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Sunday, December 21, 1997 Published at 12:30 GMT



World

Power struggle in Peru
image: [ President Alberto Fujimori ]
President Alberto Fujimori

President Alberto Fujimori of Peru has ordered regional military commanders, visiting the capital Lima for a military ceremony, to return to their posts immediately amid rumours of a coup plot.

The order was contained in a terse, one-sentence message to the armed forces chief, Genera Nicolas Hermoza Rios.

It follows a highly public disagreement between the President and General Hermoza over who deserves the credit for planning the military operation which ended a four-month hostage crisis at the Japanese embassy in Lima earlier this year.

In April 140 army commandos stormed the embassy to free 72 hostages who were being held by members of the Tupac Amaru revolutionary movement. All 14 of the hostage takers and one hostage died during the rescue.


[ image: All 14 hostage takers were killed during the bloody conclusion of the Japanese Embassy siege]
All 14 hostage takers were killed during the bloody conclusion of the Japanese Embassy siege
Earlier this week, President Fujimori criticised General Hermoza's book about the siege and disputed his version of events.

In an interview with the daily newspaper El Comercio he is quoted as saying General Hermoza participated in neither the design nor the strategy of the rescue but only in executing the operation.

"I know perfectly how the operation was developed. It was I who designed it," the newspaper quoted President Fujimori as saying.

Senior generals responded by warning that any attempt to discount the role of General Hermoza would be regarded as an insult against the whole of the armed forces.

President Fujimori retaliated with a reminder that he is the country's supreme military commander and by ordering regional military commanders back to their bases.

Allies turned enemies

The crisis is a rare moment of disagreement between the President and his military leaders. The armed forces have strongly supported President Fujimori since he took power in 1990.

In 1992, led by General Hermoza, they backed the President when he suspended the Constitution, Congress, and the Constitutional Tribunal. And at the end of 1994, after a successful campaign against the Shining Path and Tupac Amaru rebels, President Fujimori called General Hermoza a "victorious general."


[ image: The Peruvian military has traditionally supported President Fujimori]
The Peruvian military has traditionally supported President Fujimori
In Peru the present situation is being viewed not as a split between Mr Fujimori and the majority of the military, but rather a power struggle between the President and General Hermoza, the President of the Joint Chiefs of the Armed Forces.

President Fujimori has been considering making changes to the structure of the military's leadership which could affect General Hermoza.

However, Mr Fujimori retains the support of Vladimiro Montesinos, the defacto head of military intelligence, who has placed officers loyal to him in key positions in the military hierarchy.
 





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