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Massacre Victims Finally Win: $37 Million

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A few weeks ago, I met Teófila Ochoa and Cirila Pulido for breakfast in Miami. The women had made their first trip from Peru to testify in a trial of Telmo Hurtado, a Peruvian army major who led a 1985 massacre near their village that killed nearly 70 innocents. The slaughter included Ochoa's mother and five siblings and Pulido's mother and brother.

Now in their thirties, the women work as maids in Lima.

Maybe brushing five feet tall, the pair with dark hair and eyes giggled at my blond hair and blue eyes. They effusively thanked me for the story about them in the New Times in August. We took pictures. They said I'd always be in their hearts and I had friends in Peru. They told me justice would arrive soon. Though I'm not sure how much I believe in that word, I really wanted to. Hurtado, who sneaked into the United States in 2002, has escaped real punishment.

This week, Federal District Court Judge Adalberto Jordan

in Miami ordered Hurtado to pay the women $37 million in damages. Hurtado, who is in federal custody for immigration fraud and awaiting deportation hearings, doesn't likely have that kind of cash. But the women care less about the money and more about the justice.

"The hope is that he'll be deported and face prosecution in Peru," says Moira Feeney, a lawyer with The Center for Justice & Accountability, the San Francisco-based human rights group that brought the civil lawsuit on their behalf. "In these cases, it's actually hard to collect. It's really the justice side that's the priority for the client."

Teófila and Cirila were right. And I'm glad to believe them.

-- Janine Zeitlin

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