Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Lori Berenson and Peruvian Anger

Berenson and Salvador
Today the NYTimes published an interesting and extensive article on the saga of leftist activist, Lori Berenson who has just been released from prison in Peru after 15 years of incarceration. She was convicted because her involvement with the revolutionary group, Tupac Amaru, although it was never clear exactly what she did with them beyond renting an apartment for some group members. She is now required to live in Lima, under supervised parole conditions, until 2015. At that point she will be forced to leave Peru and never return. While in prison, she met and married a fellow inmate and was allowed conjugal visits. In 2009, Berenson gave birth to her son Salvador. Women prisoners in Peru are allowed to care for their children up until the age of 3.

My S.O. (significant other) and I visited Peru this past summer. In Lima we stayed in the bustling, affluent and cosmopolitan district of Miraflores where Berenson's parent's pay for the apartment where she and her son, Salvador, reside. Upon moving into her place she was barraged with the rage of her neighbors who spit at her and shouted "terrorist." They protested her presence publicly and, as a result, she was unceremoniously returned to jail. And it was a fact that every person my S.O. and I spoke with in that country which included cab drivers, artists, store clerks, hotel employees, students, indigenous people and union members felt strong opposition to Lori Berenson and her struggle. Even when we pointed out that her intentions were good but she was a probably quite naive, they were unmoved by her plight.

The reasons we could deduce for this residual anger and resentment involve the bombings, oppression and general hardship that the Peruvian people endured in the 1980's. The fear, death and destruction of that era was considerable and those who were older haven't yet recovered. The wounds are still bloody and the scars are deep. I'm convinced that Berenson, who is said to speak Spanish with a Peruvian accent now, will never attain any degree of acceptance there.

The gist of what Peruvians said about her was, why doesn't she fix things in her own country before coming here and screwing around with ours? We took that advice to heart, and although we photographed and cheered many marches and demonstrations in that very activist country, we were cautious about joining the militants in their ranks. There is certainly much here in the USA that desperately needs our resources and attention.