Peruvians Look to Life after Fujimori

By Brodzinsky, Sibylla | The Washington Times (Washington, DC), November 28, 2000 | Go to article overview

Peruvians Look to Life after Fujimori


Brodzinsky, Sibylla, The Washington Times (Washington, DC)


LIMA, Peru - After the political roller-coaster ride of the past several months that led Alberto Fujimori to resign the presidency, Peruvians are looking toward rebuilding their scandal-weary democracy and setting the sagging economy back on the path to growth.

But the attention to the future is unlikely to let Mr. Fujimori or his shadowy former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, off the hook, as new complaints of corruption and other possible crimes emerge daily against both men.

Mr. Fujimori resigned the presidency on Nov. 19 in a letter from Tokyo, where he stopped after attending an economic summit in Brunei. But legislators in Peru refused to accept his resignation, preferring to vote him out of office Nov. 21 for "moral incapacity."

Interim President Valentin Paniagua, installed last Wednesday, will head the government of this Andean nation until an elected president takes office on July 28, 2001.

The expectations of his eight-month government run high.

Mr. Paniagua and his successor face the difficult task of restoring the independence of Peru's democratic institutions, systematically weakened from a decade of Mr. Fujimori's autocratic rule, reportedly enforced through bribery and blackmail headed by Mr. Montesinos.

A videotape aired in September that appeared to show Mr. Montesinos paying an opposition congressman to switch allegiance triggered the nine-week political crisis that ultimately brought Mr. Fujimori down. Mr. Fujimori's initial response to the damning evidence was to fire Mr. Montesinos and call elections four years early but the spiraling scandal made his continuation in power untenable.

Since the release of the tape, new charges about Mr. Montesinos, once considered the second-most-powerful man in the country, have led to a broad probe that includes accusations ranging from money laundering - some $58 million was discovered in overseas accounts - to murder.

And a special prosecutor leading the Montesinos investigation has requested authorization to include the ex-president himself, following claims that Mr. Fujimori held some $18 million in offshore accounts and had holdings in two front companies.

But Mr. Fujimori is in Japan, where he said he plans to stay for an unspecified amount of time. As the son of Japanese immigrants to Peru, he can opt to be naturalized there, and Peru has no extradition treaty with Japan.

The whereabouts of Mr. Montesinos, meanwhile, remain a mystery, though Lima is abuzz with theories about where he might be. He has not been seen in public since a private plane brought him back to Peru on Oct. 25 from a failed asylum bid in Panama. Mr. Fujimori launched a spectacular and ultimately fruitless manhunt for his former adviser.

"We've requested in generic terms that an investigation be opened for supposed crimes against public administration," said special prosecutor Jose Ugaz, adding that the probe would cover everything from money laundering to corruption.

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