[Ppnews] Lori Berenson Update from Peru March 28

Political Prisoner News ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Mon Mar 31 10:57:04 EDT 2008


March 28, 2008

To Friends and Supporters of Lori Berenson

DEMOCRATIC FREEDOMS QUASHED IN PERU:  A CALL TO ACTION

Today, in the mainstream Peruvian newspaper El 
Comercio the great Peruvian writer Mario Vargas 
Llosa demonstrates that even a novelist of his 
stature can easily confound fact and 
fiction.  Incredibly, at a moment when democratic 
freedoms in Peru are being trampled and Peru’s 
behavior towards those who protest seem to be 
modeled after China, Vargas Llosa absurdly heaps 
praise on Peruvian President Alan Garcia’s first 
twenty months in office.  Perhaps because he is 
in Argentina Vargas Llosa is not in tune with the 
sad realities that have occurred in his country.

Last weekend Mark visited Lori in Huacariz Prison 
located in the poor, rural city of Cajamarca, 
Peru.  Not since the first year of this 
millennium, when the Fujimori dictatorship fell 
from power, have democratic principles been so 
disregarded.  Only a handful of journalists and 
political analysts have even mentioned this. 
Inexplicably, the Peruvian human rights and 
religious communities have also been 
silent.  Only one international human rights 
organization, Rights Action (March 23) has 
alerted the public about the ongoing problems.

In a letter to you below that Lori wrote on March 
21 based on Peruvian news reports, she asks for 
your help in notifying international human rights 
organizations to pressure the Peruvian human 
rights community to not remain silent any longer 
and to stand up for the preservation of democratic freedoms.

All the information Lori has provided in her 
letter is taken from the Peruvian press, the 
Peruvian radio and other sources that can easily 
be referenced.  However, when you contact any 
international human rights organization it would 
be better to acknowledge Rights Action as the 
source since the Peruvian human rights community 
might question Lori’s legitimacy and use this as an excuse to remain silent.

A list of addresses and phone numbers for various 
human rights organizations appears after Lori’s 
letter, along with a suggested list of “talking points.”

A LETTER FROM LORI

March 21, 2008

Dear Friends,

Greetings from northern Peru, hoping all is well 
with you and your loved ones and thanking you for 
your continued interest in my situation.

Since his inauguration in July 2006, I have felt 
incredible frustration observing Peruvian 
President Alan Garcia’s management of the 
country.  It is very hard to realize what is 
happening unless you “see through” the day-to-day 
insidious manipulation of public opinion that is 
unleashed in a rather “special” way since the 
Garcia administration is largely backed by all of 
the major media entities (i.e., newspapers, 
magazines, radio and television stations).

However, negative events have indeed been 
happening, from increasingly serious inflation to 
new witch hunts that the population is not 
supposed to realize are actually occurring 
because of government smoke screens.   Rather, in 
this period of increasing social unrest, for 
diverse reasons the Garcia administration is 
trying to remind people of the “bullets and 
bombs” in the days of intense political violence 
that occurred in the late 1980s and early 1990s 
in order to justify that there must be unity in 
the country and that nobody has the right to 
think differently from the official government 
positions.  Dissent and political opposition are 
viewed not as normal expressions of the 
democratic process but rather as treasonous and 
terrorist tactics intended to destabilize the country.

Some examples detailing what has been happening follow:

•       Several months ago, new legislation by 
executive decree was passed that increases the 
lengths of sentences given for supposed crimes 
committed by those who dare to protest. In 
addition, Peru’s armed forces and police were 
given impunity for any deaths they may cause 
during their actions while on duty, including while quelling protests.
•       A few weeks ago, four agrarian protesters 
were shot dead.  Last week, seven protesters in 
Junin were wounded and the commanding general of 
that region blamed the incident on terrorist 
group infiltration, a statement vigorously denied by the protest organizers.
•       In late February several people were 
detained and warrants for the detention of others 
were issued because they are alleged to belong to 
a leftist political organization (Coordinadora 
Continental Bolivariana) that exists throughout 
Latin America and that does not carry out illicit 
activities in Peru or anywhere else, whatever 
ideological affiliation it may have.
•       Perhaps not unrelated, yet a third 
congressional commission has now been formed to 
investigate the Casas del Alba, an NGO with a 
link to Venezuela that exists throughout Peru. 
This NGO is an organization that offers social 
programs such as medical assistance to Peru’s 
poor.  But ever since the presidential campaign 
in 2006 in which Hugo Chavez supported opposition 
leader Ollanta Humala, the Venezuelan president 
has been painted by the Garcia administration as 
the most evil force in the Western Hemisphere. 
This NGO is also accused of promoting 
“ideological interventions of Peru’s 
sovereignty,” among other peculiar depictions.
•       On and off, there have been media 
campaigns demanding the publication of a list of 
all ex-detainees and all ex-prisoners who had 
been jailed for terrorism.  This latter list 
would violate a constitutional principle that 
incarceration is a form of 
rehabilitation.  (Theoretically, once a sentence 
is served the person can no longer be seen as different from anyone else).
•       A widely watched TV program dedicated a 
special report (obviously, with government 
intelligence information) to denounce the fact 
that ex-political prisoners were working together 
in legally constituted enterprises as though that 
were a crime.  Clearly, the intent was to 
convince the Peruvian public that this is a crime.
•       Narco-trafficking incidents are reported 
regularly but are always identified with the 
overly-abused word “terrorism” ­ connecting these 
to so-called terrorist groups.

