Students Become More Vocal in Protesting Peru's Fujimori

Article excerpt

LIMA, Peru -- In the wake of Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's tainted re-election, students now represent one of the loudest and most visible challenges to his rule.

During Sunday's vote, the world watched as riot police used tear gas to disperse demonstrations heavily attended by university students -- the engine of a growing pro-democracy movement.

"The government says the young people are being manipulated, but that's not so," said Ricardo Sapaico, 20, president of the student federation at Lima's private Universidad Catolica.

"We reached a point where we realized things couldn't continue the way they were, that there has to be change," he said. "That's why we go out to protest."

Fujimori's challenger, Alejandro Toledo, who boycotted Sunday's runoff, has said massive student turnout in nationwide protests helped keep Fujimori from rigging a fraudulent victory in the first round of voting on April 9.

But while many students support Toledo, others say that any democratically elected president would be better than Fujimori.

"I'm not here in support of Toledo. I'm here to demonstrate for democracy and change. It's time for Fujimori's dictatorship to go," said Carmen Fernandez, a communications student at San Marcos University, who took part in Sunday's demonstration in downtown Lima.

Such outspoken dissent is a far cry from just two years ago, when a heavy military presence remained on Peru's state universities following a crackdown by Fujimori's government on Shining Path rebels, who had made the campuses a hotbed of leftist activity. …

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