- The Washington Times - Monday, November 6, 2000

Where do you begin to look for a corrupt and ruthless ex-spy chief in a medium-sized Andean country? Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori isn't quite sure but he is himself overseeing the dramatic manhunt for former spook Vladimiro Montesinos, sending out helicopters, unleashing the tracking dogs, pointing this way and that, while television crews capture every move.
Mr. Montesinos' reputation suffered in September when he was caught on tape trying to bribe an opposition lawmaker and was implicated in an arms-for-drugs swap with Colombian guerrillas. After the bribery scandal broke, Mr. Fujimori announced his own resignation and said he would hold a presidential election in which he would not participate. When Mr. Montesinos fled Peru and entered Panama on a tourist visa, the controversy appeared unlikely to last beyond the elections, scheduled for April.
But Panama didn't much want Mr. Montesinos around and rejected his plea for asylum. When Mr. Montesinos asked Mr. Fujimori if he could come back home, the president told him he was free to return. As Mr. Montesinos left Panama, Mr. Fujimori's administration began to work on a sweeping amnesty plan for human rights violators, which just happened to help Mr. Montesinos.
Speculation spread that Mr. Fujimori was pushing forward the amnesty in order to avert a coup since Mr. Montesinos was apparently the real power behind the military. Perhaps to prove otherwise, Mr. Fujimori launched the manhunt. In addition, the president was eager to win over the support of the Organization of American States, which publicly criticized Mr. Fujimori for allowing Mr. Montesinos to return to Peru.
If Mr. Fujimori were truly determined to find Mr. Montesinos, he wouldn't undercut the search by having TV stations broadcast it. The truth is, Mr. Montesinos knows more than a few secrets about the president and other high-ranking officials. Despite the dogs and helicopters, Mr. Fujimori probably wants Mr. Montesinos comfortably tucked away where he can't tell them to anyone.

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