Guilt by Association

To the Editor,

It is reckless journalism to present point of view as fact as in the article "Peruvian Peril" (April 12), in which the mother of imprisoned American Lori Berenson continues her highly publicized crusade to free her daughter from alleged "unlawful" incarceration in Peru after being convicted in both military and civilian trials of assisting the leadership of the international terrorist group MRTA. The other half of the story can be revealed through simple Internet research.

Since her initial sentencing to life imprisonment in a mountain prison, Berenson has been transferred to a women's facility and subsequent appeals have reduced her sentence to 20 years--similar to what she would have received here, especially taking into consideration that the MRTA is documented as responsible for a significant number of anti-U.S. attacks. Berenson received not one but two trials, much more due process than the typical Peruvian defendant convicted of terrorist activities.

But then came a moment that even Berenson's supporters say undermined her claims of innocence. While awaiting her verdict, Berenson was paraded before the press. And she exploded with rage. "In the MRTA," she shouted, "there are no criminal terrorists. It is a revolutionary movement." She could have used this time to proclaim her innocence, but instead she protected a movement with which she proclaims no association.

The most interesting revelation of all can be discovered on the Embassy of Peru's Web site at, which specifically addresses and reviews the Lori Berenson case. Some may remember MRTA's high-profile seizure of a Japanese ambassador's residence in Lima, when 14 MRTA members took 72 attendees of a diplomatic reception hostage for 126 days in December 1996. According to the Embassy of Peru's Web site, before the government forces finally stormed the residence ending the crisis, the MRTA leader presented a list of 465 comrades to be released from prison in exchange for the hostages. After this initial demand was rejected, the leader was forced to reduce this list by half, then a third, and so on. After several rejections the final list, presented by independent mediators of the hostage crisis just before the end of the standoff, included just 20 names of "political prisoners" to be released. Lori Berenson was not only on the final list of 20, but was ranked the number three choice for release, just behind the MRTA leader's wife--who, coincidentally, was present on the bus with Berenson when she was arrested.

This would be considered pretty damning evidence of involvement even by typical U.S. court standards, and would certainly be above being arrested with "no evidence," as stated in the Weekly article. To say Berenson was wrongfully imprisoned and the U.S. government doesn't stand up for its citizenry in this case is both sensationalistic and inaccurate.

--Steven M. Delgado

Franzi Frenzy

To the Editor,

It is almost pathetically amusing to read right-wing gasbag Emil Franzi, apparently the "responsible" and semi-literate face of gun enthusiasts, squealing about the "zealots" that advocate for gun control legislation ("Guns and Poses," March 22). This from a man who chooses to spend his weekends rubbing (rifle) butts with white supremacists, Posse Comitatus members, street thugs and the usual amalgam of cesspool-dwelling Aryan riffraff that inhabit local gun shows. You'd think the stench coming out of the joint would drive away anyone with a semblance of functional intellectual and olfactory capacity.

Franzi tries to re ignite the same tired, weak-kneed argument that cars and lots of other household items cause plenty of deaths, yet there is no outrage over it. This conveniently ignores the crucial point that guns, as opposed to motor vehicles, microwaves and table lamps, are specifically engineered, manufactured and marketed as killing machines.

Chill, dude. With a fascist knucklehead like Dubya in the Oval Office, methinks you and your ilk don't have much to worry about for the next four years. And yeah, Emil, as irrational as it may be, I hate guns, Mercuries and lima beans. Kinda partial to chainsaws, though.

--Daniel Hostetler

To the Editor,

Emil Franzi makes his case for "freedom and tolerance." The constructs of freedom and tolerance, however, are not absolutes to be debated solely in the abstract; rather, they are relative and must be placed in a relevant context.

In absolute terms, corporations could pollute to their hearts' content in the name of private "freedom." Ultra-extremists could be tolerated right up to the point of boiling over. But history proves a different lesson: Be it Columbine, Hitler or the Exxon Valdez, we have seen that society must sometimes take preemptive measures rather than always be reactive after the fact.

Freedom and tolerance must be framed and understood within a larger framework: the overarching goal of societal survival. Much like the individual survival instinct, this principle dictates that it is sometimes wise, and even necessary, to curb freedoms if they pose a real threat.

Gun violence has taken a deadly course in recent years, and the threat to a secure society is real. As a society, we must do all we can to deter it. If the consequences make it more difficult for law-abiding citizens, that is not the same as restricting freedom. It may be difficult to get a driver's license, or file your taxes, or apply for welfare, but no one can claim they are less free because of it. No intellectual postulating about freedom can change that. It's time to move the debate out of the vacuum.

--Lorne Lynn

To the Editor,

In his article against restricting gun shows, Emil Franzi speaks of "hoplophobia" as the irrational fear of inanimate objects. As a strong anti-gun person, I can say with complete certainty that I have never once feared a lone gun, sitting on a table by itself. Indeed, it is the lunatics who procure them for violence that creates the true fear. And isn't that exactly what background checks are trying to deter? The bill is not about trying to curb the inanimate guns at these shows.

True, you blame the drunk driver who hits the school bus, not the Ford Taurus. Yet at a bar, it is reasonable to assume that some people will drive drunk and create a lethal Taurus. Much like at gun shows, it's safe to assume that some buyers are there for the wrong reasons. And if you found out that the bartender simply handed the drunk his keys without checking into the driver's level of impairment, I think we'd all feel a much deeper pang of senselessness about the whole tragedy.

--Mark Lederman

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