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Peru Sets Sights on New Elections

September 30, 2000

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Political tensions eased Friday as fears of a military coup subsided and government officials and opposition leaders set their sights on special elections to end President Alberto Fujimori’s 10-year rule.

Prime Minister Federico Salas told reporters Friday that the new elections probably will occur between March and April.

``At this point, we’re looking ahead,″ Salas told a gathering of foreign correspondents. ``I don’t want to believe the possibility of a coup exists in this country.″

Opposition leaders and the government announced an agreement late Thursday to establish a definite date for new elections by Oct. 15.

The deal, hammered out in talks mediated by the Organization of American States, followed Congress’ vote approving the quick dismantling of the National Intelligence Service, run by exiled spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

Fears of a military revolt intensified this week after an opposition lawmaker who had defected to Fujimori’s ranks alleged that top army commanders were plotting a coup to allow Montesinos’ return from Panama.

The army high command called the allegations ``completely false.″

Helping to lessen tensions was the end Friday of a 10-day truckers strike that had led to violent demonstrations.

Fujimori announced Sept. 16 that he was ending his 10-year presidency with new elections and was deactivating his spy chief’s espionage agency after a videotape aired apparently showing the intelligence adviser bribing an opposition lawmaker.

The decision caused an apparent power struggle between Fujimori and his once-trusted aide, who fled Peru to seek political asylum in Panama.

Fujimori says he plans to stay in office until July, 2001.

In Panama Friday, President Mireya Moscoso said she will decide within the next 12 days whether to grant asylum to Montesinos.

Despite pressure from the Organization of American States to accept Montesinos and thereby defuse a potential crisis in Peru, Moscoso said she was still weighing the pros and cons of the asylum request.

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