- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 1, 2000

The Organization of American States yesterday decided to ask Peru to attend a special foreign ministers meeting in response to charges of fraud in Sunday's presidential elections.

In addition, opposition leader Alejandro Toledo, who withdrew from the contest, called for a march of 4 million protesters July 26 in Lima two days before President Alberto Fujimori is to be inaugurated for a third term.

OAS delegates from 35 Western Hemisphere nations debated for hours in Washington yesterday before agreeing to hold the special foreign ministers meeting at the annual OAS General Assembly in Windsor, Ontario, beginning this weekend.

The United States earlier withdrew a proposal to examine Peru's election under Resolution 1080, which U.S. Ambassador to the OAS Luis Lauredo told delegates was "the proper context for … addressing threats to democracy."

Mexico opposed the use of the resolution, in part because it faces opposition accusations of election tampering or pressure in its own upcoming presidential contest.

Mr. Lauredo said the United States withdrew its motion as a concession to achieve consensus, but insisted that in Washington's eyes, the resolution was applicable to Peru.

"We reached consensus, and it didn't really matter how people reached it. It was what we wanted," said a State Department official, who asked not to be named.

U.S. officials did not indicate they were considering cutting off U.S. assistance to Peru, which this year totals $120 million.

Additional aid comes from the World Bank and other multilateral institutions.

Peru's presidential election last Sunday was "far from free and fair," according to a report by Eduardo Stein, head of the OAS team monitoring the vote.

The OAS mission withdrew from Peru, deciding not to monitor Sunday's second round of presidential elections because the team "could not identify and demonstrate any substantive changes made to resolve the problems noted in the first round," Mr. Stein told the OAS yesterday.

Peruvian Ambassador Beatriz Ramacciotti, responding to Mr. Stein's remarks, insisted her country's election was legitimate, having taken place "with mass participation by the Peruvian people."

Meanwhile, the opposition leader, Mr. Toledo, who pulled out of the election shortly before the vote, charging it would be unfair, has sent delegates to Washington to meet U.S. officials and has called for massive street protests.

State Department spokesman Philip T. Reeker said Peru's "refusal to accommodate the well-documented concerns of the Organization of American States, that the process of elections in Peru could not be free and fair, means that Sunday's electoral process was obviously flawed."

The State Department continued to back away, however, from statements Monday that called the election results illegitimate.

Mr. Reeker said that the "flawed" election in Peru, coming within weeks of elections in Haiti also marked by opposition accusations of government pressure, did not indicate a backsliding in the democratic progress in Latin America.

"I think there's been, on the contrary, a lot of progress over the last years, recent years in Latin America in democracy," said Mr. Reeker, speaking to reporters at the State Department.

"This is why we take [Peru] so seriously. The people of Latin America, regardless of what country they're in, deserve to have their will represented in free and fair elections.

"And that's what we try to pursue, and that's why we use structures like the OAS to review this with our partners in the hemisphere."

Mr. Fujimori, who has enjoyed close ties to the United States for defeating two communist insurgencies and ending rampant inflation in his decade of power, said yesterday that he still considers the United States an ally.

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