The ultra-conservative mayor of Lima has closed a museum dedicated to tolerance amid an ideological struggle over how to remember Peru’s violent history.
The museum, known as the Place of Memory, Tolerance and Social Inclusion (Lum), was opened in 2015 to commemorate the thousands of people who died in the brutal clashes between government and guerrilla forces during the 1980s and 1990s. Visitors were encouraged to use the space as a forum to better understand the conflict and mend lingering animosities.
Lum was managed by Peru’s Ministry of Culture, and has welcomed some 60,000 visitors a year.
Lima’s conservative mayor, Rafael López Aliaga, has in recent years led an aggressive campaign of misinformation around the atrocities that is gaining traction in Peru, to the alarm of human rights activists. He and his followers have vehemently denied the mass killing committed by both the Peruvian military and the Maoist guerrilla group Shining Path. The city government stated that the museum’s abrupt closure was the consequence of its failure to meet municipal safety standards.
López Aliaga, a member of the conservative Catholic group Opus Dei and a founder of the far-right National Renovation party, has vocally denounced the museum since its opening. He has called it an “offense to the nation” that peddles a “false narrative” of the war, which claimed more than 70,000 people, according to Peru’s truth and reconciliation commission. It is the bloodiest conflict in modern Peruvian history. The museum was in the municipality of Miraflores, a region managed by a member of López Aliaga’s political party.
The announcement of Lum’s closure came on the same day that Amnesty International was set to present at the museum on a damning investigation into the repeated use of “excessive and lethal force” by police against civilian protestors. Peru has been mired in political turmoil since last December, when former president Pedro Castillo staged a coup after failing to dissolve Peru’s congress.
“Historical memory is a fundamental value of all democracies,” the European Union in Peru tweeted last week, praising the museum as a place where citizens could “inform themselves and reflect on what Peru suffered, so that it will never be repeated.”