News from Lori's Parents

28 March 2008

In this update:

Democratic freedoms quashed in Perú: 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 Perú are being trampled and Perú'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, Perú. 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 Perú, 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:

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 Perú 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 Perú is the conservative writer Alberto M. Adrianzen (La Republica, March 15, 2008) who, in his article Disidencias: El macarthismo peruano, argues that Perú 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 Perú 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 Perú. 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 Perú's democracy real.

With faith in a more just and humane world,

Lori Berenson
Cajamarca, Perú

International Human Rights Groups

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

Lloyd Axworthy, Chair
Human Rights Watch: Americas
350 Fifth Avenue – 34th floor
New York, NY 10118
(Tel: 212-290-4700 and Email:

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:

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

Talking points for message to the international human rights community

March 2008

To: _____________________________







Your Name


Your Address or Email Address

- Rhoda and Mark Berenson