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BBC's Iain Haddow
"To many in Peru, the name Vladimiro Montesinos evokes terror"
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The BBC's James Reynolds
"No clear reason has been given for Mr Montesinos' return"
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Tuesday, 24 October, 2000, 11:43 GMT 12:43 UK
Peruvian president refuses to go
Protestors in Lima
Mr Montesinos' return provokes angry street protests
Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has rejected calls for his immediate resignation and sought to allay fears of a military coup, saying that the armed forces are under his control.

Mr Fujimori has been under intense pressure to stand down since the return to Peru of his reviled former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.

I am not going to take the easy way out at a moment of crisis

President Fujimori
Mr Montesinos was considered as President Fujimori's go-between with the military and one of Peru's most powerful men, but fled the country last month following allegations of political bribery.

Amid the scandal, Mr Fujimori called elections for next July and said he would stand down then.

Coup fears

Speaking at a news conference in the early hours of Tuesday, Mr Fujimori said he would stay on as president.

"I am not going to take the easy way out at a moment of crisis, because I am going to continue at the head of the country so that it remains viable," he said.

Mr Fujimori, who spent much of Monday touring military installations, said he was still in command of the military.

Burning effigy of spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos
An effigy burns of Montesinos - known as Latin America's Rasputin

Mr Montesinos' sudden return has thrown Peruvian politics in turmoil.

Talks between the government and opposition have been suspended after the Organisation of American States (OAS) - which is mediating in the negotiations - said neither side could agree on a date for new elections.

The president, for his part, called two emergency cabinet meetings on Monday and held talks with senior commanders of the armed forces.

Controversial amnesty

Before the meetings, Peru's First Vice President, Francisco Tudela, announced his resignation "due to deep differences with the government".

In a letter to Mr Fujimori, Mr Tudela attributed his resignation to the "destabilising" return of Mr Montesinos.

President Fujimori meets army chiefs to bolster his position

Mr Tudela also opposes a government plan to grant amnesty to members of the military implicated in human rights violations in Peru's fight against drug lords and rebels.

Opposition leaders say the amnesty is tailor made for Mr Montesinos who is accused of ordering phone-tapping, torture and authorising death squads.

Angry protests

Protesters took to the streets of the Peruvian capital, Lima, on Monday night calling for Mr Montesinos' arrest.

They waved banners and set fire to effigies of President Fujimori and Mr Montesinos.

There were skirmishes and the security forces used tear gas to disperse the demonstrators.

Vladimiro Montesinos
Former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos is accused of human rights violations

The whereabouts of Mr Montesinos since his return to Peru on Monday are unknown.

Peruvian legislators and human rights groups have called Mr Montesinos one of Peru's "principal human rights violators".

Mr Montesinos is thought to possess compromising information on scores of politicians, judges, journalists and businessmen, which he used to intimidate critics, stifle free speech and curb the opposition's voice.

There are also allegations his National Intelligence Service headquarters was used to torture political opponents and left-wing rebels.

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See also:

24 Oct 00 | Americas
High tension in Peru
20 Sep 00 | Americas
US seeks 'real democracy' in Peru
27 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru halts spy investigation
23 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru to dismiss intelligence chief
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