Video Shows Peru Spy Chief Allegedly Buying Votes

Reuters -- 14 September 2000

by Jude Webber

LIMA - A Peruvian television station broadcast a politically explosive video Thursday showing President Alberto Fujimori's powerful spy chief involved in what opposition parliamentarians said was vote buying.

Cable channel Canal N showed a video said to have been taken inside the headquarters of the national intelligence service (SIN) showing Congressman Luis Alberto Kouri sitting with spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos, a former army captain overshadowed by allegations of corruption and rights abuses.

Kouri was elected to Congress as a member of the Peru Posible party of defeated presidential challenger Alejandro Toledo, but later switched sides to join the government ranks.

Opposition parliamentarians said Kouri had accepted $15,000, but Kouri immediately denied allegations he switched sides for cash. Mobbed by reporters on his way out of Congress and asked if he had been bought, he said, ``I think that's excessive.''

There was no immediate official reaction.

Other congressional members have also switched, giving Fujimori, who was re-elected in May in a vote widely condemned as flawed, a majority in the single-chamber, 120-seat parliament.

The men's conversation could not be heard clearly, but Kouri was seen to sign and fingerprint a paper and shake hands with Montesinos, who reached into his pants pocket and removed a yellow envelope containing what appeared to be bank notes.

The men exchanged some more words and Montesinos put his hand into another pocket and took out what appeared to be more notes. He put them all together, put them into the envelope and then handed it to Kouri, before signing a paper himself.

The video was made public by opposition Congressman Fernando Olivera at a news conference broadcast live by Canal N in which he demanded fresh elections and declared, ``We are liberating Peru from the yoke of this mafia today.''

Olivera, head of the Independent Moralizing Front (FIM) party, did not say how he obtained the 56-minute video.

Chaos erupted in Congress when news of the video broke, and opposition parties presented a motion denouncing Montesinos, who is officially a presidential adviser, for corruption.

Television showed several dozen protesters with banners demonstrating peacefully outside the presidential palace.


Montesinos was heard to say on the video, ``How much.'' A transcript released by Peru Posible quoted him as saying: ''Here's 10, you tell me.'' No currency was mentioned.

Kouri allegedly then asked for ``10, 20,'' before settling on the figure 15, to which the transcript quoted Montesinos as saying, apparently as he collected the notes: ``Ten plus five, 15.''

The transcript quoted Kouri as asking for additional cash to cover his election campaign expenses, and Montesinos as agreeing to set up a fund and to continue giving support.

FIM Congressman Luis Iberico later told Canal N the tape said Kouri received $15,000 every month, and that FIM had other videos, which he alleged contained evidence of attempts to compromise journalists, politicians and military officials.

Montesinos, long regarded by many Peruvians as having as much power as Fujimori, if not more, appeared to be pulling the strings of government in his remarks in the transcript.

``Image is fundamental. We're thinking of the international image of the country. ... You achieve that with a strong Congress, with a solid majority, a weighty majority. ... We've already got a majority but I don't want to have a simple majority, I want to have a majority of 70, 75,'' it quoted him as saying.

Kouri told reporters he and Montesinos had been discussing Colombia, national security and other subjects and that he had been sent an invitation by Fujimori to join the president's Peru 2000 party. ``I signed my invitation,'' he said.

Montesinos has advised Fujimori since his first election in 1990 amid coup attempts, leftist rebel violence and widespread criticism. Rights groups have linked him to drug traffickers, and his intelligence services have been hounded by allegations of wiretapping and torture scandals.

Fujimori has pledged to make the SIN more accountable and give a public post to Montesinos.