Analysts: Peru's Announcement of Gun-Smuggling Crackdown a Message to US
President Alberto Fujimori's high-profile crackdown of an international gun-running network is a message to Washington that Lima still has an important role in the region, analysts said.
Fujimori, whose election to an unprecedented third term earlier this year was strongly criticized by the United States and others, on Monday proudly announced his administration had broken up a gun-running ring which had been sending assault rifles from Jordan through Peru to Colombia.
With the announcement, Lima "wants to give a clear signal to the United States that it has an important partner that can contribute intelligence information on security in the region," retired general Daniel Mora Zevallos told AFP.
The announcement came pointedly on the heels of a Latin America tour by US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright that did not include Peru, he said.
And it is meant to show that "an authoritarian government is fundamental in the unstable Andean region," Mora Zevallos added.
The timing of the revelation had another motive, he said: it came the same day an Organization of American States-sponsored dialogue between the government and opposition groups on strengthening democracy in Peru got underway.
"The government is trying to downplay that," Mora Zevallos said.
The dialogue is part of democracy-strengthening recommendations made by OAS diplomats who visited Peru after Fujimori's controversial re-election in an election that many condemned as fraudulent.
Fujimori's announcement is "a message to Madame Albright," who last week visited Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia and Ecuador, agreed Ambassador Gonzalo Fernandez Puyo, president of the Peruvian Society for International Rights.
"It's hard for me to believe the United States knew nothing about this," the diplomat added.
Announcing the bust Monday, Fujimori himself mentioned Albright.
"We were surprised that Secretary Albright visited Peru's neighboring countries and that she doesn't consider us a country that defends democracy," Fujimori said.
"Peru, precisely with this information, has underlined that it is contributing to regional security."
Accompanied at a press conference by Vladimiro Montesinos, his controversial head of intelligence, Fujimori said a total of 10,000 Kalashnikov and AKM rifles were air-dropped in three operations last year along the Colombian border with Peru for the Marxist rebels to pick up.
Peruvian police shut down the ring on August 15th, the day they stopped a fourth air drop in the Amazonian jungle near the Colombian border.
The guns were shipped to Peru under cover of a lumber export operation. Peruvian wood was shipped to Amman, and the weapons loaded on to the planes for the return journey, the president explained - LIMA (AFP)
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