An opposition lawmaker has been elected to head the Peruvian Congress, in what is considered another blow to scandal-plagued President Alberto Fujimori, who is away attending an APEC meeting in Brunei.
As first order of business after electing Valentin Paniagua late Thursday by a vote of 64-51, the Peruvian Congress reinstated three judges who were fired from the Constitutional Tribunal in 1997 for voting against Fujimori's second reelection earlier this year.
The three judges, Delia Revoredo, Manual Aguirre Roca and Guillermo Rey Terrey, were reinstated with overwhelming support by a vote of 57-6 early Friday.
The ruling Peru 2000 Party maintained a majority control of Congress since Fujimori was first elected in 1990 and after it was dissolved, reformed and reassembled in 1992. The Constitutional Tribunal, formed by pro-Fujimori judges, passed two constitutional amendments to allow Fujimori to run for re-election twice.
Fujimori's influence has been seriously waning since his top aide resigned last month in a corruption scandal. His ability to reform the constitution to stay in power, and growing allegations of human rights abuses under his watch earned his administration the dubious title of "dictablanda," or soft dictatorship.
His current trip to the Far East gave rise to rumors, even in ruling party circles, that he had skipped the country to avoid his problems. The government promptly denied the rumors.
In his opening speech, Paniagua said Peru was going through "a severe crisis stemming from a very serious lack of leadership from all or almost all its (official) institutions.
"On top of that," he added, "we have a dire social and economic situation and a serious erosion of the Republic's ethical foundations by the widespread corruption that all of Peru condemns and wants to punish with as severely as our laws allow."
Without mentioning him by name, Paniagua was alluding to Fujimori's disgraced intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, who returned to Peru after fleeing to Panama only to be the object of a huge manhunt.
In addition to being charged with bribery and arms smuggling charges, Montesinos is suspected to have hoarded 50 million laundered dollars in Swiss bank accounts.
Paniagua said one of his goals was to "lead the way to free and democratic elections that will restore the people's genuine right to self-government."
After the Montesinos scandal broke, Fujimori, who was reelected, in an uncontested runoff in May, promised to resign next year and convened new elections for April 8.
As Congress' leader until July 26, 2001, Paniagua will have to handle opposition demands for Fujimori's dismissal from office "for moral incapacity."
Paniagua has for now taken the high road, counseling "an extremely careful evaluation for the sake of the country's stability" -- LIMA (AFP)
© 2000 Al Bawaba (www.albawaba.com )