Toledo Calls for Fujimori's Return to Peru

Reuters -- 19 November2000

by Dan Trotta

MADRID - Peru's main opposition leader Alejandro Toledo on Sunday called on President Alberto Fujimori to return to Lima to present his resignation instead of stepping down while in Japan.

Toledo, who finished second in tainted April elections that kicked off the process that led to Fujimori's resignation announcement from Tokyo, also said congressional president and opposition figure Valentin Paniagua should lead a provisional government until elections next year.

``Fujimori cannot resign from Japan,'' Toledo told reporters upon arriving at the airport in Madrid. ``He needs to return to Lima and have the courage to present his resignation before congress.''

Toledo also called the chances of a military coup in Peru ''absolutely remote'' and ``outside of the political scene.''

Peru's armed forces -- a key power broker -- announced on Sunday they would abide by the constitution and any political changes as Fujimori said he would resign after a decade in office.

Toledo was scheduled to meet political and business leaders in Spain and then travel to Italy and Yugoslavia but said he would cancel those appointments and return on Monday to Lima.

Fujimori's resignation followed months of instability in Peru that included the contested election and a corruption scandal involving Fujimori's spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, currently in hiding in Peru.

Toledo, who plans to run for president again and expects to win, said his government would form a truth commission to investigate the Fujimori government.

Fujimori's first vice president, Francisco Tudela, presented his resignation in October and the second vice president, Ricardo Marquez, has said he is willing assume the presidency until early elections already called for April.

But Toledo said Marquez ``was elected in the same fraudulent process as Fujimori and Tudela.''

``They cannot try to lead in this period of transition,'' Toledo said.

``The most sensible and stabilizing thing would be for the president of congress, the recently elected Dr Valentin Paniagua, to assume the presidency of the republic transitorily until July 28 of next year.''

Toledo tried to put to rest any fears that military leaders would stage a coup. Some observers in Peru suspect Montesinos is under army protection and still has the loyalty of officers who owed their careers to him.

``Number one, the military leadership that governed in complicity with Fujimori and Montesinos is strongly discredited,'' Toledo said. ``Secondly, there is a notable difference between the military leadership and officers who want to vindicate the prestige and credibility of the armed forces.

``And thirdly, a military coup would not last 24 hours,'' he said.

Toledo, a former academic who has mixed leftist rhetoric with a modern free-market economic platform, was nearly crushed by a phalanx of journalists who met him at the airport.

``If you treat me poorly I'll send Vladimiro after you,'' he joked, referring to the feared Montesinos.

Then he led photographers on a slapstick chase through the airport terminal, leading the scrum out to the curb and back to the terminal as travelers looked on in amazement.