[Ppnews] Lori Berenson Update - December 25, 2007

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Wed Dec 26 08:43:09 EST 2007

December 25, 2007

To All Friends and Supporters of Lori Berenson

Lori Berenson Update and End-of-Year Statement


Mark returned yesterday from his holiday visit with Lori and Rhoda visited
Lori over the Thanksgiving weekend.   Yesterday Lori was completing her
final batch of panetones (traditional holiday fruitcakes) after spending a
grueling six straight weeks of 15-20 hour-days working in the prison bakery
she co-manages.  She and her coworkers produced thousands of these cakes,
along with baking daily supplies of rolls, breads and other pastries.

Lori has now completed 12 years and 1 month of her 20-year sentence.  She is
eligible for parole (conditional liberty) after 15 years.  She remains a
model prisoner.  She has continued to champion prisoner rights and with the
prison director has developed proposals to bring education, health and
re-socialization programs into the prison so that inmates will be better
prepared to contribute to society upon their release.

Lori was also very pleased to learn that many of you had contributed to
Caritas del Peru, the aid agency of Peru’s Catholic Church, as well as other
relief services following our last Lori Update on August 22nd about the
horrific earthquake in the city of Ica and coastal town of Pisco that
brought much devastation and cost over 500 lives.  She was truly saddened to
hear that to date the Peruvian government has apparently acted even less
efficiently and effectively in its assistance to the earthquake victims than
the Bush administration has done in its assistance to victims of Hurricane


On two recent occasions the Peruvian government permitted local media to
interview Lori and others about work programs, including the bakery.  In an
October 22nd  interview Lori expressed that she and others who are able to
work in the Cajamarca prison are fortunate because elsewhere the Peruvian
government has not provided the prison system (INPE) with sufficient funds
to offer education and re-socialization programs. Lori expressed her concern
that many Peruvian prisons are very overcrowded and they simply function as
“human warehouses,” storing prisoners as 
inventory.   Much of the interview,
titled “Breaking the Silence in Cajamarca,” was played on Peruvian TV and
can be viewed by clicking on

On the second occasion, the Peruvian government wanted to show how Lori and
others in the bakery she co-manages have been spending their time preparing
panetones to be sold to the Cajamarca community for the Christmas holiday.
Newspaper articles with color photos of Lori in the bakery can be seen by
clicking on

(“Lori Promotes Panetones She Makes in from Huacariz Prison in Cajamarca” ­
December 7th) and on

(“Lori Sells Panetones from Prison” ­ December 10thh).

The media coverage of Lori baking and being 
interviewed, titled “From Terror to Paneton in
Cajamarca,” was shown on Peruvian TV and can be viewed by clicking on


Lori’s health remains stable.  She wears a back-brace for an early detected
osteoarthritis of the spine and she continues to suffer from circulatory
problems that keep her hands swollen, her feet sometimes numb, and her face
red.  These effects are very obvious from both the recent color photos of
Lori and the TV interviews.  Lori is not sunburned and does not wear makeup.
Her rosy cheeks and face as well as her hands are the result of the
circulatory problems.


During the year, three prominent Peruvians published articles championing
Lori.  Congressman Javier Valle Riestra (a former Prime Minister of Peru),
wrote newspaper articles arguing that Lori should be pardoned because she
was a political pawn abused by ex-President Fujimori, now on trial for human
rights violations. State Prosecutor Diego Ferrar (who visits Lori regularly
in prison) wrote an op-ed article for a local newspaper describing the “real
Lori” the media never reports.  Winston Orrillo (a university professor) has
written articles and sponsored a letter calling for Lori’s release that was
signed by Peruvian and international educators, writers, artists and
activists.  We are extremely grateful to them for providing the Peruvian
public with a different view of Lori.

In closing we want to express how grateful we are for all your concern and
support for Lori and for us over these many years. Let us hope that 2008
will be the year that brings peace to this earth, joy to all of our lives,
and freedom for Lori.

Rhoda and Mark Berenson
English Website:  www.freelori.org  and Spanish Website:  www.lorilibre.org


Penal de Huacariz ­ Cajamarca, Peru
December 2007

Dear friends,

Thank you for your interest and support over the years.  I have been working
many hours in the prison bakery so that time passes more quickly as I wait
out the remaining years of my sentence. There are still many people like
myself, guilty or not of the crimes they are accused of, who are waiting out
the next years, some with very lengthy sentences and parole prohibitions,
who have not stopped dreaming of a more just world.

With the holiday season and the coming of the New Year I try to remember the
most important events of this past year and the things that most surprised

The economic situation for most Peruvians has worsened.  Inflation is high
-- basic food staples such as flour products, oil, rice and milk have risen
50 to 70 percent over last year.  Amidst this economic crisis, Peruvian
President Alan Garcia’s government has taken repressive measures against
teachers, unions, regional opposition leaders, etc. Thus it is refreshing to
still find Peruvian people who have not been maimed by it all, who have not
been overwhelmed by hopelessness.

President Garcia´s administration has remained afloat through the crisis by
using smoke screens like ¨terrorism¨ scares and by “over-publicizing”
government concerns for aiding earthquake victims ­ yet not carryinng out the
necessary measures to make that effective.

Earlier in the year, President Garcia asked for special powers to legislate
on different criminal acts and wound up putting in a few extras that only
demonstrate his fear of any opposition.  Not only have the new laws affected
the parole possibilities of those of us sentenced for terrorism-related
acts, but there is a new law that states that any member of the military or
the Peruvian police who uses a fire arms while on duty cannot be tried for
the consequences of that action. And, as though it were ¨buy one get one
free,¨ President Garcia then added another law that had nothing to do with
the topics he went to legislate on, prohibiting locally and regionally
elected officials from participating in any social protest.

Then, of course, big news this year was the extradition of ex-President
Alberto Fujimori from Chile and the commencement of trials for corruption
and for crimes against humanity.  Let´s see if ¨real justice¨ can prevail in
his cases.  I have my doubts.

The year has drawn to an end with the signing of the trade treaty between
the US and Peru.  I wish it could be mutually beneficial but that is not
possible.  I see this trade treaty as David meeting Goliath without having a
sling shot.  Peru is not on an equal footing with the US due to size,
resources, economic stability, government support of agriculture, etc.  In
Peru local production leads to local consumption but if, say, US potatoes
start flooding the local markets what will happen to the local farmers?

2008 will be a key year to evaluate the outcome of these and other issues.
In spite of the pessimism I express in this letter, I remain optimistic
about social justice prevailing over the long term.

I wish you and your loved ones all the best in 2008.

Lori B.

English Website:  www.freelori.org
Spanish Website:  www.lorilibre.org

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