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A Roman Circus in Peru
The Persecution of Lori Berenson
by DANTE CASTRO ARRASCO

Lima.

Once again the guardians of law and order fatten themselves on human suffering, assisted by their solicitous epigones of the press.  They wanted to produce a spectacle for the bleachers; they wanted to demonstrate the sacrosanct principle of  authority; they wanted to satisfy the thirst for vengeance of many.  But what they did was make the biggest fools of themselves in the international media, leaving on the floor the prestige of the “state of law” in Peru. Lori Berenson returns to jail on a legal technicality, totally ridiculous, like the authorization of her residence, which everyone knew and which attracted attention when the “good neighbors” of Miraflores protested her presence.

It was not a matter of ripping off the clothes of a North American connected to terrorism. Nor of a pitiful plea by someone supposed to be guilty and whom the tenderness of the tribunals left at liberty.   It is a case of disrespect for the judicial decisions, the result of due process.  We have seen with disbelief how an order of parole was revoked by consent of the most reactionary and retrograde sectors of the Executive Power.   It is a case of limited or non-existent independence of Judicial Power.    

But in addition to violating the guaranties of the party to be judged, they are merciless with the person sentenced and her infant.   The newspaper media have inherited from the Fujimori/Montesinos period a way of acting as if lynching by periodicals were one tool more in the service of the repressive authority of the State.  This overload typical of the black shirt squadrons which surround the one interviewed to cut off his escape, make him stumble, cause him to despair and harass him without any consideration, pretends to be the expression of the rejection by the “good citizens” of everything they consider dangerous for the democratic system. 

We saw it recently when indigenous leader Alberto Pizango returned to Peru and was arrested.  We saw it when presidential candidate Ollanta Humala tried to set up a debate with Alan García in 2006. We saw it and suffered when at the end of the megatrial against the MRTA, far from the Naval Base prison of Callao, reporters threw themselves on the families, blinding them with their reflectors, sticking the cameras and tape recorders in their faces, assaulting them with questions and preventing them free movement.  Whatever resistance there is to this massive aggression is interpreted as “an attack on the press.”   This same thing happened to Lori Berenson.  And the whole world has seen it.  

They say there is no reason to make “any concession to terrorism which caused 69 thousand victims in the country.”  And this resembles chewed gum or a slogan; it is the refrain repeated by automata which makes no difference between victims caused by the subversive groups and those caused by the terrorism of the State.  Lieutenant Telmo Hurtado, assassin of 74 children and old people in Accomarca in 1985, when he was extradited from the United States in 2008, was not lynched by the press nor repudiated by the deceitful interpreters of public opinion.   Nor is anything said about those who govern us, president Alan García and vice president Admiral Luis Giampietri, guilty of the biggest massacre of political prisoners in Latin America: over 200 Sendero Luminoso  captives in 1986.    

For white collar thieves, a luxury compartment in San Jorge!  For state terrorists, impunity.   For the corrupt and genocidal, re-election.   The ex-paramilitary  of the Comando Rodrigo Franco death squad (1985 to 1990), work today in government posts, some on the roll of Congress, and retire under law 20530, the superficial decentralization project of García.   For Lori Berenson, accused of collaboration with terrorism, knowing that she killed nobody nor planted bombs, the exact contrary is applied. 

It is not strange that bourgeois nationalism, that which welcomed militants like Congressmen Meckler and Torres Caro, and which paints itself as an alternative to raw capitalism, joins in the hysterical uproar of the middle class.  Even the nationalist newspaper – which only the stupid consider leftist – said that there were shady deals under the table between García and  Obama to free Berenson.  (¡Thanks Don César!)  But let’s remember that Ollanta Humala, in the elections of 2006, agreed with Alan García not to raise the issue of human rights.  He even demonstrated in favor of the termination of trials for the military who fought subversion.  And he, like his bishop Abugattás, spoke out against the parole of Lori Berenson in May 2010. Now Pedro Santos, nationalist congressman, says that "the Judicial Power is acting as it should.  We are acting without pressure from international organizations.  This is the most advantageous."   Very little can be expected of someone who has a brother abandoned to his fate behind bars for having commiteed the crime of rebellion.  

The dangerousness of Lori Berenson or the risk of recidivism only occurs to the ignorant.  The MRTA ceased to exist and there is no political situation favorable to the renewal of armed struggle.   The ex-prisoners of the MRTA have reincorporated themselves into society and try to function politically by democratic means.  None of the former Tupacamarist prisoners have suffered a Calvary like that of Lori Berenson.  Therefore we must suppose that behind all this fanfare are other reasons which no one in the government dares confess.   It is question of an exemplary case which meets the necessary conditions for global propaganda, demonstrating “inflexibility” towards foreign interference and the possible renunciation of international covenants, agreements, and treaties with regard to human rights.  These are the means of indemnization of persons tried and convicted for terrorism by military tribunals during the Fujimori/Montesinos dictatorship, to whom the guaranties of due process were denied.

They have in their hands a cinematic victim to throw into the Roman circus: it is a woman and a foreigner.  Concerning the bravery of Alan García with foreign women, his own wife Pilar Nores, who has chosen to be prudent, could offer good testimony.   Brave subject, he who governs us!  Very brave against helpless women, against worn-out prisoners (1986) and against defenseless village children.  

Dante Castro is an ex-MRTA political prisoner who has won various prizes as a writer in Peru

Translated by Bill Nottingham