A Terrorist Returns
By Matthew Vadum
Convicted terrorist collaborator Lori Berenson is fortunate that in the United States citizenship is not a license that expires upon bad behavior.
Berenson is back in America for the holidays, nearly two decades after the trust fund baby left to advance communism in Latin America.
A Peruvian court convicted her in 1996 of aiding a Marxist-Leninist guerrilla group that even now aspires to overthrow Peru’s government by force, but the 42-year-old New Yorker is free on parole. She was granted permission to visit the U.S. and has promised to return to Peru next month and remain there until her sentence is completed.
Berenson was paroled in 2010 after serving 15 years of a 20 year prison term for collaborating with the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru (Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement) or MRTA. Along with Shining Path, a brutal Maoist guerrilla group, MRTA has long waged war against Peru’s democratically elected government.
Her long and winding quest for so-called social justice began in the late 1980s at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the academic home of America-hating anarchist Noam Chomsky. An anthropology student, Berenson said her time at MIT radicalized her. It was “the place where I finally learned the connection between politics and human suffering.”
During an academic exchange program in El Salvador, Berenson met with the late Congressman Joe Moakley (D-Mass.) and future Congressman Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). They discussed human rights and conditions in El Salvador, which made Berenson reflect “that the world was much bigger and the suffering was much worse than I had thought.”
In 1989, she dropped out of MIT and started working for the Communist-influenced Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES) in New York City and Washington, D.C. Two years later she moved to Central America and began working for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), then a Marxist guerrilla group in El Salvador.
Berenson found her way to Peru. Back in 1993, soon after she rented a house in a Lima suburb, it became an outpost for the group. MRTA’s second in command, Miguel Rincon, used one floor of the house as a command post, arsenal, and shooting range. Authorities say Berenson made several visits to the Peruvian Congress, casing it in preparation for a planned attack and identifying lawmakers for future kidnappings.
When Berenson’s home was raided in late 1995, an all-night siege followed. Fourteen guerrillas and a police officer lost their lives.
After her arrest Berenson defended the MRTA, praising its members as courageous freedom fighters:
I am to be condemned for my concern about the conditions of hunger and misery which exists in this country. Here nobody can deny that in Peru there is much injustice. There is an institutionalized violence that has killed the people’’s finest sons and has condemned children to die of hunger. If it is a crime to worry about the subhuman conditions in which the majority of this population lives, then I will accept my punishment. But this is not a love of violence. This is not to be a criminal terrorist because in the MRTA there are no criminal terrorists. It is a revolutionary movement.According to the Encyclopedia of Modern Worldwide Extremists and Extremist Groups by Stephen E. Atkins, MRTA raises money for its war against the Peruvian government by kidnapping businessmen and holding them for ransom. It also carries out assassinations, bombings, and ambushes. In 1996 the group stormed the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima. After a five month ordeal, 71 hostages were rescued in a commando raid in which all 14 MRTA rebels were killed. MRTA is reportedly responsible for the murders of more than 200 people.
Not surprisingly, Berenson is widely despised in Peru. About 70,000 people were killed or “disappeared” in the 1980s and 1990s during that nation’s struggle against armed insurgents. In the upscale neighborhood in Lima where she now lives, people reportedly come up to Berenson on the street and insult and threaten her.
But it’s only a matter of time before Berenson’s hostility to civilized values makes her a star in the Left’s ever growing constellation of miscreants. Despite her lack of academic credentials, an Ivy League school somewhere will give her tenure.
Perhaps MSNBC will make her an anchor or the Center for American Progress will award her a senior fellowship. A President Ron Paul might even make her U.S. ambassador to Peru.