by Abraham Lama
(IPS) LIMA --
President Alberto Fujimori's decision to dissolve the national intelligence agency (SIN) and call new elections, in which he will not run, has prompted speculation over the president's true motives and how the army will react to his surprise announcement.
On Sept. 14, less than two months into his third consecutive five-year term, Fujimori's government was rocked by a videotape showing Vladimiro Montesinos, the president's security adviser and the de facto head of SIN, bribing an opposition lawmaker.
Two days later, Fujimori surpised the nation by announcing that he would convene new elections and dismantle SIN.
The eight opposition parties of the Democratic Front announced today that they would not participate in Congress or in the Organization of American States-sponsored dialogue with the government until Montesinos was formally dismissed, and his arrest ordered.
The generals in charge of the army's six regions, all of them former military school classmates of Montesinos, have so far kept silent on the crisis shaking the regime they backed through the 1992 "self-coup" by Fujimori, when he dissolved parliament and suspended parts of the constitution.
Montesinos, a retired army captain, is basically responsible for the military's support for Fujimori, who was first elected in 1990. And according to internationally-renowned Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, currently living in Spain, the shady intelligence chief wields as much -- or more -- power as the president.
A writ of habeas corpus filed on Montesinos' behalf by his sister seems to indicate that the regime's controversial éminence grise is already under arrest. Opposition party sources previously stated that Montesinos had been held in a Lima army barracks since Sept. 15, although they did not specify whether he had been detained or was under protection.
silence of the armed forces and the lack of official explanations have led to a flurry of rumors.
According to one, the president's declaration on Sept. 16 pulled the rug out from under two military coups being planned with far different objectives: one to force Fujimori and Montesinos to step down, and the other to back them.
Fujimori says he will personally hand over the presidential sash to whoever wins the early elections. In other words, he is planning on an orderly transfer of power, a likelihood accepted by many of his adversaries, but one that frustrates the most radical members of the opposition, who insist that he "go home now."
Among those who want him to step down immediately figure the social democratic Aprista party and, from abroad, two former presidential candidates defeated by Fujimori: Vargas Llosa and former United Nations secretary-general Javier Perez de Cuellar.
Vargas Llosa and Perez de Cuellar are demanding that a transitional government headed by independent figures be set up.
But that initiative has no legal foundation, and there would be no way to impose it except by means of intense street protests, because Fujimori -- until the military command says otherwise -- enjoys the support of the army, a solid majority in parliament, and the backing of the judiciary.
Observers say a majority of opposition leaders agree that Fujimori should remain at the head of the government until stepping down to his successor, in order to avoid a vacuum of power that could be exploited by hard-line sectors of the governing alliance.
The constitution does not provide for early elections, which means Congress -- where Fujimori has an absolute majority -- will have to intervene to implement the president's decision to cut short his term.
Opposition leader Antero Flores, of the Social Christian Party, demanded the expulsion of the 17 legislators who switched over to the ruling coalition, thus giving Fujimori a majority in congress.
But there is only evidence against one legislator, Alberto Kouri, who can be seen on the tape accepting some $15,000 from Montesinos.
What opposition and governing alliance lawmakers have agreed on so far is to modify, over the next few weeks, the composition of the National Election Council and the National Office of Electoral Processes, the bodies that ran the widely-questioned April and May elections which resulted in Fujimori's re-election.
September 25, 2000 (http://www.monitor.net/monitor) All Rights Reserved. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for permission to use in any format.
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