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The BBC's James Reynolds
"The next administration will have to clear up the mess"
 real 56k

Friday, 6 April, 2001, 07:42 GMT 08:42 UK
Peru general faces drugs charges
Workers in a coca field
The drugs baron says $50,000 was paid per shipment
A former head of the Peruvian armed forces has been arrested and accused of being involved in drug trafficking.

The detention of Nicolas Hermoza follows testimony by a known drugs baron, Demetrio Chavez, also known as Vaticano.

He claims that General Hermoza worked in tandem with Peru's disgraced former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who fled the country earlier this year.

Vladimiro Montesinos
Vladimiro Montesinos: Fled the country in disgrace
Chavez said he paid protection money to both Mr Montesinos and the general amounting to about $50,000 each for every plane laden with drugs that they allowed to leave the main cocaine producing area in the Huallaga Valley.

General Hermoza was head of the armed forces from 1991 to 1998 during the government of Alberto Fujimori, who was sacked as president last November amid a corruption scandal.

If convicted, the general faces up to 25 years in prison for his involvement in drug trafficking.

Mr Montesinos is still on the run and is believed to have undergone plastic surgery in Venezuela several months ago.

Mr Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants to Peru, was removed from the presidency after he fled to Tokyo during an official trip abroad.

Last month, the Peruvian Supreme Court formally charged him with dereliction of duty.

Election battle

Peru will elect Mr Fujimori's successor on Sunday.

The election is being contested by Alejandro Toledo, the populist front-runner, conservative Lourdes Flores and former president Alan Garcia, who is also standing on a populist ticket.

They have all pledged to create more jobs, improve the economy and tackle poverty.

But Mr Garcia, unlike his rivals, has called for a significant move away from Mr Fujimori's strict free-market policies.

Last year's elections, which saw Mr Fujimori win a third term, were marred by widespread claims of irregularities.

The country's 14 million eligible voters will also elect the 120 members of Peru's Congress on Sunday.

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See also:

02 Feb 01 | Americas
Drugs lord claims Montesinos link
02 Mar 01 | Americas
Peru court summons Fujimori
17 Feb 01 | Americas
Peru set to be drug leader
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