- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 29, 2009

PERU

Fujimori pleads guilty to wiretapping

LIMA | Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori pleaded guilty Monday to charges of wiretapping opponents and paying bribes to lawmakers and publishers during his rule from 1990 to 2000. Fujimori will be sentenced to up to eight years in prison Wednesday.

Prosecutors charged that Fujimori and his former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, used state funds to secretly wiretap 28 politicians, journalists and businessmen, bribe 13 congressmen to join Fujimori’s party and buy off a TV station and a newspaper editorial board for political propaganda.

The 71-year-old former president wore a crisp blue suit and gold-colored tie, closing his eyes and appearing to sleep as chief prosecutor Jose Pelaez named many of the 153 witnesses he plans to call - including Montesinos and Fujimori’s former wife.

Democratically elected in 1990, Fujimori ruled Peru with an increasingly iron fist until his corruption-riddled government collapsed in 2000 when a videotape surfaced showing Montesinos bribing a congressmen.

In the past two years, a Supreme Court panel has convicted Fujimori of crimes against humanity for authorizing military death squads, of abuse of power for an illegal search and of embezzlement for paying his spy chief $15 million in state funds. Montesinos is serving a 20-year term for bribing lawmakers and businessmen and selling weapons to Colombian rebels.

CUBA

Willing to work with U.S. on drugs

UNITED NATIONS | Cuba adopted a moderately conciliatory tone toward the U.S. at the United Nations General Assembly on Monday, saying it is ready to normalize relations and, until then, wants to work with Washington to fight drug and people smuggling, protect the environment and cope with natural disasters.

Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez said Cuba had approached the American government with “a set of essential topics” it considers imperative to improving bilateral ties, including doing away with the “wet-foot, dry-foot” immigration policy that allows nearly all Cubans who reach U.S. soil to stay while those captured on the ocean en route are returned.

Cuba is also demanding the return of the territory occupied by the U.S. Naval Base at Guantanamo Bay, and an end to U.S. federal funding for anti-Castro government radio and television broadcasts beamed to the island from Florida, just 90 miles away.

Mr. Rodriguez did not say what the government of President Raul Castro might offer in return for such concessions, but also urged Washington to unilaterally scrap its 47-year-old trade embargo and remove the communist-run island from the annual list of countries that sponsor terrorism.

Cuban and U.S. diplomats held one-day talks to discuss immigration in July, and aiming to restore direct mail service between the countries.

BOLIVIA

Left-right tensions expected to increase

LA PAZ | Bolivia’s left-wing President Evo Morales will likely ride strong indigenous support to re-election in December but a nascent bloc of right-wing rivals will fight to win control of the legislature.

Mr. Morales, the Andean country’s first Indian president, has already nationalized energy, mining and telecommunications companies and vows to further tighten state control over the economy if he wins the Dec. 6 vote.

Early polls show him way ahead of rivals, including Manfred Reyes, a former governor of the central Cochabamba region who has support from pro-autonomy leaders in eastern regions and politicians from other conservative parties.

Mr. Morales, an Aymara Indian from a poor background, needs a resounding victory to dominate the legislature, which would allow his Movement Toward Socialism, or MAS, party to pass legislation without having to negotiate with the opposition.

But if the opposition rallies around a strong field of candidates, voters could return Mr. Morales to office yet check his power by seating his rivals in the legislature. The Dec. 6 ballot will put the entire legislature up for grabs, including an expanded, 36-seat Senate.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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