News from Lori's Parents

15 July 2005

In this update:

Visit With Lori

July began with a visit by Lori's uncle Ken who accompanied Mark to Cajamarca. It was Ken's first visit to Perú since Lori's trial in April 2001. Lori celebrated the occasion by baking a belated father's day all-chocolate cake in a heart shape which she decorated with the words "Yo amo Tio Ken y Dad."

The visit with Lori was wonderful - she was in very good spirits and really excited to see her uncle after all these years. Mark and Ken spent time with Lori in the bakery where she works daily and also in the yard. Winter has arrived in Perú and, despite a very sunny day, it became quite cold in the late afternoon. They spent many hours reminiscing.

Lori Sends Greetings From Perú

Lori gave Mark and Ken the following letter to update you on what is going on in Perú and neighboring countries. She refers to corruption in Perú that has been front-page news for several weeks. To put her comments in context, it must be mentioned that the Peruvian Congress had passed a law, now rescinded, enabling those awaiting trials or sentencing for other than terrorism-related charges to serve their time under house arrest instead of spending that time under harsh prison conditions. In addition, despite Perú joining the US in the global war on terrorism and on narco-trafficking and despite Perú recently being authorized to receive over $100 million dollars from the US Congress to fight drugs, President Toledo recently decided to commute the six-year eight-month sentence of a young woman after she had served only one year following her conviction for drug trafficking - trying to leave Perú with 10 pounds of cocaine. President Toledo then gave this young woman a humanitarian release. She happens to be the daughter of an ambassador from a country allied with Perú.

July 1, 2005

Dear friends,

Thank you so much for your continued interest in my situation here in Perú.

Since the years are most certainly passing by, the certain monotony of prison life is not really that fundamental an issue, albeit everything you can see in jails and the judicial system (abuses, injustices) is a mere reflection of how the society is doing in general.

These have been times of turmoil - massive protests in neighboring Latin-American countries Ecuador and Bolivia. The ruling classes of each of these countries found a way to temporarily calm the situations through the calling of new elections, putting in transitional governments. However, the real social demands, which had more to do with social and economic policies, weren't touched at all; thus the time-bomb keeps ticking away.

In Perú, although there have continued to be a lot of protests by certain sectors (including important mobilizations against foreign-owned mining companies), there has been no national movement to oust the present government, perhaps since no one thinks its replacement would do anything differently. However, things are not going well. The economic and political crisis is quite serious; the percentage of Peruvians that don't have stable, formal employment is well over 50% of the economically active population. Corruption scandals of this and former governments continue to come to light. Polls show that people have little or no faith in the political class.

As I said earlier, jails mirror society. Constructed and constricted with a limited budget, they've been converted into warehouses that house humans. The judicial system does not treat equally. There's a huge backlog and the courts are overwhelmed with cases. That is reflected in jails which are filled with people who are "unsentenced." The laws that govern the processes are established by political conveniences; thus there are those who are practically denied prison benefits while new laws are equalizing house arrest with time served in jail, which only benefit the corrupt. There are apparently special considerations given in the reducing of sentences through presidential "humanitarian" decrees. However, I doubt they are truly humanitarian, they appear to be mere and pure politics. Where was "humanity" when the government doesn't pardon the terminally ill? Or when it refuses to look at completely disproportionate sentences? It's not "humanity," it's political interests.

This is reality here and in many places. I much doubt it will change for the better if society doesn't change in a big way, but these are all part of social processes that move on their own time lines.

I am again grateful for your continued interest in this situation over the years. It's a big help for me and my family.


Lori Berenson
Huacariz Prison
Cajamarca, Perú

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson