[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 Perus
behavior towards those who protest seem to be
modeled after China, Vargas Llosa absurdly heaps
praise on Peruvian President Alan Garcias 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 Loris legitimacy and use this as an excuse to remain silent.
A list of addresses and phone numbers for various
human rights organizations appears after Loris
letter, along with a suggested list of talking points.
A LETTER FROM LORI
March 21, 2008
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 Garcias 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, Perus 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 Perus
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 Perus
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 cant 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 Perus democracy real.
With faith in a more just and humane world,
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
Washington, DC 20009
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
Washington, DC 20036
(Tel.: 202-223-4975 and Email: larry.birns at gmail.com)
TALKING POINTS FOR MESSAGE
TO THE INTERNATIONAL HUMAN RIGHTS COMMUNITY
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.
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.
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.
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.
Your Address or Email Address
English Website: www.freelori.org
Spanish Website: www.lorilibre.org
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
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