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Peruvian President Promises to Pull Troops off Streets

FACING international pressure to reinstate constitutional rule, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's military-backed government expects to hold a referendum on a new constitution and congressional elections within 18 months, Peru's foreign minister says.

"After constitutional reform is carried out, the Peruvian people will be asked to vote for this new constitution. With these results, elections for a new congress will be called," Foreign Minister Augusto Blacker Miller told a news conference on Tuesday. "We hope all this can be carried out within 12 to 18 months."

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President Fujimori dissolved Congress, arrested politicians, and sent troops into the streets Sunday night in what Latin Americans term an autogolpe, a self-administered coup.

Fujimori said he made the decision to help him defeat Maoist Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrillas and carry out needed political reforms.

Prime Minister Oscar de la Puente, who also spoke at the news conference, said Peru's security forces were solidly behind the president.

Former United Nations Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar yesterday called for a return to constitutional rule in Peru, echoing similar calls from the United States, Japan, the Organization of American States, and others.

"I profoundly deplore the interruption of constitutional order in Peru, whatever the reasons, good or bad," Mr. Perez de Cuellar, who is himself Peruvian, told Spanish national radio.

"I would like to call on the powers of the state ... to start a process of negotiation leading to a formula which would allow the restoration of full legality in Peru."

Mr. Blacker said Fujimori had approved the timetable for a return to constitutional rule during a meeting Tuesday afternoon. "The president does not want to remain outside the democratic process for long," he added.

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An ambassador who attended a meeting with Blacker on Tuesday morning said the foreign minister had proposed a yes-no plebiscite on Fujimori's emergency government within six weeks and a constitutional referendum within six months, but that the plan had yet to be approved by the president.

Blacker said the country's judiciary would be reorganized within "10 working days" and human rights would be respected by the transitional government.

Asked about the whereabouts of opposition leader Alan Garcia Perez, Blacker denied the former Peruvian president had been detained by security forces and said he was apparently in hiding.

During an unscheduled walk around downtown Lima Tuesday, Fujimori said he would order troops who occupied the media offices to be removed.

"Today the security forces will be removed from all news media who in reality were there to provide protection," he said.

Fujimori added that military troops, who firmly supported his announcement to dissolve Congress, would be gradually withdrawn from the streets of Lima as the situation returned to normal. But he did not mention security forces who have occupied the homes of several political leaders.

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