INTERVIEW - Peru's Fujimori sees foreign plot against him

Reuters -- 4 April 2000

by Saul Hudson

LIMA, April 4 - President Alberto Fujimori said Tuesday he was confident of winning a third term in this week's election despite what he called an ``international conspiracy'' undermining his campaign with accusations he is preparing vote-counting fraud.

Fujimori dismissed widespread talk of fraud as a tried-and-trusted election ploy by the opposition, who created debate in Peru and abroad over the allegations in an effort to overturn his solid lead in polls before Sunday's balloting.

``I speak of a type of international conspiracy ... in the sense that foreign nongovernmental organizations and others here are talking of the possibility of fraud,'' Fujimori said in an interview in the Golden Room at Government Palace.

``In every campaign there is talk of fraud. It's an age-old electioneering tactic,'' Fujimori said.

In conclusions backed by the White House and other Western governments, foreign election observers claim Fujimori is overseeing a vote that lacks conditions to be democratic due to media manipulation and the use of state funds for his campaign.

Washington has urged Fujimori to make the process democratic after fully backing reports by observers, such as The Carter Center, a pro-democracy group founded by former U.S. president Jimmy Carter, and an Organization of American States mission.

But Fujimori, who said he was compelled to stand again because other candidates might ``demolish'' his successes defeating rebels and stabilizing a chaotic economy, stressed the United States did not figure in his conspiracy theory.

``Our relationship (with the United States) is good -- naturally there are always some problems that present themselves in bilateral ties,'' Fujimori said.

``I have not and am not saying it is a White House conspiracy,'' he added in a voice hoarse from a day of rallying supporters in Peru's provinces in an increasingly tight race.

The president said he was campaigning with the same ``confidence, self-assurance and optimism,'' that brought him to power in 1990 and earned a comfortable reelection in 1995.


Fujimori is a key ally in Washington's anti-drug fight and admired by free market international lending bodies. But the style of his bid for an unprecedented third term has caused strains with traditional partners, highlighting the sometimes ambivalent relationship Western governments have with a president who straddles the line between dictator and democrat.

The opposition claim it is illegal for Fujimori, who is the longest-standing democratically elected president in the Americas, to run for reelection. He can only stand because his supporters in Congress passed a special law interpreting an ambiguous constitution in his favor.

The opposition has also emphasized in recent weeks the possibility of fraud as polls show Fujimori appears to be just short of achieving a simple majority needed for outright victory in Sunday's first round voting. A scandal last month -- widely believed by Peruvians -- that Fujimori's alliance forged a million signatures to register his candidacy has heightened awareness over possible fraud in this Andean nation of 25 million.

Alejandro Toledo, whose surging support in March has slashed Fujimori's lead in the polls to about 10 percentage points, said Tuesday he would lead a ``popular upheaval'' if there was evidence of ``grotesque'' fraud Sunday. Increasingly, the observers have signaled the election's vulnerability to fraud as thousands of remote voting centers cannot be monitored in areas under effective control of the military, which has underpinned Fujimori's power since he took office in 1990.