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In Peru, an apology for wartime abuses

LIMA -- The country's president apologized for the 70,000 deaths from the 20-year battle with the Shining Path insurgency, and promised to punish officers whom a scathing report blamed for many of the worst abuses.

Alejandro Toledo announced the government would spend $800 million in the next 2 1/2 years on public works in the areas hurt most by the fighting from 1980 to 2000. But he didn't offer individual reparations that victims and human rights groups had sought.

The apology -- Toledo's first about the insurgency -- came three months after the government-appointed Truth and Reconciliation Commission issued a nine-volume report that said 70,000 people had died, and that military officers responsible for many of those deaths committed massive human rights abuses.

"In the name of the state, I apologize to all who suffered from the deaths, the disappearances . . . to all the victims of violence and terror," Toledo said in a prerecorded national address broadcast late Friday night.

Toledo promised to incorporate the commission's key findings into school textbooks and declared Dec. 10 "National Reconciliation Day."

He also said that the attorney general's office and the judiciary will bring to justice those in the security forces who committed "painful excesses" while cracking down on the Shining Path.

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission's report said the conflict was exacerbated by deep racism and a misunderstanding of the highland Indians who comprised most of the victims.

The army was unfamiliar with the Shining Path's strategy and suspicious that many highland villages -- where Spanish was a second language -- supported the guerrillas. Both sides attacked villages, killing unarmed men, women, and children.

Commission members hope the report will force Peruvians to deal with a dark chapter in their history that many have tried to ignore. Conservative politicians and several retired army generals have criticized the commission for digging up the past.

The commission had called for reparations to individuals and communities that suffered.

Toledo said the "Peace and Development Plan" would improve health, education, electrification, and telecommunications.

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