Thursday, May 27, 2010

Poster of the Week

Free Lori Berenson
Committee to Free Lori Berenson
offset, 1999
New York, New York

US Political Prisoner Released After Over 14 Years Imprisonment in Peru

Lori Berenson was born and raised in New York City, and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). At the time of Lori’s arrest by the Peruvian government, on Nov. 30, 1995, she was working as a journalist with assignments from two U.S. publications. She had been researching articles on women’s rights and poverty in Peru and had interviewed several members of the Peruvian Congress. Peru charged her with "treason against the fatherland of Peru" and sentenced her to life in prison, without parole. However, Peru didn’t offer any evidence that Lori did anything wrong. A hooded tribunal of military officers, with no legal training and a documented 97% conviction rate, tried and condemned her; Lori was not allowed to cross-examine the government witnesses, nor to present evidence in her own defense. To condemn her, Peru had to break four binding international treaties on legal rights, and even their own constitution. For years, Lori sat in a frigid prison high in the Andes, with no windows and no heat; her hands turned purple.

It seems likely that Peru condemned Lori for political reasons. Her arrest occurred just as the U.S. was approving Israel's sale of Qafir jets with US-made engines to Equador, with whom Peru was fighting a border war. Peru's President Alberto Fujimori also used Lori to make political hay at home; he showed her picture on Peruvian national TV several times, to tout how tough he is on criminals and how he won't be "pushed around" even by the United States. In April 2009, Fujimori was found guilty of mass murder and kidnapping and was sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Peru has a history of harassing, imprisoning, and even executing reporters and human rights investigators. Amnesty International declared that Lori is a political prisoner, and that Peru’s prosecution of her did not comply with international human rights standards. The United Nations High Commission on Human Rights declared that Lori has been arbitrarily deprived of her liberty. The U.S. State Department claimed that they did everything possible, but actually did essentially nothing. Many of Lori’s supporters felt that the inaction by the State Department was due to attempts by the U.S. to develop better economic relations with Peru and the region.

Lori was married in 2003 to Anibal Apari Sanchez, a fellow prisoner who attended law school and became a lawyer after his release. In 2009 she gave birth to a son in prison. After spending more than 14 years of a 20 year sentence, her release was announced on Wednesday, May 26, 2010, and is expected to be released on parole as early as Thursday.


Lori Berenson is a social activist who was born in New York but spent her adult life in Central and South America. While an undergraduate at MIT, she volunteered with the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES). She left MIT before graduating, to work with CISPES and subsequently worked in El Salvador as secretary and translator for Leonel González, a leader of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) working to overthrow the Salvadoran military dictatorship. Gonzalez is currently the Vice President of El Salvador.

After political reconciliation came to El Salvador Berenson moved to Peru and was writing articles for two progressive US magazines. On November 30, 1995 Berenson was arrested on a public bus in downtown Lima, accused of leading an insurgent organization, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). She was sentenced to life for "treason against the fatherland" by a hooded military tribunal using antiterrorism legislation. Four-and-a half years later, due to international pressure, her sentence was vacated and she was retried by a civilian court under the same antiterrorism legislation.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Poster of the Week

Friendly Fire

John Jota Leaños

Offset, 2004

United States

This week marks the 1,000th American soldier to die in Afghanistan since the war began in 2001. There are no accurate figures for Afghani deaths, but thousands of civilians have been killed directly by U.S. military actions, and tens of thousands of Afghani civilians have died indirectly as a consequence of displacement, starvation, disease, exposure, lack of medical treatment, crime and lawlessness resulting from the war.

CSPG’s poster of the week commemorates the death of one soldier who died in Afghanistan in 2004. Patrick Daniel "Pat" Tillman (1976–2004) was an American football player who left his professional sports career and enlisted in the U.S. Army in 2002 in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks. He joined the Army Rangers and served multiple tours in combat before he was killed in the mountains of Afghanistan. Although he died in service to his country, he opposed the war in Iraq and was critical of President Bush.

