The protests surrounding the Peruvian elections have borne fruit. Last month, a source inside the Peruvian government leaked a videotape showing Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori’s main ally–the hated and feared Vladimiro Montesinos, head of Peruvian intelligence–bribing an opposition lawmaker to support Fujimori’s candidacy. Montesinos, who has strong ties with the CIA, has always been referred to as Washington’s strongest drug-war ally in South America. However, he has recently been implicated in a deal to sell weapons to FARC rebels in Colombia–in exchange for drugs. For the world outside of the U.S. propaganda machine, Montesinos is more commonly known as the man who helped Fujimori carry out a self-coup in 1992 that shut down Congress, set up repressive military tribunals, and established martial law. Montesinos also established and controlled death squads that murdered tens of thousands of trade unionists, human rights workers, and civilians during Peru’s civil war against the Shining Path (Sendero Luminoso) guerrillas. In addition, throughout the 1990s, while the Peruvian government accepted money from the U.S. to “fight the drug war” (and instead used it to fight Sendero), Montesinos and the military were implicated in drug trafficking. On September 16, within hours of the broadcast of the incriminating videotape on Peru’s independent Channel N, Fujimori ordered new elections and announced that he would not run again for the presidency. He fired Montesinos, but did not arrest him. According to the latest press reports, the Peruvian government has loaded Montesinos on a plane to Panama in hopes that Panama will grant him political asylum. It remains to be seen if Fujimori will keep his word about resigning and holding new elections. More likely, he’ll continue in office with the support of the Peruvian military, with the hope that getting rid of Montesinos will be enough to satisfy his critics at home and abroad.
Protests continue in Jakarta over the sagging trial against former Indonesian dictator Suharto. Hundreds of demonstrators have held daily vigils outside Suharto’s residence, while his doctors claim that Suharto is
too ill to stand trial. The judge has ordered a medical evaluation, while protesters have complained that he should stand trial regardless of his health. In the meantime, at each crucial stage during the ongoing trial, explosions have occurred at key points around the city, including Jakarta’s stock exchange; recent press reports have linked one of Suharto’s sons to the bombings. Activists are also pissed off that Suharto is being tried for stealing only $564 million from seven public charities during his 32-year rule, when he and his family bilked the government of over $45 billion and stashed it in private, overseas accounts. His trial opened on August 31, but has been adjourned twice; each time, the delay has been met with massive street demonstrations of increasing militancy. Suharto’s doctors claim that he has had two strokes and is incoherent. In the meantime, the aged President Wahid–who has had his own health problems and is nearly blind–has come under fire for letting the military run wild in Timor and Aceh, and for failing to stop the sectarian fighting in southern Java. Wahid has been forced to surrender some of his duties to his popular vice-president, Megawati Sukarnoputri.
Last week, France joined Russia in defying the criminal sanctions against Iraq. A French plane loaded with doctors, artists, and athletes touched down in Baghdad. Within a day, a Russian flight landed, the third flight from Russia since Iraq opened its international airport last month. The Russian flight carried humanitarian supplies, politicians, oil officials, and a youth football team. Both France and Russia informed the U.N. sanctions committee of the flights, but neither sought approval for them, which has brought rabid criticism from the U.S. These are the first flights to enter Iraq bearing “ordinary people.” The sanctions have barred such flights; the only route into Iraq has been by flying to Jordan and traveling overland by truck. Among the French air passengers were a group of in-line skaters who oppose the sanctions. They plan to visit hospitals and give skating exhibitions as part of a cultural exchange program. Both France and Russia were close trading partners with Iraq before the sanctions were imposed at the behest of the U.S. and Britain in 1990, and both France and Russia are the strongest critics of the sanctions at the U.N. A second French flight is scheduled for September 29.