Peru: Interview with Political Prisoner Lori Berenson

Check out this great interview with Lori Berenson, whose story is very important…and I know I haven’t heard much about her lately. She also records radio-essays that you can listen to here:

I was particularly interested by this question because of my own work with Journalists for Mumia. Read the whole interview below.

—What messages do you have for Mumia?

My greatest respect to him and to all the political prisoners I’ve read so much about over these last several years. Keep struggling, because you’re right! This isn’t just a message for him, but to those who need to move on such issues so that his situation, and the situation of others like him, can change. There needs to be knowledge and consciousness of the need for these things to change. These are people who are victims of a state’s oppressive ways.

Only the intro is pasted below, so go to this link for the full article:

Peru: Interview with Political Prisoner Lori Berenson
Written by Emma Shaw Crane

Thursday, 25 September 2008

American activist Lori Berenson was pulled off a bus in Peru in November of 1995, detained by anti-terrorist police, and tried for treason against the Peruvian state by a hooded military tribunal. A gun was held to her head as she received her sentence: life in prison. Accused of being a leader of the MRTA (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement), Lori was one of thousands of people kidnapped, tortured, disappeared, and/or imprisoned during then-president Alberto Fujimori’s campaign to defeat rebel groups.

At the time of Lori’s first “trial,” Peru was emerging from over a decade of bloody civil war, fought between leftist guerillas and the Peruvian military. Two major armed movements fought the Peruvian government, the MRTA and Sendero Luminoso, the Maoist Shining Path. Peru’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission has estimated that approximately 70,000 people were killed between 1980 and 2000. Seventy–five percent of the victims were indigenous people, mostly Quechua, a number vastly out of proportion to their 16% share of the national population. The Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission holds the government (through its military, police and intelligence apparatus along with paramilitary units) responsible for at least 45% of those deaths–compared to the MRTA who caused less than 2% of mortalities during the civil war. The Shining Path was deemed responsible for the majority – 53%.

This interview with Lori Berenson took place shortly before the first of a series of trials of Alberto Fujimori began in Lima. Last December, the former president was sentenced to six years in prison for abuse of authority, the first of three charges. His second trial, for human rights abuses including homicide and kidnapping, resumed July 14th, 2008. Ironically, if he is found guilty on all counts, Fujimori could serve up to 30 years in prison–just ten years more than Lori Berenson is currently serving. However, since Fujimori turns seventy this year, he is eligible under Peruvian law for a reduced sentence served under house arrest.

In this interview, Lori discusses how she maintains her hope while in prison, what she believes it takes to effect real and lasting social change, the emerging ‘New Left’ in Latin America, and why women political prisoners are perceived as a threat to social stability.