News from Lori's Parents
15 December 1996In this update:
- Visit to Lori on December 7th
- Congressman Bill Richardson Offers Continued Help
- Immediate Calls for Action
- Sample Letter
Visit to Lori on December 7th
We have just returned from visiting Lori at Yanamayo Prison in Perú. This was our first visit after not seeing or speaking with her for a year and the experience is upsetting. The visit lasted but 30 minutes. We were separated by two screens which allowed us to see each other but not touch. It was very cold there, even though summer is but two weeks away. As had been reported, Lori suffers circulation problems which have resulted in swollen, deformed fingers, dizzy spells, digestive difficulties resulting in weight loss, and chronic sore throat and laryngitis. Although her mind is clear and her spirit remains strong, we noticed definite signs of anxiety which we attribute to the continuous psychological harassment Lori faces. In addition, the 30-minute limitation made the visit very tense. Nevertheless, Lori made a point of asking us to thank all of you for your support for her and for us.
Lori continued to profess her innocence and her desire for a fair trial in an open Peruvian court to clear her name and bolster human rights in Perú. However, if the Peruvian government is not inclined to provide such due process, Lori believes she should be given a pardon. We worry that continued incarceration will result in permanent health damage. Although suggestions have been made that Lori utilize the existing treaty between the two countries to transfer to a U.S. prison, that is not a viable option since it would automatically result in a long prison term here without any rights to challenge the lack of due process in Perú.
Congressman Bill Richardson Offers Continued Help
In August, Representative Bill Richardson of New Mexico, acting as a special envoy of President Clinton, traveled to Lima and met with Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and other top governmental officials. A discussion of Lori's case was one of several items on his agenda. Both governments have taken the position that Lori's case is truly a thorn in the side of Peruvian and American relations. On December 12th, in an interview in the Washington Post, Representative Richardson said that "he hopes he won't have to curb his activities if he's named to a top administrative post. Future assignments include Lori Berenson, a New Yorker held in Perú." On December 13th, Representative Richardson was nominated to become the United States Ambassador to the United Nations.
We are very pleased that Representative Richardson will continue to help. Nevertheless, given Lori's deteriorating health, we must apply all means of pressure immediately.
Immediate Calls for Action
- Given the recent media coverage of our visit, it is important to keep Lori's story alive. If any of you have contacts in the media or wish to write Op-Ed articles, please let us know.
- If you have not yet written to President Clinton, please do so now to emphasize the urgency for his intervention, given Lori's deteriorating health.
- We have been told that Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato who has earned a reputation for his tenacity and strength could impress on Perú the need for an immediate resolution to Lori's situation. Please contact Senator D'Amato immediately by phone at 1-800-972-3524 or at 1-202-224-6542 or by mail (A sample letter follows).
Again, thanks to all for your support.
Sample LetterDate: The Honorable Senator Alfonse M. D'Amato
United States Senate
520 Senate Hart Building
Washington, D.C. 20510
Dear Senator D'Amato:
The parents of your constituent Lori Berenson have just returned from visiting her in the harsh Yanamayo prison in Puno, Perú, following a one-year moratorium on visits.
Ms. Berenson has spent the past eleven months under a "special regimen" designed to promote a slow death. The temperature indoors, where she spends 23.5 hours per day in a small, concrete cell, is always below 40 degrees Fahrenheit and reaches as low as 0 degrees. There is no heat or running water. Food and water (for drinking and washing) are insufficient. Medical services are vastly inadequate. Ms. Berenson suffers from altitude-related problems -- swollen, purple, and cut fingers along with circulatory and digestive problems and dizzy spells. In addition, she suffers from chronic sore throat and laryngitis.
In June, Ms. Berenson wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress claiming her innocence and asking for help in obtaining a fair trial in a civilian court. To date, Perú has ignored all U.S. government requests for such a trial, including those made by yourself and your colleagues.
Knowing the reputation you have earned for your tenacity and your concern for the well being of your constituents, and, given Ms. Berenson's deteriorating physical condition, I urge you to make strong appeal to quickly resolve her situation.