Butcher of the Andes

A Peruvian soldier slaughters dozens, gets away with it, and heads for the subtropics

Pressed further, he responds in the gentle, slow tone of a kindergarten teacher: "My family is tired of all this. For many years we have lived with this persecution ... always. Luckily the justice of the United States was fair to my brother.... We came to this country for a reason."

He declines to elaborate and squats down to pick up the dog, which licks his lips. He kindly thanks the visitor and says goodbye before turning to re-enter the apartment and closing the door.

Public records indicate Esperanza Hurtado was here long before Samuel and Telmo. She left Peru to escape death threats made on the family, but lost an asylum bid and ignored a deportation order, the Miami Herald reported. Her Florida driver's license was issued in April 1996. Four months later, police busted her for stuffing $164 worth of clothing into a shopping bag and fleeing the JC Penney store at Aventura Mall.

Telmo Ricardo Hurtado, who lived in Miami Beach for nearly five years, was a patrol leader during the 1985 massacre of dozens
Asociación Para El Desarrollo Humano “Runamasinchiqpaq” (ADEHR)
Telmo Ricardo Hurtado, who lived in Miami Beach for nearly five years, was a patrol leader during the 1985 massacre of dozens
The massacre took place in the lush, isolated valley of Quebrada de Huancayoc
Asociación Para El Desarrollo Humano “Runamasinchiqpaq” (ADEHR)
The massacre took place in the lush, isolated valley of Quebrada de Huancayoc

She applied for a public defender, claiming no income or savings, but then didn't show up for a court date. Authorities issued a warrant for her arrest but never followed up.

By 1999 Samuel had settled here and obtained a driver's license. A few years later, he moved into a building at 7445 Harding Ave. and lived quietly. His brother would join him. Despite his gory — and confirmed — record as a murderer, Telmo was granted a visa to the United States and entered the country three days after Christmas 2002.

Not long after Telmo arrived, the landlord sued Samuel for eviction when he didn't pay the $750 rent. But Samuel left before law enforcement could boot him. Telmo acquired a Florida driver's license about the same time as the eviction, and the brothers shared a silver 2000 Isuzu Rodeo. It's unclear exactly when the family moved to 7340 Harding Ave., but records link Telmo to the spot in 2004. The building sits less than a block from a bank of 12 tennis courts at North Shore Park, two blocks from the beach, and a walk from two bakeries, a Venezuelan bar with busty barmaids, and even a Peruvian restaurant with an ample seafood menu. Telmo liked to jog and sometimes hit the gym.

Not only did the U.S. government allow Telmo Hurtado to enjoy this lifestyle of leisure — apparently without learning of his past — but also, even after authorities were told of the atrocities, they did nothing. In March 2006, a Peruvian judge ordered Telmo detained after Interpol located him in the United States. The Peruvians demanded the butcher back. Seven months later, John Beasley, an attorney with the criminal division of the U.S. Department of Justice sent a fax requesting more information. (Beasley couldn't be reached for comment on why he didn't act more quickly.) More faxes followed, but Telmo continued to walk free in Miami Beach.

Finally, this past March, immigration agents discovered Telmo had lied on a visa application. Asked whether he'd ever been arrested or convicted, he answered no. On March 30, immigration agents backed by a SWAT team and Miami Beach Police rushed the second-floor apartment.

Reports and anonymous sources give this account: Authorities entered the place based on the 11-year-old warrant for Esperanza's arrest. Samuel initially lied, telling agents Telmo lived elsewhere. When they discovered the killer hiding in the bathroom, Samuel claimed it wasn't his brother. Then he attempted to block the search for Telmo's passport and was handcuffed. Soon they were all in custody.

On May 24, Telmo, his head shaved, pleaded guilty to making a false statement to the U.S. government and visa fraud. He was sentenced June 29 to six months in prison. Commented U.S. District Court Judge Joan Lenard: "The doors to the United States are not open to [foreign torture suspects]."

Cirila Pulido Baldeón was 12 years old the day of the Accomarca massacre. Her family lived apart from the home where the killings took place. But Cirila recalls seeing her 29-year-old mother, Fortuna Baldeón Gutiérrez, wrap eight-month-old Edgar in a blanket, much like Teófila's mother, Silvestra, had swaddled her baby. Then they set off to visit family in the valley. Cirila's father was there too. He would, however, escape the bullets and fire by playing dead, says Cirila, who is now 34 years old and lives near Teófila Ochoa, now age 35, in Lima's outskirts. (The women are friends and work as maids.)

Cirila, Teófila, and her grandfather were among 20 survivors who returned to the scene after the killings to bury the victims. They sorted through the remains of loved ones and neighbors that were unidentifiable. "Their faces were gone," Cirila says. "There was nothing left to recognize them." Campesinos dug two big holes, buried the remains, and scurried back to their hiding places.

Last month a San Francisco human rights group, the Center for Justice and Accountability (CJA), sued Telmo Hurtado on behalf of Cirila and Teófila. The suit filed in U.S. District Court in Miami accuses him of torture, war crimes, and crimes against humanity. It seeks monetary damages for suffering. (CJA also sued the other Accomarca patrol leader, Rivera Rondón, who was recently picked up in Maryland.)

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