 From the very first days of the Garcia 
administration one could sense the possibility of 
political persecution of key opposition.  Now the 
narrowly defeated presidential candidate Ollanta 
Humala is about to be put on trial ­ and many 
believe this is retribution. And there are 
reports indicating that Hernan Fuentes, the 
democratically elected President of the Region of 
Puno, is seeking political asylum because the 
Garcia administration is threatening his removal 
from office and charging him with treason or 
sedition for his suggestion that his very poor 
and under-supported region be granted autonomy.

It seems that the Garcia administration fears 
that people may hold different political views 
from those that it espouses.  With all the events 
reported above, any reference to Peru as a 
currently participatory democracy must be viewed as highly questionable.

It is indeed ironic that one of the only persons 
to call attention to “democratic malpractice” in 
Peru is the conservative writer Alberto M. 
Adrianzen (La Republica, March 15, 2008) who, in 
his article “Disidencias: El macarthismo 
peruano,” argues that Peru is becoming a 
“McCarthy-type state” ­ referring to the United States in the early 1950s.

Unaccountably, the Peruvian human rights 
community has remained silent on these abuses of 
the democratic process.  I would like to ask 
those of you who associate with human rights 
organizations recognized on an international 
level to express these concerns and ask your 
organizations to urge their counterparts in Peru 
such as La Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos 
Humanos, the Defensoria del Pueblo, and the 
Instituto de Defensa Legal (IDL) to speak 
out.  This needs to be debated on a national 
level, it can’t just be the concerns expressed by 
someone like me who is considered to be a 
“terrorist,” because these are dangerous abuses 
that affect the well-being of a democratic society.

Witch hunts are not intended to be part of a 
democratic process and the right to disagree, the 
right to dissent, the right to have whatever 
ideology, the right to assemble and the right to 
protest are intrinsic to any real democracy ­ but 
these rights have become largely prohibited here 
in Peru.  People should not continue to be 
detained, punished or even killed for exercising their democratic rights.

I thank you for your support and feel united with 
you in the search for a more just world.  I will 
greatly appreciate anything that can be done to make Peru’s democracy real.

With faith in a more just and humane world,

Lori Berenson
Cajamarca, Peru


INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS GROUPS

Ellen Dorsey, Chair
Amnesty International USA
5 Penn Plaza
New York, NY 10001
(Tel.: 212-807-8400 and Email: aimember at aiusa.org)

Lloyd Axworthy, Chair
Human Rights Watch: Americas
350 Fifth Avenue ­ 34th floor
New York, NY 10118
(Tel: 212-290-4700 and Email: hrwnyc at hrw.org)

Joy Olson, Executive Director
WOLA ­ Washington Office on Latin America
1630 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Suite 200
Washington, DC 20009
(Tel: 202-797-2171)

Lisa Haugaard, Executive Director
LAWG ­ Latin American Working Group
124 C Street, NE
Washington, DC 20002
(Tel.:  202-546-7010 and Email:  lisah at lawg.org)

Larry Birns, Director
COHA ­ Council on Hemispheric Affairs
1250 Connecticut Avenue, NW
Suite 1C
Washington, DC 20036
(Tel.:  202-223-4975 and Email:  larry.birns at gmail.com)


TALKING POINTS FOR MESSAGE
TO THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMUNITY

March 2008

To: _____________________________

BACKGROUND
•       Alan Garcia is the democratically elected president of Peru.
•       The Peruvian media is filled with 
articles that indicate serious breeches of 
democratic practice by the Garcia administration.
•       The Peruvian human rights community has 
remained inexplicably silent.
EXAMPLES
•       People have been shot, ands some killed, 
by both military and police for protesting.
•       Military and police have been given 
impunity for lethal actions while on duty.
•       People have been arrested for their 
ideological beliefs without having committed any crimes.
•       Ex-political prisoners are being harassed.
•       The right to protest is not being tolerated.
ACTION
•       Request that your human rights 
organization contact its Peruvian counterparts 
and urge them to speak out against further 
erosion of democratic rights in that country.
EMPHASIS
•       People should not be persecuted for their political views.
•       People should not be detained, jailed or 
even killed because they exercise their right to protest.
•       People should enjoy the right to speak, 
to dissent, to have a political ideology, to 
assemble and to protest in a country that practices democracy.

Sincerely,

_________________________
Your Name
_________________________
Your Address or Email Address




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