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The Ground Underneath Peru's `New Democracy'

Regarding the Opinion page article "US Should Resume Aid to Fujimori's Peru," April 5: In his call for the United States and the international community to "abandon their opposition" to President Alberto Fujimori, the author fails to mention the troublesome facts that make his argument hollow.

Peru's "new democracy" is built on an all-powerful intelligence apparatus appropriately called the SIN (National Intelligence Service). Like the KGB, the SIN can order arrests without incriminating evidence and carry out secret detentions, torture, and executions.

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Recently, information surfaced linking the SIN, military intelligence, and the head of Peru's armed forces with the 1992 kidnapping and murder of 10 students and a professor from a Lima university. With Fujimori's support, the SIN has stifled Peru's press and threatened political opponents.

Abimael Guzman, the Shining Path leader, was captured after patient police work, not a presidential brainstrom. In fact, the officer who nabbed Mr. Guzman was "rewarded" with a transfer to a dead-end job, and he now fears the vengeance of the SIN for highlighting their ineptitude more than that of the guerrillas. Far from crippled, the Shining Path appears to have rebuilt a clandestine leadership and continues to act as an agent of hate and extremism in Peru.

To hail Guzms summary court-martial as a sign of democracy demonstrates that the author has a lot to learn about fair trial. Fujimori's decrees have stripped Guzman and every other Peruvian of basic rights. Among others, they include the right to a lawyer and to habeas corpus privileges, and to protect themselves from torture, to have a civilian court, to mount a defense, and to know the evidence against them. Many of Peru's judges have been fired for political reasons, not reform.

That's not a democracy the United States should condone. Fujimori's popularity, although important, is no reason not to support the basic rights Peruvians also clamor for. The protection of human rights and government accountability, not midnight executions and stacked courts, will give Fujimori the credibility he needs to defeat guerrillas. Robin Kirk, Washington Americas Watch

Letters are welcome. Only a selection can be published, subject to condensation, and none acknowledged. Please fax letters to (617) 450-2317 or address them to "Readers Write," One Norway St., Boston, MA 02115.

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