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Peru U-turn on war museum funds

6 April 09 15:35 GMT
By Dan Collyns
BBC News, Lima

Peruvian President Alan Garcia has accepted a $2m (£1.4m) German donation for a museum to victims of Peru's civil conflict - weeks after rejecting it.

The about-face came at the request of Peru's most famous author, Mario Vargas Llosa, after he held a private meeting with Mr Garcia.

The president has now asked Mr Vargas Llosa to head up the project.

Some 70,000 people died during the conflict between state forces and Maoist Shining Path guerrillas.

Mr Garcia's decision to reject the donation to build a museum in their memory was harshly criticised.

Mr Vargas Llosa himself described the decision as "intolerant" and "obtuse".

Although the two men were once bitter rivals and political opponents, they now have a cordial relationship.

Mr Vargas Llosa will now head a committee to manage the design and construction of what has become known as the memory museum.

Human rights

Mr Garcia's initial refusal to accept the donation brought into focus his own record on human rights dating back to his first presidency in the late 1980s - one the worst periods in Peru's civil war between state forces and the Shining Path rebels.

A government-appointed truth and reconciliation commission found that he was politically but not criminally responsible for several massacres carried out by the military during that period.

The new decision comes just days before the verdict is expected in the trial of former president Alberto Fujimori for alleged human rights abuses.

Germany originally offered the donation after one of its embassy officials visited a photographic exhibition chronicling the conflict.

This step could be one more towards some kind of national reconciliation in Peru.

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