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Montesinos, Fujimori, Toledo and Peru's future
biography and analysis

Article added on November 10, 2000

 
Vladimiro Ilyich Montesinos is not only the former de facto chief of the Peruvian intelligence, Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional (SIN), he was the adviser and, together with the military, the most important power base of President Alberto Fujimori. So who is this man? Vladimir Montesinos was born 54 years ago in Arequipa. He grew up in a bourgeois family, but his parents were communists and therefore named their son after Lenin, Vladimir Ilyich Ulyanov. The young Montesinos went to the military academy in Chorillos in the South of Peru's capital, Lima. General Mercado Jarrin made the young artillery lieutenant his personal adjutant. In 1973, Jarrin became Prime Minister and supreme commander of the armed forces. Montesinos suddenly had access to classified information and that is when his obsessive chase for compromising material, useful to blackmail all sorts of people, began. His greed for power and money is legendary. At that time, he was an open admirer of Libya's Khadhaffi. His career came to a halt when he faked the president's signature and assigned himself an "official" mission to Washington. Montesinos was dishonourably discharged from the army. He used his one-year prison sentence to study law. He became a lawyer for people charged with tax fraud and for drug dealers. He regularly released indiscretions on the professional misconduct of representatives of the army and, therefore, was forced to a short-time exile in Ecuador. On his return to Peru, he offered his services to the SIN.
 
In 1990, as Fujimori rose to power, Montesinos became the president's adviser and mediator in his relations with the SIN and the army. A first contact between the two men was established during the electoral campaign of Fujimori when he was accused of having cheated on a property deal in order to save taxes. The then directon of the Peruvian secret service advised Fujimori to take Montesinos as his legal adviser. Afterwards, nobody talked about the deal anymore. Montesinos is also said to have made Fujimori's birth certificate disappear. Allegedly he was born in Japan - the Peruvian president has to be born on Peruvian soil. But as with a lot in Peruvian politics and especially regarding Montesinos and Fujimori, it is difficult to separate rumors from facts.
 
Under the presidency of Fujimori, Montesinos continuously enlarged the SIN's importance and shifted people of confidence into key positions. 13 of the 18 highest ranking officers in the Peruvian army were promoted to officers, like Montesinos, in 1966. The general responsible for the Lima area, Luis Cuba, was his brother-in-law (he was only dismissed in October 2000). Especially after Fujimori's "autogolpe" in 1992, allegedly inspired by Montesinos, the SIN became, like the military, a state within the state. Montesinos is considered the architect of the successful war of the army against the Maoist movement of the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path). But he also collected compromising material on parliament members, journalists and other members of the opposition (and also on Fujimori's followers). He manipulated people, elections and media and, for his fight against the drug lords, he was for years in close contact with the CIA. There are rumors that Montesinos established the contact with the CIA when he was an officer in the Peruvian army and that he sold state secrets to the Americans. In early September 2000, a video film shown on television showed Montesinos bribing an oppositional member of parliament. This meant the sudden end of his career. Even Fujimori, who had protected Montesinos for years against all accusations and allegations, "suspended" his advisor.
 
A few days ago, it became public that Montesinos had hidden some $48 million in Swiss bank accounts, in the foreign controlled banks Leumi Le-Israel ($32 million), Fibi Bank ($13,5 million) and Crédit Agricole Indosuez (2,1 million). The amount is too large to have come from Montesinos' legal activities in Peru. The money is suspected to come from bribes from drug and arms dealers. Already in 1996, the drug dealer Demetrio Chávez pretended that Montesinos had paid him $50,000/month for not bothering him when his drug trade airplanes landed near a military base in the Huallaga valley. Later, Chávez withdrew his statement, but was said to have looked badly treated when making his statement. In 1997, the Brazilian police published a report accusing Montesinos of being involved in a drug deal. The Columbian drug lord Evaristo Porras accused Fujimori's adviser. In 1978, Montesinos had been Porras' lawyer. The Peruvian police had arrested him when he tried to smuggle 30 tons of cocaine into Colombia. This is embarrassing not only for Fujimori, but also for the United States. The American Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA) as well as the CIA worked closely with Montesinos whom Fujimori had called his number one agent in the war against the drug dealers. The Clinton administration never mentioned the name of Montesinos in relation with human rights violations and electoral fraud in Peru. As a result of all the scandals surrounding Montesinos, Fujimori's political, social and military power base is eroding. But until today, no piece of evidence has been presented that the president himself was corrupt. Anyway, as long as he is in power, he enjoys immunity.
 
Is Alejandro Toledo the man to lead the opposition? The 48-year old politician grew up in a poor "cholo" family in Arequipa. He started as a shoe shining boy and became a respected economist. The woman who shares his life is the Belgian anthropologist Eliane Karp. Toledo's political career is very recent and his decision to withdraw from the second round of the Peruvian presidential election, although not without sense, backfired because the Organization of American States (OAS) did not have the courage to condemn the manipulation of the electoral process in which the opposition was, among other irregularities, almost banned from State media coverage. Only after the video affair did the OAS put more pressure on Fujimori who accepted that the parliamentary elections should be anticipated and held on April 8, 2000. Toledo has not always been a master of the situation as leader of the opposition and he is a populist - as most successful politicians in countries with a huge uneducated population. More important for Peru's future is the fact that Fujimori's adversaries are divided among themselves and reach from the far left to the far right. In the past, neither the Socialist APRA nor the bourgeois parties have had the confidence of the population. That was the main reason why an outsider such as Fujimori could rise to power in 1990. Toledo, by the way, came from nowhere like Fujimori and rose to the status of presidential candidate of the opposition in 2000. This is another important sign on the wall indicating that the Peruvian political and economic establishment has not learned the lesson from 1990. The Peruvian crisis is above all a crisis of the country's elite who are unable to govern, modernize the economy and society and win the confidence of a majority of voters. Until the "video affair", the country was divided between opposition and Fujimori, who even today has strong support among the population, especially in the countryside. Peru has important natural resources and, therefore, is a potentially rich country. But it needs the leaders who are able to fructify it.




Related books:
- Rei Kimura: Alberto Fujimori of Peru: The President Who Dared to Dream. Beekman Pub, 1998, 184 p. Get it from Amazon.com. As the title indicates, no masterpiece of critical writing but more of an apology. Contains some useful information.
- Mario Vargas Llosa: A Fish in the Water: A Memoir. Farrar Straus & Giroux, 1994, 532 p. Get it from Amazon.com. The writer is the man who lost, at the last moment, the presidential race against Fujimori in 1990. A useful book.



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