Salvadoran Knew Peru's U.S. Prisoner

Associated Press -- 22 March 2001

by Diego Mendez

SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador - A New York woman on trial for collaborating with leftist guerrillas in Peru earlier aided rebels in El Salvador, a former guerrilla commander said on Thursday.

But Lori Berenson never took part in the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front's military operations, Leonel Gonzalez told The Associated Press.

``Her work was fundamentally in aid and support of me personally,'' said Gonzalez, who is now head of the Front's delegation in El Salvador's congress.

Peruvian prosecutors allege that Berenson, 31, had helped the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement by renting a safehouse used as a base to plan a thwarted attack on Peru's congress.

``She is accused of planning the seizure of congress... That information surprised me because she had no military experience,'' Gonzalez said. ``Here in El Salvador she never had any relationship with our military structures.''

He said she began helping the Salvadoran rebel movement in the late 1980s, working with its office in Washington, D.C. She served as an aide to Gonzalez during meetings in the United States, Mexico and Central America. In 1992, peace accords ended the civil war and Berenson lived for a time in El Salvador.

Gonzalez said her association with the Front ended in 1993.

Gonzalez said the accusations against Berenson were ``unjust'' because ``she was not even trained for all the things she is accused of, nor would she have been in that type of activity.''

Prosecutors in Peru questioned Berenson about her time in El Salvador and neighboring Nicaragua during her second day in court.