Fujimori's September Surprise

LIMA La República (liberal), Sept. 17: In a brief and surprising message to the nation, President Alberto Fujimori announced his decision to deactivate the National Intelligence Service (SIN), call general elections within a prudent length of time, and not participate himself in these elections, which means that he will retire from power and open the way for a new and legitimate government that will come to power through transparent and unquestioned elections. It was the only way out for a government overwhelmed by the illegitimacy stemming from an unconstitutional candidacy and a third term, and confirmed by fraudulent elections.…[Fujimori’s] regime received the final blow when a video was released proving the illegitimate nature of the majority in congress, which was involved in a scandalous bribery scheme.
The video showed Representative Alberto Kouri and Vladimiro Montesinos, the de facto head of the SIN and advisor to Fujimori, in an extraordinary and criminal deal that provoked public disgust. This crime, planned and carried out in the SIN offices, was unanimously condemned by the healthy forces in our society. It was the cause of the president’s decision to deactivate the service and halt the political control that it exercised through threats and blackmail.

MEXICO CITY La Jornada (leftist), Sept. 18: The shameless perpetuation of  Fujimori in power through self-initiated coups d’état, displays of authoritarianism, fraudulent electoral processes, and a network of corruption and cooptation of opposition leaders and communication media constitutes an affront to democratic principles, and the imminent end to his regime opens up the possibility for Peru to rebuild its political structure. Nevertheless, it would be naive to think that the unexpected decomposition of Fujimori’s government will automatically lead to a revival of Peruvian democracy.…

The most worrying thing about the Peruvian situation is the political backwardness and the disintegration of the rule of political parties—factors that Fujimori aggravated but that existed before he arrived on the scene.…But despite the uncertainties generated by Peru’s current political situation, the sudden collapse of the Fujimorazo [reign of Fujimori] is an encouraging event for progress and democratic principles.

TOKYO The Japan Times (independent), Sept. 21: [Breaking up the National Intelligence Service] may be easier said than done. The security chief is a sinister figure. Montesinos is considered to be the power behind the presidency; he is believed to have brokered the deal that won Fujimori the presidency in 1990 and has kept him there ever since.…

Peru needs a fresh start. Fujimori did much for his country, but his unwillingness to step down jeopardized those accomplishments. New elections are needed, but they must be fair. Time must be provided so that all candidates can prepare.

The intelligence services must be reined in to ensure that no candidate enjoys an advantage. An independent body should be charged with investigating their past conduct and establishing safeguards to see that abuses are not repeated. Peru’s friends must make it clear that they will not turn a blind eye to a coup. Fujimori has not said when the elections will be held. Worse, he has spoken of a “surprise” in the 2006 elections, hinting that he may run again, after all. Stability, not surprises, is what his country needs most now.

Viewpoints includes items drawn from the U.S. Department of State’s daily digest of international media opinion.