- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2001

Peru's President-elect Alejandro Toledo yesterday appealed for U.S. help in building a corruption case against former President Alberto Fujimori, now living in exile in Japan.
In his first trip abroad since winning a hard-fought presidential campaign June 3, the 55-year-old former World Bank economist said the weekend arrest of former Peruvian intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos in Venezuela an arrest that relied heavily on FBI help could bolster the case for extraditing Mr. Fujimori.
Mr. Toledo met with President Bush, National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell during his Washington trip, appealing to administration officials to release classified U.S. documents that he said could expose corruption under Mr. Fujimori.
"I'm going to ask President Bush to declassify certain documents that will help investigations into corruption in Peru," Mr. Toledo told reporters prior to his round of meetings. "They would help understand the magnitude of Fujimori's involvement in corruption."
After his meeting with Mr. Powell yesterday morning, Mr. Toledo told reporters that "the capture of Montesinos should be understood as one step forward in working on getting the extradition of Mr. Fujimori." He said Mr. Powell offered to help in declassifying documents that could aid the investigation into Mr. Fujimori's reign.
The Japanese government so far has refused to extradite Mr. Fujimori, who fled to the country of his parents in November after abruptly resigning the post he had held for a decade. U.S. officials said the president-elect did not press yesterday for direct U.S. help in securing Mr. Fujimori's return to Peru, which Mr. Toledo said was a bilateral issue between Lima and Tokyo.
Peru has seen almost constant turmoil since the resignation of Mr. Fujimori and the international manhunt for Mr. Montesinos, a longtime Fujimori ally who many charged controlled a political empire built on bribery, blackmail and corruption. Mr. Toledo, a populist reformer who lost a disputed election to Mr. Fujimori last year, staged a remarkable comeback. He will take power July 28.
While the Montesinos arrest and return to Peru on Monday have dominated the headlines, Mr. Toledo spent much of yesterday appealing to U.S. investors and saying he was determined to create the necessary legal and business climate to create jobs and improve Peru's competitiveness.
"We will create rules of the game that are clear and stable," he told a luncheon sponsored by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "We will do absolutely everything we can to attract private investment both domestic and foreign."
He told the business group his goal was to double both the volume and the dollar value of his country's exports by the end of his five-year term. Mr. Toledo said he was prepared to cut defense spending in order to fund government programs promoting health, nutrition and education.
He was noncommittal on the proposed Western Hemisphere free-trade pact strongly backed by Mr. Bush, saying Peru would work closely with the regional South American Mercosur trade group while remaining open to larger free-trade arrangements.
He criticized high U.S. textile tariffs, which he said kept lower-cost quality Peruvian goods out of the American market.
He argued that it would be "difficult" for Peru to "retain its political democracy when we don't have economic democracy," noting that 54 percent of Peru's 13 million people live in poverty and a fifth live in conditions of "extreme poverty."
While in Washington, Mr. Fujimori also signed a $150 loan agreement with the World Bank to aid development.
Mr. Powell and Mr. Toledo also discussed the case of Lori Berenson, a New York woman sentenced last week by a Lima court to 20 years in prison for collaborating with one of Peru's leading Marxist terrorist groups.
State Department spokesman Richard Boucher yesterday said Mr. Powell told the Peruvian leader that the United States placed a high priority on the case, and U.S. officials pressed for a speedy appeal of the verdict. In New York Monday, Mr. Toledo said he did not plan to interfere in the Berenson case, saying the legal process should play out without political interference.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide