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The BBC's James Reynolds
"The opposition in Peru has reacted with considerable anger to Mr Montesinos's return"
 real 28k

Monday, 23 October, 2000, 16:24 GMT 17:24 UK
New twist in Peru spy chief scandal
Vladimiro Montesinos
Vladimiro Montesinos had been President Fujimori's right-hand man
The Vice-President of Peru, Franscico Tudela, has resigned after the former Peruvian spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, arrived unexpectedly in Peru following his failure to secure political asylum in Panama.

Mr Montesinos fled the country after an alleged bribery scandal was revealed in a video-tape recording.

Mr Tudela announced his resignation in a letter to the president of the Peruvian congress, Martha Hildebrandt.

"I am resigning as first vice-president of the republic and the official bloc of national congress due to deep differences with the government," Mr Tudela's letter said.

When Mr Montesinos arrived in Panama it sparked anti-asylum demonstrations - something not seen in the country since Panama gave asylum to the Shah of Iran in 1979.

'Unauthorised' landing

Then later on Monday a Panamanian aircraft carrying Mr Montesinos, two Panamanian lawyers and his Peruvian bodyguard, made an unauthorised landing back in Peru at a military airport in Pisco, some 240km south of Lima.

The aircraft is reported to have refuelled on arrival and its passengers are said to have remained on the plane.

A decision to allow the plane to travel elsewhere rests with the Peruvian airforce which ais responsible for operations at the military airport in Pisco.

Mr Montesinos left Panama on Sunday in a private jet amid speculation that he was heading back for Peru.

The aircraft then arrived in the Ecuadorian city of Guayaquil late on Sunday for a stop over before continuing its journey at 0030 (0530GMT) to Lima.

The Panamanian Foreign Minister Jose Aleman said that by leaving the country, he "loses his status in Panama because he had a tourist visa valid for one entry into the country".

Political confusion

Signs of a political storm came earlier on Monday when the vice president hinted he would act following news of Mr Montesinos' return to the country.

Burning effigy of spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos
An effigy of spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos is burned in Lima

"Something which is very bad for Peru is happening, and I am going to take action accordingly... I am now reflecting on that and I will make a decision in the next few hours," Mr Tudela said.

A senior opposition politician, Jorge del Castillo, said he would be calling for protest and that Mr Montesinos' arrival was a bold "challenge to the people" of Peru.

As Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's spy-chief and closest adviser, Mr Montesinos was viewed by many as the most powerful man in Peru.

But after a video was aired showing him allegedly bribing a congressman, he fled the country.

Human rights abuses

Mr Fujimori, fearing a coup, reacted to the scandal by calling for a new election in which he said he would not run.

President Alberto Fujimori
Mr Fujimori has announced his resignation

Mr Montesinos' asylum bid in Panama had been supported by the United States and the Organisation of American States.

But Peruvian legislators and human rights groups had opposed the asylum bid.

Human Rights Watch called Mr Montesinos one of Peru's "principal human rights violators".

His apparent return to Peru comes after the Peruvian Government outraged opposition leaders with proposals for a sweeping amnesty for military and government officials accused of human rights abuses.

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See also:

20 Sep 00 | Americas
US seeks 'real democracy' in Peru
30 Sep 00 | Americas
US backs Fujimori's strategy
27 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru halts spy investigation
23 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru to dismiss intelligence chief
18 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru opposition fears military coup
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