Details about the circumstances surrounding his death have been the subject of controversy and military investigations. The army initially claimed he was killed in an enemy firefight before changing the story to state that he was killed by “friendly fire” (inadvertently shot by one’s fellow soldiers). It was weeks after his memorial service before the Pentagon acknowledged he was gunned down by fellow Rangers, although some senior Army officers knew of that fact prior to the service. In 2007, three years after the initial cover-up, Tillman’s autopsy report was sent to the Associated Press, indicating that he had been murdered. When the Pentagon finally conducted a criminal investigation, they ruled that Tillman's death at the hands of his comrades was a friendly-fire accident. His mother and other family members continue to share the view that he was murdered.

A timeline of events in Afghanistan:

  • 1950s-1970s: The United States was actively involved in Afghanistan until the 1979 assassination of the U.S. ambassador in Kabul.
  • 1973: Afghanistan king is overthrown by former Prime Minister Daoud.
  • 1978: Daoud is overthrown by Afghan army under leadership of People’ Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA). Democratic Republic of Afghanistan (DRA) is created. Local Islamic mujahedeen groups form in opposition to brutal imposition of land reforms and changes to marriage laws
  • 1979: President Carter authorized funding for anti-communist guerrillas in Afghanistan six months before the Soviet invasion. The CIA provided extensive weapons and training to the muhajedeen. Carter national security advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski wanted to entrap the Soviet Union into its own Viet Nam War.
  • 1979: The Soviet Union deployed its military in Afghanistan on the side of the DRA, a Marxist faction within the People’s Democratic Party of Afghanistan (PDPA).
  • 1979-1989: The Soviet–Afghan War was a ten-year conflict between the Marxist government of the Democratic Republic of Afghanistan supported by the Soviet Union, and the Islamist Mujahedeen Resistance assisted by the US, Saudia Arabia, Pakistan and Egypt. During this time the CIA organized, trained and armed Islamic militants, including Osama bin Laden, to fight the Soviets.
  • 1989: Soviet Union withdraws its troops from Afghanistan in defeat.
  • 2001: September 11, US attacked. On October 7, President George W. Bush orders bombing of Afghan military bases thought to be where al-Qaeda was training.
  • 2001-present: US engaged in war against the Taliban movement for harboring Osama bin Laden, the mastermind of the September 11 attacks. In attempting to capture or kill al Qaida or Taliban forces, the U.S. military has caused thousands of civilian deaths and dropped bombs on the wrong targets, including a Red Cross warehouse and a UN mine-removal office.
  • 2009: NY times reports Afghan civilian deaths increase by 40% in 2008
  • 2009: President Barack Obama escalates war in Afghanistan
  • 2010: 1,000th U.S. soldier killed in Afghanistan

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Poster of the Week

More graphics from the Seize BP campaign are available at Click on "Downloads" for printable flyers.

[Alaskan Sardines in Oil]
Klaus Staeck
Offset, 1989
Heidelberg, Germany

In light of the ongoing disaster in the Gulf of Mexico which continues to spill over 200,000 gallons of oil a day, the poster of the week commemorates what is now the second largest oil spill in U.S. history.

Exxon Mobil Corporation is the parent of Esso, Mobil and ExxonMobil, companies that sell fuels and lubricants around the world under the Esso brand name. This poster refers to the disastrous oil spill that occurred on March 24, 1989, when the oil tanker Exxon Valdez struck Bligh Reef in Prince William Sound, Alaska, spilling more than 11 million gallons (42,000 m³) of crude oil.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Poster of the Week

Renew Our Common Struggle
Peg Averill; Art for People
Silkscreen, 1975
Washington, D.C.
40th Anniversary of Kent State: 4 Students Killed by US National Guard
In March 1969, President Nixon ordered the bombing of Cambodia, a country neighbouring Viet Nam. As this was an escalation and widening of an unpopular war, and because Cambodia was a neutral country, the Nixon administration tried to keep it a secret from the American people. An estimated 100,000 peasants died in the bombing, while 2 million people were left homeless.

In April 1970, Nixon ordered US troops into Cambodia. When the invasion was announced, US college campuses erupted in protest, and one-third of them shut down due to student walkouts. At Kent State University in Ohio, four students were killed by panicky national guardsmen who had been called up to prevent rioting. Two days later, two students were killed at Jackson State College in Mississippi.