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Why Isn't the U.S. Government Defending This Heroine?

February 18, 1996

The distressing article about Lori Berenson's predicament in a Peruvian prison seems to indicate once again the tremendous need for the defense of basic human rights ("The Price of Passion," Feb. 7). It is obvious that this young lady is being forced to pay dearly, not for any actual crime, but for compassion and naivete.

Yet the press officer from the bureau of consular affairs is quoted as saying ". . . We can't act as a representative for that person."

The question immediately arises:

Then what is the bureau of consular affairs for? It would seem that this might be one of its most significant duties. Representation in the form of strong pressure for the observance of basic human rights would seem extremely important.

A second long-term suggestion to mitigate such problems in the future might be for countries that profess democracy to authorize, fund and help organize more groups similar to those sent out by Witness for Peace and other private agencies.

It is easy to pick off one lone individual, but harder to attack a larger effort.

And certainly there are many young people who need support to work meaningfully for peace with justice, in various areas including in our own troubled cities. We cannot allow the few heroic Lori Berensons of the world to be unjustly and severely punished for carrying our human responsibility.


Temple City


I don't know Lori Berenson or her family. I don't know if she's innocent or guilty. But I am familiar with news stories and books of horror stories about South American justice. Surely the State Department could have the young lady extradited to the United Sates and have her tried in an American court. Didn't we extradite Manuel Noriega from Panama and drug lords from Mexico to be tried in American courts?


Newbury Park

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