NPR: "PROTESTS AGAINST PERU'S PRESIDENTIAL RUN-OFF ELECTION"

Juan R. Fajardo fajardos at SPAMix.netcom.com
Sat May 27 15:48:28 MDT 2000



National Public Radio (NPR)
View Related Topics
SHOW: MORNING EDITION (11:00 AM on ET)
May 26, 2000, Friday

HEADLINE: PROTESTS AGAINST PERU'S PRESIDENTIAL RUN-OFF
ELECTION
ANCHORS: BOB EDWARDS
REPORTERS: MARTIN KASTE

BOB EDWARDS, host:

This is NPR's MORNING EDITION. I'm Bob Edwards.

The Organization of American States is refusing to monitor
this Sunday's runoff election in Peru, saying there's no way
the balloting can be considered free and fair. The
announcement follows the refusal of Peru's highest election
authority to postpone the vote. International observers and
opposition politicians insist a delay is necessary to guard
against election fraud by incumbent President Alberto
Fujimori. Thousands of Peruvians yesterday demonstrated in
Lima and other cities against the government and its decision
to proceed with the ballot. NPR's Martin Kaste reports from
Lima.

MARTIN KASTE reporting:

It looks as though President Alberto Fujimori will be running
unopposed in what may be the strangest presidential election
in Peru's history. Yesterday afternoon, the national election
board ruled that it would not grant the postponement
requested by challenger Alejandro Toledo, who claims Fujimori
is planning to rig the vote. Without the postponement, Toledo
says he'll ignore Sunday's election, and he's calling on
voters not to recognize a Fujimori victory. If that happens,
many here are worried about the prospect of civil unrest, but
the Fujimori government says there's nothing to fear.

Francisco Tudela is running for vice president on the
Fujimori ticket.

Mr. FRANCISCO TUDELA (Peru, Vice Presidential Candidate): I
don't believe the population will side with the violent
sector. We've been through political violence in the 1980s.
Prudent people have, I think, an experience of what that
means and how one settles the political violence. I'm
convinced that majority of the population will not yield to
that temptation.

(Soundbite of people yelling)

KASTE: But even before the election board announced its
decision, the political tension in Peru was already turning
into political violence. In cities around the country,
thousands of people took to the streets, marching, breaking
windows and attacking police. In downtown Lima, at least
10,000 demonstrators massed in front of the presidential
palace and threatened to tear its gates down. Only repeated
fusillades of tear gas dispersed the crowd, and that took
hours as demonstrators kept regrouping and attacking late
into the evening.

(Soundbite of crowd)

KASTE: Alejandro Toledo says Peruvians have gone to the
streets for one reason: They want clean elections. But the
reasons for yesterday's rage are more complex than that. Many
of the protesters came from local transportation unions, who
took advantage of the turmoil to call for lower gas prices.
Other people came simply to vent their frustration at the
stubborn poverty gripping their lives.

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

KASTE: 'We work more than 12 hours a day, and they pay us
like dogs,' said this protester, as she washed the tear gas
from her eyes and prepared to head back toward the
presidential palace.

Others demonstrating in the streets of Lima were focused on
what they consider Fujimori's abuse of power. In his 10 years
in office, he's built up the secret police, turning it into
one of the most feared and shadowy institutions in Peru. That
impression was reinforced early yesterday morning when news
came that a local reporter had been gruesomely tortured
overnight by mysterious thugs, who then stole videotapes he
was planning to use in an expose about Fujimori's chief of
security.

University student Juan Manuel Remarai(ph) joined the protest
because he says he's terrified of the Fujimori regime.

Mr. JUAN MANUEL REMARAI (University Student): What is going
on here? What is going on? I mean, he feels he can torture
anybody, anybody he wants. I mean, it just can't happen.

(Soundbite of protesters chanting)

KASTE: Late in the day, Alejandro Toledo appealed to his
supporters to keep their protests peaceful, but at street
level, that appeal is falling on deaf ears. Many Peruvians
say Thursday's unrest was nothing compared to what might
happen on Sunday when people are off work. And they say
things could get even uglier on Monday if and when Fujimori's
proclaimed the winner in this one-man race.  Martin Kaste,
NPR News, Lima.





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