Opposition Leader Granted Asylum at Embassy; Fujimori Defends Crackdown
LIMA, Peru (AP) _ The leader of the opposition to President Alberto Fujimori’s crackdown received asylum in Argentina’s Embassy, while Fujimori asserted his international critics don’t understand Peru’s problems.
The tanks stationed in front of the Supreme Court and Congress, the troops at newspapers and television stations, and the detention of opposition politicians ″have probably been interpreted as a coup d’etat,″ Fujimori said Friday.
″It isn’t. What the president of the republic has done is take up the wishes of the people and translate it into these actions,″ Fujimori said.
He spoke to reporters after taking a brief walk through downtown Lima to the cheers of passersby.
Fujimori was backed by the military and buoyed by popular support after suspending the constitution and closing Congress and the courts on Sunday. He said ″corrupt and inept″ politicians and judges hampered his efforts to modernize the economy and fight drug traffickers and the Shining Path leftist guerrillas.
Opposition legislators said they will ask the Organization of American States, which meets Monday in Washington to discuss Fujimori’s crackdown, to impose sanctions on Peru to protest the crackdown.
President Bush, on Friday recalled that the OAS applied sanctions against Haiti after the military takeover there six months ago. As for similar measures against Peru, Bush said Friday, ″certainly we’d consider it″ when the OAS foreign ministers meet Monday.
The United States has suspended $45 million in new aid to Peru.
Argentina granted political asylum Friday to Carlos Garcia, who had been Fujimori’s second vice president. Thursday, 135 members of Peru’s 240-member Congress had ″elected″ Garcia as president in a clandestine session at a legislator’s house.
Argentina is working with Fujimori’s government to obtain permission for Garcia to leave the country.
Garcia is a minor political figure in Peru, and politicians said would be replaced by First Vice President Maximo San Roman if he returns to Peru. San Roman was out of the country on official business when Fujimori took action Sunday.
Two leading Fujimori opponents told The Associated Press on Friday that San Roman, who they say is in the United States, will represent the opposition at in Washington Monday.
San Roman ″will assume our representation before the OAS,″ said Roberto Ramierez del Villar, president of the Chamber of Deputies who is under house arrest, and Deputy Jorge del Castillo, freed Friday after five days’ detention.
Congressmen say Fujimori violated the constitution when he took authoritarian power and so the vice president legally can be named president.
Fujimori had placed opposition politicians, including the heads of both houses of congress, under house arrest. Friday, he released eight, including del Castillo, who told reporters that Fujimori’s army supporters were out to kill former President Alan Garcia.
The heads of the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate remained under house arrest, as did about 20 other political leaders. Diplomats estimated more than 100 Shining Path rebels had also been rounded up.
New polls released Friday showed wide support for Fujimori.
The private firm Datum, querying 400 people, said 57 percent ″totally agreed″ with the crackdown; 95 percent backed Fujimori’s plan to overhaul the courts, and 85 percent agreed with his closing of Congress. The poll’s margin of error was 5 percent.
Fujimori, meanwhile, pressed on with decrees to carry out his programs, concentrating on marshaling the full force of the government against drug traffickers in northeastern Peru.
Another decree said all military or police agents assigned to coca zones must sign declarations of their income and personal possessions upon taking up their posts. Soldiers are often bought off by drug traffickers.