Free Lori Berenson Now!
On Aug. 31, the conservative San Francisco Chronicle wrote its lead editorial on the case of Lori Berenson, a young American woman who has been imprisoned in Peru for four years for alleged involvement with the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement.
It began with the statement: “The Peruvian government admitted on Monday that the 1996 military conviction and life sentence it imposed … were invalid. But instead of freeing Lori Berenson after more than four years of unjust confinement, the Peruvian authorities are planning to try her again in a civilian court on treason and terrorism charges.”
It is easy to understand the astonishment of the Chronicle editorial writer. The Peruvian government’s treatment of an obviously innocent and harmless young women is not only an outrage to human and legal principles, it defies reason. Therefore, one would think that the Peruvian rulers would back off as soon as they could.
However, the persecution of Berenson does have a certain perverse logic-the determination of the Peruvian strongman Alberto Fujimori to demonstrate the chutzpah on which his right-wing demagogic regime is based and to foster a generally repressive atmosphere.
In general, the more irrational terror is, the more effective it is. Since people cannot know who is innocent, they are driven to simply eschew any subjects or contacts that might be displeasing to the rulers.
This is a subject that the Chronicle certainly does not to get into since it supports the system that is being upheld by Fujimori with the means he deems necessary. But it shows what is at stake in the Berenson case.
If the Fujimori government is forced to retreat on this case, where its argument is especially weak, it will be a victory for human rights in Peru and in Latin America in general. For this reason, as well as for Berenson’s sake, it is important for all supporters of human rights and human values to step up their campaign in her defense. Let Lori Berenson go home now!
The tragic deaths of the young sailors on the Russian nuclear submarine Kursk exposed the hollowness of the “great-power” boasting of Russia’s new neo-Stalinist president, Vladimir Putin.
Although he is the heir of Yeltsin-who preached bringing Russia “back into the civilized world,” i.e. into the world imperialist system-Putin’s main political card has been the same as the former Russian president’s neo-Stalinist critics.
Putin has been offering the Russian people the vicarious satisfaction of believing that their country is a great military power, which can throw its weight around in the world like the imperialist bullies. The prime example has been massive repression of the tiny Chechen nation fighting for its national rights.
But the attempt to restore capitalism, which Putin has continued, has destroyed the basis of Russian military strength, along with the economy of the country.
A Russian officer had to admit that the navy could not rescue its sailors because it had rented its rescue equipment to a capitalist oil company. That is symbolic of the situation of Russia today, in which the country is being eaten alive by the old Stalinist bureaucracy trying to enrich itself by selling the country to imperialist capital.
It also indicates that the neo-Stalinist formula of combining nationalist boasting with the attempt to restore capitalism is fundamentally lame.