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Tuesday, 10 April, 2001, 09:52 GMT 10:52 UK
Q & A: What next for Peru?

BBC News Online looks at the significance of Peru's presidential elections on 3 June, and asks where the country is heading next.

Why do the elections matter?

This election is considered vital in restoring public confidence in Peru's democracy, which has been tarnished by several years of politically-inspired fraud, bribery and intimidation.

Last year's elections - which Mr Fujimori won - were criticised both internationally and domestically.

Mr Fujimori's decision to run for a third successive term was declared illegal by opposition politicians.

When the courts upheld the view of the opposition, Mr Fujimori sacked several judges. More allegations of dirty tricks and bribery followed.

Who is in control now?

Interim president Valentin Paniagua will run the country until 28 July when he will hand over to the president-elect Alejandro Toledo for the next five-year term.

The 64-year-old opposition-backed speaker of congress was sworn in last year after former President Alberto Fujimor fled to Japan following a political scandal invloving his controversial spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

Mr Paniagua is a moderate constitutional lawyer, widely seen as a democrat skilled at building consensus.

Why does Peru matter?

As one of the world's largest growers of the coca plant, Peru has been a key factor in the international cocaine trade, although Mr Fujimori said illegal production declined substantially during his years in power.

Peru is also a significant producer of copper, silver, gold, petroleum, timber and fish.

For anthropologists and tourists, the remains of its Inca civilisation, particularly the 'hidden city' of Machu Picchu, are of major importance.

What happened to Fujimori?

Mr Fujimori's 10-year presidency came to an unceremonious end when he was sacked by Peru's Congress in an unprecedented move in November 2000.

The Congress declared him "morally unfit" to govern following the corruption scandal involving Mr Montesinos, his closest adviser.

Mr Montesinos allegedly acquired millions of dollars through money-laundering and other illegal activities.

The former president's inability to arrest Mr Montesinos indicated to many that he was not in control of the country.

What was Fujimori's record?

In the 1990s Mr Fujimori rescued Peru from the chaos of hyperinflation and virtually wiped out two guerrilla movements that made Peru one of the most dangerous countries in the world.

His free-market economic reforms brought in unprecedented levels of foreign investment.

But his autocratic style of government was widely criticised, not least by his former wife, Susana Higuchi, now an opposition Congresswoman. His government was seen as corrupt and manipulative.

Perhaps most critically, he failed to relieve the grinding poverty of most Peruvians.

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