TOLEDO: PERUVIAN DEMOCRACY STILL BLACKMAILED BY MONTESINOS
Alejandro Toledo is the president of Peru. He spoke with Global Viewpoint
editor Nathan Gardels last week in New York.
NATHAN GARDELS: How are democratic institutions
faring in Peru after so many years of Alberto Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos,
ALEJANDRO TOLEDO: All our institutions were contaminated in Peru
by Fujimori and Montesinos. They had their dirty hands not only in the
executive branch, but in the legislative and judicial branch as well as
the electoral reform bodies, the constitutional review process, the armed
forces -- especially in connection to the war against narco-terrorism
-- and all the communication media. We have the lists now of bought-off
journalists. Millions of dollars in payoffs cemented loyalty or acquiescence
in their crimes.
By and large, the international community let Fujimori get away with his
destruction of Peru because he paid the foreign debt and fought terrorists.
So the world looked the other way. Human rights violations were ignored.
And now we are finding hundreds of bodies of those who disappeared for
political reasons. We have set up a truth and reconciliation commission
to look into Peru's terrible experiences and sort them all out. Otherwise,
impunity would prevail, and that is always a danger for the future.
So, what I have inherited is a very fragile set of democratic institutions
and a society corrupted in its very fiber. Social expectations are now
very high. People think that if you have democracy after 10 years of corruption,
then automatically you will have a job.
It is a tough order to fill. My immediate task is to extricate democracy
from the corruption that still envelopes it and establish legal stability
while finding a way out of our 4-year-old recession -- something that
is not now easy since, through globalization, our downturn is linked to
But the central goal of my presidency is to move the 54 percent of Peruvians
living in poverty, often outside the formal economy, above the poverty
line through a variety of programs, from property entitlement and microcredit
to education. Education is the key -- it is the path that took me personally
from a barefoot childhood in the Andes with 16 brothers and sisters (seven
of whom died during their first year) to Harvard University as a professor
and ultimately to the presidency. Education is the only way up. I am a
fanatic on this point.
GARDELS: Even from jail, Montesinos still has influence?
TOLEDO: Yes, I'm afraid that he still has enormous influence over
many institutions in Peru, even from jail! With his payoffs and hidden-away
files he still blackmails and buys off generals, legislators, judges,
journalists and even those who own the media. And because I am determined
to respect due process and human rights, there are constraints on what
I can do.
The nerve of this man! He wants to go to court to denounce my government
for violating his human rights. And he's paid off the judges. And he's
paid off the media to help make his case -- $15 million to one TV station
alone. If I were a dictator, I could just slap him down or retract the
broadcasting licenses of the media on his payroll. But I can't do that.
It is frustrating. I can only fight back legally through the courts and
I know what he wants. His aim is to undermine my government in order to
improve his chances impunity, of never having to pay for his crimes.
I wish the United States would just take him away and let me do my job.
After all, he worked for them.
GARDELS: Paul O'Neill, the U.S. Treasury secretary, has advanced
the idea that it may be time to get rid of all those cumbersome trade
treaties and just end tariffs and subsidies altogether in world trade.
What would that mean for a country like Peru?
TOLEDO: Well, the road has to go both ways. The U.S. and Europe
have asked us in the developing world to open our markets and free up
trade. But they have to do the same.
The IMF (International Monetary Fund) says it is against subsidies and
protection in agriculture. But who subsidizes agriculture and puts up
barriers? The U.S. and Europe, which robs us of our comparative advantage
in the crops we grow. And then they have food aid programs for the poor!
Excuse me, Mr. O'Neill, but don't tell us one thing and then do something
else. Don't give us food; open your agricultural markets.
(c) 2002, Global Viewpoint/NPQ. Distributed by Los Angeles Times Syndicate
International, a division of Tribune Media Services.
For immediate release (Distributed 2/11/02)