- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 8, 2000

Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori hightailed to Washington last week as a bribery scandal caused his power structure to crumble around him. Ironically, Mr. Fujimori found himself in the curious position of having to appeal to the United States to restore order in Peru, although it was the White House and Organization of Americans States (OAS) that initially loosened Mr. Fujimori's hold on power in May.

Mr. Fujimori began his new term as president this year a weakened leader. The OAS had pulled its election monitoring mission from Peru due to irregularities in May's presidential election, in which Mr. Fujimori ran for a third term after engineering a constitutional change. The United States rebuked Peru, but Mr. Fujimori appeared to be successfully riding out the fallout from the election when a second political maelstrom hit.

Captured on tape last month was the head of Peru's intelligence agency, the shady Vladimir Montesinos, offering a legislator thousands of dollars in exchange for his support of the president. Although this was hardly the first scandal involving Mr. Montesinos, this time Mr. Fujimori, who no longer enjoyed the United States' support, was forced to dissolve the intelligence agency and call new presidential elections. Since Mr. Montesinos had a significant number of allies and conspirators in the military, Mr. Fujimori correctly estimated that he couldn't dissolve the agency without first announcing he would be stepping down, and he would not have traveled to the United States were he not concerned about the military's intentions. Despite the chilly relations between Peru and the United States lately, Mr. Fujimori's trip to Washington to appeal for help was the right move.

Mr. Fujimori needed a show of support from the United States to ward-off the military's ambitions. The White House went through the necessary motions of demonstrating support for democratic government in Peru and new elections in probably July which will not include Mr. Fujimori as a candidate. Last Monday, a State Department official told The Washington Times that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright "applauded Fujimori's decision to call for early elections and she urged him to do all he can to keep the OAS dialogue alive and moving forward to address key issues of democratic reform."

The involvement of the United States and other countries in Latin America has helped prevent coups in Paraguay and Ecuador. Excluding Cuba. Now the region must struggle with a new phenomenon how to deal with a democratically elected autocrat.

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