All advice was negative. "You will never be allowed into the
prison," said most counselors. "Put off your visit until the
Organization of American States leaves Peru," said the U.S. Embassy in
But we decided to go anyway. Our delegation: Reverend Lucius Walker,
Director IFCO/Pastors for Peace; Amy Goodman, host of "Democracy
Now", Pacifica Radio Network; Annie Bird, Guatemala Director of Guatemala
Partners; Kristen Gardner, college room-mate of Lori Berenson; Patricia Todd
of CISPES and delegation leader, Blase Bonpane.
At the Prison
We feared our visit would be only symbolic as we passed through military
check-points in Arequipa, Peru on our way to Socabaya Prison. Rabbi Guillermo
Bronstein in Lima had given us matzoh and prayer books for Lori to celebrate
At the prison gate when asked for credentials, we only had a letter from a
Peruvian Congressman requesting that our visit to Lori be given consideration.
By what seemed a miracle we were admitted and sat with Lori for two hours of
conversation. This was the first such delegation to visit Lori during her
three and a half years of brutal incarceration. Her parents, however, have
been admitted on a regular basis. The six of us came as a human rights
delegation and that is what we were.
No one was more surprised at our arrival than Lori. She is a woman of great
spiritual strength. She refuses to be intimidated. Her principal concern is
the welfare of all prisoners. She is allowed out of her cell for one hour a
day. Her eyes have suffered from poor lighting and months of solitary
confinement. Her digestive system suffers from a poor diet. Her circulatory
system suffers from three years at the notorious Yanamayo Prison located at
12,750 feet above sea-level.
After our visit we met with U.S. Ambassador Dennis Jett in Lima. He was
very disturbed that we were admitted to the prison. He was worried that the
prison director might lose her job for admitting us. His main concern was that
the visit might upset Mr. Fujimori. The Ambassador was most grateful to
Fujimori for allowing the United States to establish a military base on the
Peru/Colombia border and for repaying Peru’s debts to the World Bank. His
concern for Lori seemed non-existent.
Rather than be upset by the visit of six U.S. citizens to an unjustly
imprisoned fellow citizen, would it not be proper for a U.S. Ambassador to
demand her release, to question why such visits are not accepted, to ask why
the press cannot talk to her, to ask why she cannot make a statement to
anyone, to ask why her mail, both incoming and outgoing, is censored for any
word that might be considered political?
We are extremely disturbed by the lack of advocacy for Lori on the part of
our government. The State Department and its representatives continue to speak
of her in relationship to the activity of the MRTA rebels. She is not a member
and has never been a member of this organization. She spoke to members of this
organization, however, while preparing articles for two U.S. magazines.
All of us on the delegation are pained by the treatment of Lori Berenson
both by the Peruvian authorities and our own government. Please continue to
write and to call President Clinton and your Representatives. Remind the
President that he is legally obligated by an act of Congress (22 U.S.C.,
section 1732) to come to the aid of an American citizen wrongfully held in a
foreign country. Also remind him that Lori Berenson is suffering physically
and needs his help NOW.
Please study the web-site http://WWW.FREELORI.ORG/
We returned from Peru with great sadness as we heard of the assassinations
in Colombia of our friend Terance Frietas together with his two companions,
Lahe’ena’e Gay and Ingrid Washinawatok. We declare their presence…Presente!
The struggle for peace is the victory (la lucha misma es la victoria).