In Defense of Lori Berenson

Liberación -- 28 May 2001

by Winston Orrillo

Winston Orrillo is a Peruvian poet and a professor at Lima's San Marcos University.

Translated by Marie J. Manrique, Rights Action.

Perhaps when this column is published, she will have been convicted. But this does not exempt the journalist, the man, the intellectual from pronouncing, emitting his independent opinion, and most of all if allowed to do so. (The latter cannot always be done in an abusive country labeled 'free' like ours: Peru of my heart, Peru of the orbit of 'I adhere,' as Cesar Vallejo would write.)

With a mix of horror and disgust, I have watched the developments of the histrionic Peruvian justice system. If something has not substantially changed, it is the Peruvian legal apparatus, sustained in venality, in blackmail and in the abrasive love for the arriviste.

We know that there are upstanding judges (the majority of them lie in graves or suspiciously were 'changed' when they undertook vigorous investigations that could prejudice the bosses of yesteryear or nowadays).

Franz Kafka, the dear tuberculosed man from between the wars, fell short in his vivisection of this dungheap of the social environment called Judicial Power.

We have seen the very young and upright Lori Berenson (US rebel accused of collaboration with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement), face the gibberish, the legal enticement, and the little tricks that the Court president sets for her. All he wants is to make his career! On account of this, he never will heed justice but rather his sordid interests. (Furthermore, his subservient background is more than known.)

But someone could ask what sense is there in a poet writing about an accused 'subversive.'

To begin, the verb 'subvert' seems pleasant to me. In this country, it is necessary to 'subvert' a lot to change a little.

Yet there is a fundamental element on which I base my point of view: Lori is from the United States. But there is not only one United States.

She belongs to the one that does not attack us, does not suck our blood, and does not apply the 'law of the big stick.' She belongs to the United States of John Reed, Edgar Poe, William Faulkner, and the beatnik rebels (Ginsberg, Corzo, Ferlinghetti, and Kerouac).

The United States of adventure, a little naíve at times, but very certain about its role of fraternity with the entire world.

She is not the United States of the abominable stock of MacCarthy, Bush, Reagan, and Nixon. She is not the daughter of the countryless and heartless transnationals. Genetically speaking, she is not from the lineage of the marines that sully the planet with their illegitimate boots at the plea of an apocryphal defense of 'freedom'-- nothing more than a defense of US interests. (The same interests that overthrew Allende to defend ITT, invaded Granada and Nicaragua, mercilessly embargoed Cuba, and bombed the Middle East whenever desired).

I am not certain what she has done (if she has 'done' anything), but without a doubt, she has done it with the best intentions. Moreover, 'all' that she has said about our country was correct, completely true: the abominable and staggering misery, the obvious injustice.

Indeed we should be embarrassed that a foreigner has arrived to rub it our faces. (Even though she is from America -- albeit North -- she is already our sister.)

It is necessary to say this. Most of all, it is necessary to write this.

I know that it is fashionable to keep quiet. It is more advantageous. But more than fifty years ago our grandfather Jean Paul (yes, Sartre) already had written: 'To keep quiet is not to be silent, but to speak in favor of the oppressor.'

And as for me, Marti, Mariategui, Neruda, Nicolas Guillen, and Vallejo did not teach me how to write in favor of the oppressor.