Peru: Call for Fujimori Exit

"Tainted" Government Should not Administer Elections

Human Rights Watch News -- 19 September 2000

(New York, September 18, 2000) President Alberto Fujimori (who Saturday called for new elections in Peru and announced that he would not present himself as a candidate) should stand down immediately in favor of a caretaker president who can enjoy the confidence of all political sectors, Human Rights Watch said today. The Peruvian president's decision was announced shortly after it was revealed that intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos had bribed an opposition congressman.

"Fujimori's decision to call new elections was correct, but for these elections to be seen as fair and credible, they should not take place under his presidency," said Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director of the Americas Division of Human Rights Watch. "Thursday's revelations of bribery are proof that elements of the Fujimori government use tactics borrowed from the criminal underworld. Given his record of misrule and the tainted nature of his administration, Fujimori should not remain in power another day -- much less oversee elections." The bribery scandal came in the wake of one of the most widely questioned elections the region has seen for decades. It raised suspicions that President Fujimori (elected in May after opposition candidate Alejandro Toledo withdrew alleging fraud) had secured a parliamentary majority by bribing opposition congressmen to change sides.

The New York-based human rights organization also expressed concern for the safety of politicians who made public the video incriminating Montesinos, several of whom have received death threats. Vivanco said that Montesinos should be separated immediately from his control of the National Intelligence Service (SIN), and prosecuted for the crimes he committed as the head of the SIN. "Fujimori has promised to 'deactivate' the SIN, but it is absurd to propose this with Montesinos still in control," said Vivanco. Human Rights Watch pointed out that a thorough and impartial investigation of the bribery scandal would be unlikely unless measures are taken promptly to restore the independence of Peru's judicial system. Furthermore, the credibility of future elections would depend on restoring public confidence in Peru's electoral bodies and on measures to strengthen freedom of the press. Human Rights Watch praised the efforts of the OAS mission led by Eduardo Latorre in brokering electoral reforms. However, it warned that the efforts could be derailed if the process was not overseen by a president with a proven democratic track record.

For more information, please see:

Elections in Peru: Democracy at Risk (HRW Press Release, May 31, 2000)