- The Washington Times - Thursday, July 13, 2000

Mission improbable?

The Organization of American States (OAS) is sending the foreign minister of the Dominican Republic on an assignment to Peru that looks increasingly like a doomed mission.

Eduardo Latorre was named this week to oversee the political reforms Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori promised after the OAS raised concerns about fraud in the May 28 election that gave him a third term in office.

However, Mr. Fujimori, criticized as an authoritarian leader, is showing signs he might ignore the 29-point plan the OAS proposed.

The Associated Press yesterday noted that he has named a political ally, instead of an independent figure, to investigate allegations of government corruption.

He has also decided to keep his security chief, who has helped him control all branches of government. Mr. Fujimori's cronies were cleared recently of suspicion they forged voters' signatures.

He also dismissed warnings by U.S. Ambassador to Peru John Hamilton, who said at a Fourth of July picnic that "cosmetic or superficial changes will not resolve the crisis of credibility."

Mr. Fujimori responded, "The opinions of other countries are not important to us."

In Washington, Sen. Paul Coverdell has introduced a measure to withhold $10 million from the $100 million in foreign aid for Peru until Mr. Fujimori fulfills his promises of reform.

The Georgia Republican, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee's Western Hemisphere subcommittee, said he wants to keep pressure on Peru so "that we don't just get bogged down, turn away and pay little attention in our own hemisphere when we have instances that really rattle the premise of democracy."

Into this morass steps Mr. Latorre to implement the promises made to an OAS delegation led by Secretary-General Cesar Gaviria and Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy last month.

"His mandate is to encourage the dialogue between different sectors of Peruvian society and the government, monitor the process of strengthening democratic institutions in Peru and the implementation of the recommendations made by the special mission to and accepted by the government and different sectors of Peruvian Society during its visit to Lima June 28-29," the OAS said this week.

Mr. Fujimori had agreed to "reform the administration of justice and ensure the separation of powers, balance the protection of human rights with national security requirements; ensure freedom of speech and of the media; ensure electoral reform; and ensure civilian control over intelligence institutions and the armed forces," the OAS said.

Mr. Latorre is due to leave for Peru next month.

More on Ivory Coast

The U.S. ambassador to the Ivory Coast is cautioning the country's military ruler against running as a candidate in September's presidential election.

"Our position is that we do not expect Gen. [Robert] Guei to present himself as a candidate in the upcoming elections," Ambassador George Mu said at a news conference Tuesday.

"As a leader of a coup, … he is in a position to redraw rules, regulations and to have a very strong voice in the future mechanism of the election apparatus here. We do not expect the leader of a coup to stand for election."

On Monday Mr. Mu told Gen. Guei that the United States believes a military mutiny last week was a protest against the military junta's failure to pay a promised bonus. Gen. Guei, who grabbed power in a December coup, called the street demonstration an attempt to overthrow his government.

After his meeting with Gen. Guei, Mr. Mu told reporters that the United States is worried about the stability of the West African nation.

Forum on Honduras

Honduran Ambassador Hugo Noe Pino plans to address a forum designed to attract investment to his Central American nation, which was devastated by Hurricane Mitch in 1998.

The ambassador will speak July 25 at a forum sponsored by the Greater American Business Coalition at the City Club of Washington, 555 13th St. NW.

Investors can register for the forum at www.greateramerica.org or call 202/312-1644.

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