Fujimori Shadowboxes with Montesinos ; Who Runs Peru's Military? Fifty Soldiers Staged a Rebellion on Sunday. Former Spy Chief Still in Hiding

Article excerpt

Peruvians are witnessing a tense power struggle between President Alberto Fujimori and his former spy chief and political adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos.

Mr. Montesinos is the one on the run, trying to evade Peruvian authorities. But Mr. Fujimori is under pressure too, facing public demands for his resignation and questions about his control over the military.

In a surprise move, Fujimori announced Saturday that he had replaced the three generals in charge of the Army, Navy, and Air Force, who were close Montesinos allies. Fujimori also fired Gen. Luis Cubas Portal, Montesinos's brother-in-law, as commander of the Lima military region.

"The presence of Montesinos in Peru generates problems for Fujimori," says political analyst Alberto Adrianzen. "It causes Fujimori pain to have to distance himself from Montesinos, but the circumstances - in particular, pressure from the United States - require it."

In September, a leaked video showed Montesinos apparently bribing an opposition congress member, prompting Fujimori to announce he would call new elections in which he would not be a candidate. Montesinos fled to Panama, where he was seeking political asylum.

But last he week he unexpectedly returned to Peru, generating international criticism and a storm of protest within Peru. Organization of American States Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria, who had rallied 10 heads of state to go to bat for Montesinos's asylum bid in Panama, had particularly harsh words for Fujimori following the spy chief's return.

In a move designed to show Peruvians and the international community who's boss, Fujimori personally led police and military officials on a theatrical five-hour hunt for Montesinos last Wednesday afternoon and vowed the search will continue until the former presidential adviser is located.

Mr. Gaviria returned last week to oversee a special meeting aimed at bringing government and opposition representatives back to the OAS negotiating table. The opposition had withdrawn from OAS- brokered talks earlier last week after the government suddenly presented a controversial amnesty proposal as a condition for new elections.

But to the surprise of many, the government quickly abandoned the amnesty proposal as a precondition - although a modified version remains on the table - allowing opposition leaders to emerge from the meeting with a firm election date of April 8, 2001.

The hunt for Montesinos has dropped in intensity, and there's skepticism over whether Fujimori's changes to the military command are little more than cosmetic.

The new commander in chief, Walter Chacon, is Fujimori's former Interior Minister and a Montesinos man, as are the commander generals of most of the military regions. …