U.S. Equivocates as Fujimocracy Lives On
Friday, June 2, 2000
OAS Folds and U.S. Equivocates as Fujimocracy Lives on to Plague Peru for Another Five Years
* Free and fair democratic elections once again take a back seat to Washington-pressed OAS priorities such as promoting free trade and the war on drugs
* State Department backs down in a striking repeat of the weak will it displayed after Fujimori's 1992 auto-coup
If Wednesday's OAS Permanent Council session is an accurate harbinger of the upcoming weekend's annual General Assembly meeting, this year taking place in Windsor, Canada, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori will not have to worry about facing any significant repercussions for having conducted a rigged election. Instead, the hemisphere's foreign ministers will likely reinforce a dangerous precedent by which shameless autocrats can whack democratic institutions and get away with it. Once again, Peru's self-serving president-for-eternity has been able to spotlight the waning nature of the OAS's internal life support system as well as the unreliability of Washington's commitment to hemispheric democratization. For the Clinton Administration and the OAS, when it comes to dealing with a threat to democracy, it is the form that counts, not necessarily the content.
The OAS's Weak Will In the specially convened Permanent Council meeting, the OAS member states overwhelmingly rejected a proposal by U.S. Ambassador Luis Lauredo that would have been a first step toward taking collective action against Peru's seriously flawed election. The OAS project for strengthening democracy is a corner office when it comes to rhetorical concepts, but only an overlooked cubicle when it comes to the execution of its ideals. Continuing to uphold the invincibility of the "let the principles be damned" school of diplomacy, the OAS also validated the thesis that if a member state under scrutiny can manage to maintain the most meager appearance of representative government, the regional organization is more than willing to overlook gross violations of that country's democratic institutions in favor of advancing its more important priorities of fostering free trade and combating After Eduardo Stein, the OAS electoral mission's head in Peru, failed to broker a deal between Fujimori and opposition candidate Alejandro Toledo to postpone the May 28 ballot, the Peruvian president handily won an election in which he was the only candidate. All international observers, including Stein, judged the original ballot to be seriously flawed. But the OAS official's failure to convince Toledo to accept Fujimori's concession of a ten-day delay, and the subsequent withdrawal of electoral monitors, obliged the regional organization to squarely address the issue. The Washington meeting was clearly a formality, however, as most delegates showed no interest in invoking Resolution 1080, which would have forced the hemisphere's foreign ministers attending this weekend's General Assembly to consider taking collective action against Fujimori. While the General Assembly
Despite months of coddling Fujimori, Stein's monitoring team failed to convince him to delay the election a mere three weeks, and was finally forced to leave the country in humiliation after being thwarted by the Peruvian Gauleiter. While the action was the strongest taken by the OAS thus far, it came woefully late and failed to have any impact. Extensive reports conducted by the Carter Center and the National Democratic Institute before the first-round elections documented the uneven playing field heavily tilted in the president's favor, including his dipping into the public purse for last-minute public works projects meant to bribe voters, the manipulation of Peru's electoral board and electoral monitoring officials, and his total domination of the country's tainted tabloid press, a Fujimori propaganda machine which effectively excluded the opposition from receiving posi
While recognizing severe deficiencies, Stein did little to improve the electoral environment, managing only to get Fujimori to give an insignificant amount of air time to Toledo a scant few days before the election. Despite the obvious insufficiency of the concession, Stein gave the balloting a green light, temporarily saving face only because Fujimori decided it would not be in his best interest to flaunt international opinion by winning in the first round. A warning from the U.S. State Department also helped convince the strongman to temporarily delay his day of victory, as the votes tallied in his favor magically stopped at 49.87 percent, just shy of the 50 percent he needed to win outright. Well-accustomed to the empty threats of the international community, "El Chino" deftly bided his time, content to wait for his prearranged, assured victory in the second round. De
Drug War skews U.S. Peruvian Policy Although the U.S. has taken a stronger stand than it ever has against Fujimori in recent months and should be given credit for proposing Resolution 1080 at Wednesday's OAS meeting, its occasional threats and condemnations belie a policy which has clearly been neutered by Fujimori's free market policies and more significantly, his so-called cooperation with Washington in its war on drugs (in fact, repeated revelations have established the country's military as a prime drug trafficker). On Monday, a department official said that Sunday's election was a "flawed process," and declared the results invalid. The next day, her superiors crept away from that admirably firm stand, coming forth with a disappointingly weasel-like position expressing "regret" at how the elections turned out and that "we haven't taken any steps or made any final determinations."
Washington's zigzag policy towards Peru was only surprising because of the initial firmness it showed in its insistence that high electoral standards be maintained. The fact that it slid back to tired and meaningless rhetoric is reflective of the Clinton administration's disappointingly inept Latin American policy (which has always stressed trade over authentic democracy) and the mediocre performance of the State Department's all-but invisible Bureau of Inter-American Affairs.
The Clinton administration's sluggish and half-hearted condemnations of Fujimocracy are a direct result of Peru's accommodating economic policies and anti-drug cooperation. With $1.6 billion in U.S. exports to Peru in 1999, the State Department has showered praise on the Fujimori administration for removing trade barriers and instituting free market reforms, even though they have come at a heavy burden to the country's large lower class, which has seen its standard of living stagnate while the government boasts of the country's continued economic growth. But far more dear to the heart of the Clinton administration is Fujimori's enthusiastic participation in the war on drugs. The Peruvian president plays a central part in the Washington led "war" and has been endlessly praised by State Department and White House officials, however undeserved, for dramatically reducing coca
Human rights and democracy building were made to defer to cold war national security imperatives and they are now taking second place to the requirements of the anti-drug war. Just as Mexico's anti-drug forces are annually absolved of human rights violations, corruption and general ineffectiveness in the U.S.'s drug "certification" charade due to NAFTA trade ties, Lima reaps the benefits of its leverage over U.S. policymakers because it is one of the world's largest producers of cocaine.
As it has throughout the Andean region, the Clinton administration's futile obsession with drug-eradication has engendered a distorted policy toward Peru, which forgives one-man authoritarian rule as well as scores of human rights violations for the sake of cutting the flow of cocaine into this country. The State Department's own 1999 human rights report admits the armed forces' lack of accountability in their counter terrorist operations as well as the tortures and killings carried out with impunity by the country's security forces. Fujimori has given free reign to his right-hand man and spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, whose secretive and often violent tactics have removed the slightest glimmer of dissent from Congress as well as most of the press. Meanwhile, in spite of a unanimous U.S. congressional resolution denouncing the harassment and eventual deportation of a re
If recent State Department warnings were more frequent and stronger than in the past, it is only because Washington had an undeniably attractive alternative from its perspective. A Stanford graduate and former World Bank employee, Alejandro Toledo, won over Washington policy makers as well as the international financial community with his promises to keep Fujimori's free market reforms in place and to continue cooperating with the U.S. trade campaign. Nevertheless, the State Department's noncommittal statements two days ago proved that in light of Fujimori's defiance of international condemnation, Washington will only go so far in its support for Toledo, whose peaceful protests are likely to have little affect on Fujimori's unassailable grip on power. Once the hubbub of the tainted election has settled down, Washington will likely follow its well-scripted course of harmon
Reed Lindsay and Taylor Mammen, Research Associates
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