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Wednesday, 22 November, 2000, 12:01 GMT
Who is Vladimiro Montesinos?
Vladimiro Montesinos
Mr Montesinos was involved in rooting out rebel groups
By BBC regional analyst Nick Caistor

Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's hold on power was fatally weakened by one man.

This man caused more damage than any opposition politician, economic crisis, or international pressure had done in Mr Fujimori's 10-year rule.

former president Alberto Fujimori
Fujimori distanced himself from his former ally
He is Vladimiro Montesinos Torres, the former head of Peru's intelligence services.

Mr Montesinos began his career in the Peruvian armed forces in the early 1970s, but in 1977 was thrown out of the army and sentenced to a year in jail.

In the 1980s, he began a fresh career as a private lawyer in the Peruvian capital, Lima.

Among his clients were several people charged with drug-trafficking offences, and others charged with tax evasion and fraud.

He is said to have met Alberto Fujimori when the latter was running for president for the first time in 1989-1990.

Mr Montesinos helped him over various charges of fraud, and is also credited with proving by means of a much-questioned birth certificate that Mr Fujimori had been born in Peru, and not in Japan - which would have excluded him from standing for the presidency.

Accusations

Following Mr Fujimori's election, Mr Montesinos was put in charge of anti-drug operations carried out in conjunction with the United States.

He was also closely involved in the successful campaign to root out the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) guerrilla movement.

Mr Montesino's power increased after the 1992 closure of Congress, when President Fujimori took a stranglehold on all aspects of institutional life in Peru.

Protesters burn an effigy of Vladimiro Montesinos
Bribery allegations led to protests demanding Mr Montesinos' arrest
It was Mr Montesinos who helped appoint the new members of the armed forces' high command, and supreme court judges.

In 1997 he was Mr Fujimoriīs close adviser during the hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassadorīs residence, which ended when all the members of the Tupac Amaru group were killed.

His activities as security adviser to President Fujimori and as secretly-appointed head of the Peruvian intelligence services led to many accusations of human rights abuses against him.

None of these accusations was ever proved.

Direct challenge

As head of the intelligence services, Mr Montesinos was said to be responsible for an extensive network of informers which he used to threaten and blackmail opponents of the president, but again, nothing was ever traced back to him directly.

It appears that it was these shady practices which ultimately brought about his downfall.

According to Peruvian press reports, the video film taken of him allegedly bribing a member of an opposition party to switch his allegiance to Mr Fujimori before this year's elections was shot with one of his own hidden cameras.

When the video became public knowledge, President Fujimori was forced not only to distance himself from Mr Montesinos but to announce that he was resigning and calling early elections to find a successor.

Mr Montesinos headed for exile in Panama, where he apparently has business interests.

But a month later, the Panamanian authorities decided they would not grant him asylum there, and Vladimiro Montesinos flew back to Peru, apparently to mount a direct challenge to President Fujimori.

There had been fears that he might try to instigate a military coup. But following the formal resignation of Mr Fujimori on 20 November, the Peruvian military swore to abide by the constitution, and to respect any political changes made after the president's departure.

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See also:

26 Oct 00 | Americas
Hunt for Peru spy chief
24 Oct 00 | Americas
High tension in Peru
23 Oct 00 | Americas
New twist in Peru spy chief scandal
27 Sep 00 | Americas
Peru halts spy investigation
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