- The Washington Times - Friday, September 29, 2000

Peru's embattled president, Alberto Fujimori, flew to Washington yesterday to seek help from the United States and other countries as fears of a military coup mounted in his homeland.
Mr. Fujimori met with the secretary general of the Organization of American States (OAS), Cesar Gaviria, after arriving at Andrews Air Force Base in the presidential jet. He declined to speak with reporters, an OAS official said.
Mr. Fujimori, who has ruled Peru for a decade, also sought meetings with senior U.S. officials, but a State Department official said no decision has been made who would meet with the visiting leader.
The Peruvian leader left for Washington hours after a member of Peru's congress said he and other legislators were being pressured by the military to step down and pave the way for a military coup.
According to a senior Latin American diplomat in Washington, the military is furious over the treatment given to the former intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos.
Mr. Montesinos was fired last week after the release of a videotape showing him bribing a legislator to back Mr. Fujimori's party. He fled to Panama on Sunday.
"The situation in Peru is very critical," said the diplomat, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
"The military establishment the military chiefs are very angry because of the reluctance of Panama in granting political asylum to Mr. Montesinos," said the diplomat, citing information provided by Mr. Gaviria to the OAS diplomatic corps in Washington.
The diplomat said Peru's military remains fiercely loyal to Mr. Montesinos for his successful battle to defeat the bloody guerrilla insurgency of the Shining Path as well as his success in fighting drug traffickers.
While staying out of the public eye, the former intelligence chief to Mr. Fujimori was an eminence grise who in effect dominated military and political life in Peru for a decade.
Mr. Fujimori had only recently won a third term in office in an election that was branded by opposition leaders and international observers as being unfair.
He stunned the nation with a Sept. 16 announcement that he would call new elections in which he would not be a candidate. Within days, however, he appeared to be hedging his bets, announcing that he would not relinquish power until July 28, 2001.
Since last week's bribery scandal and firing of Mr. Montesinos, nine legislators have quit Mr. Fujimori's Peru 2000 alliance, leaving him without a majority in Congress for the first time since 1992.
The crisis is deeply troubling to the neighbors of Peru because each faces grave security problems that would be affected by a possible military takeover in Peru.
Ecuador has just ended a long border conflict with Peru in a remote jungle region. The regular flare-ups in fighting were often seen as a way for the militaries of both sides to whip up nationalist sentiment.
Bolivia is struggling to end cocoa cultivation and fears destabilization.
Colombia, which is fighting the worst insurgency in Latin America, fears that weapons, drugs and insurgents are being allowed to cross the border from Peru.
The crisis in the Peruvian capital of Lima intensified yesterday when legislator Juan Carlos Miguel Mendoza told of military pressure on Congress members to quit and set off a coup.
"A group of congressmen from [Mr. Fujimori's] Peru 2000 [party] has been pressured to sign a pre-written resignation drafted at army headquarters to set up a parliamentary bloc backing Vladimiro Montesinos," said Mr. Mendoza, who defected from the opposition to join Mr. Fujimori's Peru 2000 party.
The aim was to "destabilize dialogue within Congress and spread disorder in the country, that would later unleash generalized chaos and a coup d'etat in 20 days allowing Montesinos to return," said Mr. Mendoza.
The Defense Ministry said in a statement issued by the army information office, that the charges were "absolutely false."
"The Peruvian army … does not take part in political activities," the statement said.
Mr. Fujimori's flight to Washington to seek OAS help came one day after prosecutors said they had closed an investigation of Mr. Montesinos for corruption.
The opposition leader Alejandro Toledo, who many believe really won the recent election, said that the failure to prosecute Mr. Montesinos who was highly feared during his long reign in power could threaten political talks held by the OAS in Peru.
"It is not possible that one person can blackmail 25 million Peruvians," he told a news conference in Lima.

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