scientist Daniel Encinas tells BBC Mundo.
“Any economic or political criticism was associated with a closeness to terrorism when many times it is not true, there is no such closeness or apology,” says Encinas.
This association was due in part to fear and in part to a “strategy of manipulation of the legacy of political violence,” says the analyst.
Since this connection was born, terruqueo is used every time Peru is immersed in intense political debates or in moments when the population becomes polarized, as in the current presidential elections.
How do you use terrocking now?
In the current presidential campaign, for example, Daniel Urresti, one of the candidates from the first round, killed the leftist candidate Verónika Mendoza. In an advertisement he referred to her as “Terrónika”.
Looking ahead to the second round, Keiko Fujimori referred to the possibility of destroying his rival Pedro Castillo, who is from the left. “It would be easier to attack, to confront. But I tell you clearly, Mr. Castillo: I am not going to terrify nobody, this is going to be a debate of ideas, “Fujimori said in April.
However, some analysts believe that Fujimori’s supporters have indeed ruined Castillo and his followers.
“Everything that is seen close to the left is automatically called a terrorist by some people, as a way of imposing fear on the debate of ideas. We saw it with Ollanta Humala,” says Encinas.
But the terruqueo no longer is directed only against the sympathizers of the left.
Against the moderate right too
“It has reached a point where people from a more moderate right are also being ruined, who are not part of the more conservative right that has prevailed in Peru, who can think about certain reforms of the economic model, with some more progressive ideas “says Encinas.
For example, in recent campaigns, certain people referred to the center-right Purple Party as “Moradef”, alluding to the Movadef (Movement for Amnesty and Fundamental Rights), which is calling for the release of the imprisoned Senderistas.
“Anyone who wants to think about the common good, who has more progressive ideas, who protests, who uses his right to criticism, is associated with terrorism,” says Encinas.
For Ávalos, from the UP, terruqueo also “is a strategy to invalidate anyone who questions the current economic model, the the state, or the prevailing values of a fairly traditional society. “
They also kill “human rights defenders, relatives of victims of political violence, activists and members of NGOs, and people of indigenous origin in general,” Carlos Aguirre details in his essay.
But not only people are “terruquea”. Songs, monuments, organizations, marches, protests, museums, art exhibitions u theater plays.
What problems does it cause?
The analysts with whom BBC Mundo spoke believe that terruqueo is a problem for democracy because it suppresses the debate of ideas, plurality, and because it prevents people from talking about what happened during the internal conflict.
These effects, they point out, contribute to polarization and intolerance.
In addition, according to them, terruqueo denies legitimacy to political rivals and the demands of some people.
“It is unfair to link these people with the past of violence of the Shining Path, of which they have probably been victims,” says Ávalos, of the UP. “This can generate resentment, that more anti-system options arise, because sectors with certain demands feel attacked.”
But it gets so screwed up that this practice has no longer caused the fear it was intended to cause.
Because of the widespread terruqueo, “the discussion of the current problem of terrorism ends up losing importance”, laments Encinas.
In addition, according to him, it prevents having a common agenda to deal with problems such as the remnants of the Shining Path in the Valley of the Apurímac, Ene and Mantaro Rivers (Vraem), which were blamed for the massacre of 16 people on the 23rd of December. May.
It also “prevents discussing the problems surrounding Castillo’s candidacy, such as his party’s congressman Guillermo Bermejo, who is being investigated for possible affiliation with terrorism,” Encinas adds.
So many people are terruquea, from so many specters, that when something really worrisome appears “it no longer works, it is already part of the same thing.”
“An issue that caused the death and disappearance of many Peruvians is trivialized, and that may try to infiltrate political life,” Encinas warns, “so you have to be very careful.”
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Eddie is an Australian news reporter with over 9 years in the industry and has published on Forbes and tech crunch.