News from Lori's Parents

12 April 2002

In this update:

Rhoda visits Lori

Rhoda had a very enjoyable visit with Lori in Huacariz Prison on March 30 and 31. Although noticeably thinner from her recent 25-day hunger strike, Lori was, however, in extremely good spirits and very glad to learn of President Bush's discussions on her case with President Toledo the previous week in Lima.

Lori condemns terrorist violence

Lori and Rhoda had lengthy discussions about the recent car bombing in Lima, the deteriorating conditions in the Mid-East and in Colombia, and on the continued global campaign against terrorism. Lori sadly reflected on how many innocent lives were lost and families destroyed since she last saw Rhoda in December.

In her response to a question from Perú's Caretas magazine about her reaction to the recent car bombing near the US Embassy in Lima, Lori said: (translation) "That car bombing was horrible, indiscriminant destructive violence against civilians, whose aim is the terrorizing of the population and is a terrible thing that greatly saddens me. Whoever committed such a horrendous act was just looking to make people afraid, and to occupy people's minds in that fear. I wonder who would do that at this point? Who would seek to benefit from the loss of innocent life now?" ( April 4 article with the unflattering title "The Gringa Prisoner.")

Although not published, Lori also said: "I'm saddened by the loss of innocent life and I feel very deeply for all the families of the victims of the car bombings. I am so sad that this kind of violence exists. Who gained by this horrible loss of innocent life? If we don't look to eradicate the causes of various forms of violence in Perú and elsewhere around the world, we won't change anything. The victims will always be innocent, and too many."

New York Observer editorial calls for Lori's freedom

The April 8 editorial from the weekly newspaper The New York Observer urges Lori's release and return home to the U.S. The editorial ends with "New York Senators Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton and Governor George Pataki must apply public pressure to the White House, and do all they can to make sure that a daughter of New York comes home."

Perú's Truth and Reconciliation Commission tries to overcome obstacles

Recent articles from Perú indicate that the work of the Truth and Reconciliation Commission initiated by the Paniagua administration and developed by the Toledo administration has made progress in uncovering two decades of human rights abuses that occurred during three administrations: Belaunde (1980-85), Garcia (1985-90), and Fujimori-Montesinos (1990-2000). To date, horrific stories of atrocities committed by Peruvian military, paramilitary, and police as well as by the Shining Path insurgency have been made public.

An "interesting" phenomenon, reminiscent of Lori's public trial last year, is the limited and selective TV coverage of the public Commission hearings. As Commission members have lamented, the only way there could really be reconciliation in Perú is if the people learn about the past atrocities and their underlying causes. Outside influences and opposition should not be controlling what is and what is not being told to the Peruvian people -- there must be responsible and balanced journalistic reporting. The coverage was not comprehensive or balanced in Lori's trial and neither is it for the Truth and Reconciliation Commission.

From what she has been able to learn, Lori believes that the Commission has been acting admirably and ethically in the face of much opposition. Some members of the resurgent APRA party, fearful of linkages to government-sponsored atrocities in their Garcia administration (1985-90), have been trying to stymie Commission work and force changes in membership. Mr. Garcia is once more very popular in Perú and unquestionably would be re-elected president if elections were held today. Obviously, APRA is worried that severe links to human rights abuse would hurt its public image. In the Toledo administration a "coalition" of parties, including APRA, currently give Mr. Toledo "majority" support on many issues in the Peruvian Congress.

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson