News from Lori's Parents
19 February 1998In this update:
- Letters to Lori -- Free Translation Service!
- Lori Grateful for U. N. Visit
- El Niño Hits Perú Hard
- Replacement Judges: Fujimori Can Run Again
- Follow-Up to Congress: Thank You's and Questions
- Closing Remarks
Letters to Lori -- Free Translation Service!
Letter writing to Lori has been simplified! A free translation service can be found at the web site:
Just type in your note in English (don't discuss politics) and press the appropriate key. Your letter will be automatically translated into Spanish! Send your letter to:
NYC, NY 10010
and we will take it directly to the prison. Viva Alta Vista!
Lori Grateful for U. N. Visit
Lori informed U.S. officials she was very grateful to have had the opportunity to discuss her case with an independent body. The U.N. Working Group on Arbitrary Detention visited Lori and other prisoners at Yanamayo on 29 January 1998.
El Niño Hits Perú Hard
The El Niño weather phenomenon which brought such destruction to California these past two weeks and to southern Florida two weekends ago has devastated Perú. Reports indicate at least 200 persons dead in the past six weeks and over 200,000 persons homeless. The city of Lima has experienced very unusual heat, humidity and rainfall -- and the overwhelmingly poor populations there and elsewhere in Perú are ill-equipped and ill-prepared.
Many industries in Perú have been hampered and very serious economic effects are being felt. The town of Puno, which rarely sees temperature climb to 40 degrees Fahrenheit, has been setting temperature records daily over the past two months. Ironically, the unusual warmth has helped maintain Lori's health during this period -- but Lori is aware of the suffering outside the prison walls and wishes she could help.
Unfortunately, our soon to be established Inter-American Human Rights Committee is not yet functioning and unable to provide support for those persons in need. However, if you wish to contribute to their assistance, please contact Catholic Relief Services or Americares.
Replacement Judges: Fujimori Can Run Again
An independent judiciary is the foundation of a civilized country. The rule of law curbs the power of the executive branch, and prevents leaders from becoming tyrants.
Unfortunately, the judicial branch is very weak in Perú. The U. S. State Dept. reports that Perú's judicial system is under the control of the executive branch, particularly Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori. In April 1992, Fujimori seized dictatorial power and abolished the judicial and legislative branches. These institutions have been allowed to return in recent years, but have always been threatened with tanks whenever they crossed President Fujimori (e.g. the La Cantuta cover-up). Fujimori also uses torture and extra-judicial executions to deal with his political enemies.
After the coup, President Fujimori re-wrote the constitution and forced Congress to accept it. However, that Constitution only allows him two terms in office, and now he wants three terms. The Constitutional Committee, the branch of the Peruvian judiciary responsible for the new Constitution, actually denied his request last year. However, Fujimori threw out four of the seven judges on the Committee and replaced them with his own judges. Big surprise: the new Constitutional Committee voted to allow Fujimori three terms in office.
This is all the more offensive because the United States and the World Bank have been giving Perú millions of dollars for judicial reform. Where is this money going? Why are we paying Fujimori to torture his political enemies? Good questions for your Congressional representatives and senators!
Follow-Up to Congress: Thank You's and Questions
On December 5th, letters from 52 Senators and 175 Representatives were delivered to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, urging her to do all in her power to insure immediate justice for Lori. The names of the Senators and Representatives who signed the letters appear on Lori's web site. Also on the web site is a list of email addresses for all senators and representatives. (If accessing the web site is not convenient, send us an email note naming your Congressional Representative and Senators and we will let you know if they had signed).
If your Representative and/or Senator is on the list, please call or write thanking him/her for signing and asking whether or not the Secretary of State has responded and what that response was. (A sample letter is attached.)
If your Representative and/or Senator is not on the list, please call or write asking for him/her to explain why not. (A sample letter is attached.)
Letter of Thanks
Re: Due Process for Lori Berenson
Thank you for signing the letter to Secretary of State Albright, asking her to do all within her power to impress upon the Peruvian government the importance of providing an open and fair proceeding in a civilian court without further delay for Lori Berenson.
Ms. Berenson has suffered for 26 months in an excessively harsh Andean maximum security prison which endangers her health and, therefore, prompt attention to this matter is extremely important.
Please let me know whether or not you have received a response from the Secretary of State and the content of that response.
Re: Due Process for Lori Berenson
I was very disappointed to learn that you were not among the 175 members of the House of Representatives and 55 members of the Senate who signed letters to Secretary of State Albright, asking her to do all within her power to impress upon the Peruvian government the importance of providing an open and fair proceeding in a civilian court without further delay for Lori Berenson, an American citizen, who was sentenced to life in prison by a secret Peruvian military tribunal in violation of international law.
Ms. Berenson was denied a fair public trial by a competent, independent and impartial tribunal, as required by international covenants ratified by Perú. The Peruvian anti-terrorism laws afford no due process and have been strongly criticized by Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch: Americas, The Carter Center for Human Rights, and other human rights organizations. She now has suffered for 26 months in an excessively harsh Andean maximum security prison which endangers her health and allows her extremely limited access to family and legal counsel. She continues to claim her innocence and asks only for a trial that meets international standards of due process.
Several members of Congress have sent their own letters to Secretary of State Albright, asking her to do all within her power to impress upon the Peruvian government the importance of providing Ms. Berenson an open and fair proceeding in a civilian court without further delay. I urge you to do the same. If not, I ask you to explain to me why you do not support due process for Ms. Berenson.
Our hopes and prayers are for peace and justice throughout the world. May the "powers that be" have the judgment and wisdom to do what is right today, tomorrow, and every day.