Fujimori Loses Congress Majority
LIMA, Peru (AP) _ In the turbulent wake of his former spy chief’s escape to Panama, President Alberto Fujimori lost his slim majority in Congress on Tuesday as lawmakers defected from his ranks.
With the defections of three lawmakers opposed to his plan for new elections, Fujimori appeared to no longer be able to count on a majority to pass laws at his whim _ a difficult situation for an iron-fisted president unaccustomed to negotiations or compromise.
Fujimori seems intent on charting his own exit from power and maneuvering a candidate of his choosing into the presidential palace next July. But laying the necessary legislative groundwork will be difficult with only 59 seats in the 120-member Congress.
The new resignations from his ruling party raise the number of legislators who have abandoned Fujimori’s ranks to five since the Sept. 14 release of a video apparently showing deposed spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos bribing an opposition congressman to join Fujimori’s block in the Congress.
``Undoubtedly, today we are left in the minority,″ Congressman Carlos Leon Trelles, a member of Fujimori’s Peru 2000 political alliance, told Radioprogramas on Tuesday.
``We will have to view the situation and with the utmost order try to be able to share the government,″ he said.
Opposition leaders upped their call for Fujimori’s immediate ouster after he allowed Montesinos to flee to Panama, escaping a deepening corruption scandal that forced Fujimori’s Sept. 16 call for a special election in which he would not be a candidate.
``We hold President Alberto Fujimori personally responsible for Vladimiro Montesinos’ escape,″ said Congressman Jorge del Castillo. His left-leaning Aprista party issued a statement saying Fujimori should be tossed from office ``for moral incapacity.″
In Panama, where many officials have resisted giving Montesinos asylum, the Foreign Ministry ordered seven Peruvians who arrived with the spy chief Sunday _ including a general _ out of the country. It gave no reason, saying only that they were ``not tourists.″
Two Peruvian legislators came to Panama to ask its leaders not to grant Montesinos asylum. One, legislator Mercedes Cabanillas, said the Peruvian opposition might seek to have him extradited home to face charges.
Panama is still considering whether to grant asylum to Montesinos, who the government said Monday it gave a 30-day tourist visa.
Many in Peru fear the judiciary _ seen as under Montesinos’ control _ will never follow through with charges against the former spy chief.
On Tuesday, prosecutor Nina Rodriguez submitted a motion to quash the investigation into the bribery scandal, a Public Ministry spokesman told The Associated Press.
Opposition leader Alejandro Toledo called the move ``counterproductive″ to negotiations with Fujimori’s government, which resumed Tuesday under the auspices of the Organization of American States. The opposition had demanded Montesinos’ arrest as a condition for progress in the dialogue on the democratic transition.
The United States backed OAS efforts to press Panama to take in Montesinos, whose powerful military allies, it was feared, would rebel if he were prosecuted.
Fujimori met Tuesday with U.S. Ambassador John Hamilton and Gen. Peter Pace, recently appointed commander of U.S. military operations in Latin America, in the country on a routine introduction tour, according to the U.S. Southern Command in Miami.