Peru president pledges to keep shadowy spy chief

Associated Press -- 4 July 2000

LIMA, Peru (AP) -- President Alberto Fujimori has pledged to keep shadowy security chief Vladimiro Montesinos by his side.

"Montesinos will continue his functions as adviser at the top level of the intelligence service," Fujimori said of the man widely feared for his spy network and seen by many as the power behind the president.

The statement, broadcast late Tuesday on national radio from the central highland city of Ayacucho, came five days after a top-level Organization of American States delegation urged Fujimori to reform Peru's damaged democracy following his tainted re-election.

The mission -- led by OAS Secretary General Cesar Gaviria and Canadian Foreign Minister Lloyd Axworthy -- said last week that Fujimori and government opponents had agreed on a list of OAS recommendations. The OAS agenda calls for reforms to establish an independent judicial system, guarantee press freedom, correct flaws in the electoral process and provide oversight of the armed forces and intelligence services, which have been key allies in helping Fujimori tighten his control over all branches of government.

Montesinos has been accused by human rights groups and Fujimori's political foes of taking money from drug lords, having links to death squads and spearheading smear campaigns against Fujimori's opponents in the recent presidential elections.

Despite Montesinos' dark reputation, analysts say Fujimori has kept him close by during a decade in power because he has proved highly useful in defeating leftist rebels and undercutting political foes.

Fujimori on Tuesday denied press reports that the OAS insisted that he fire Montesinos.

He said there was some discussion with the OAS officials about making Montesinos' role "more public."

Asked last week if the OAS delegation had discussed Montesinos, Axworthy told reporters: "There's no doubt that a great deal of concern was expressed about the role that this gentleman plays and we would hope that the government takes that into account."

Fujimori pledged to loosen his autocratic grip and fortify democratic institutions after winning an unprecedented third five-year term, following a campaign riddled with irregularities and allegations of government fraud. His opponent, Alejandro Toledo, boycotted the runoff vote, saying it was being rigged in Fujimori's favor.

The OAS refused to monitor the May 28 ballot after Fujimori refused to delay it and correct irregularities, but sent the follow-up delegation to ensure Fujimori keeps his postelection promise.