Pubdate: Sun, 24 Sep 2000
Source: San Francisco Examiner (CA)
Copyright: 2000 San Francisco Examiner
Author: Katia Martinez, Associated Press


PANAMA CITY, Panama -- Panama rejected a request Saturday to give asylum to
Vladimiro Montesinos, a shadowy former spy chief suspected in a bribery
scandal that quashed President Alberto Fujimori's plans to remain in power
in Peru.

Panama has provided asylum to some of Latin America's most disgraced and
reviled former leaders, but apparently drew the line at accepting
Montesinos, whom Peruvian opposition leaders want tried in that country.

"After studying the request, the cabinet recommended that this petition not
be accepted," read a terse press statement issued by the Office of the

The unusual decision was made in an urgent meeting between Panamanian
President Mireya Moscoso and her cabinet officials Saturday.

The asylum request was made late Friday in a telephone call by Fujimori's
top cabinet officer, according to the statement.

Sources at the president's office said Brazil had reportedly turned down a
similar request earlier this week.

Montesinos, viewed as Fujimori's right-hand man throughout the 1990s, has
remained out of sight since earlier this month, when Peruvian broadcasters
aired a videotape showing him allegedly bribing an opposition lawmaker.

Fujimori sent his Congress urgent legislation late Friday to disband Peru's
now-disgraced spy agency after opening talks with that country's opposition
on holding new elections.

The bribery scandal last week prompted Fujimori to promise the new
elections, in which he would not participate. He also pledged to dismantle
the National Intelligence Service, which Montesinos had headed.

Peruvian opposition groups warned Friday that the talks with Fujimori on the
new elections would be damaged unless Montesinos is arrested.

Panama has provided asylum for several disgraced Latin American leaders in
recent years. They include former Ecuadorean President Abdala Bucaram;
former Haitian dictator Gen. Raul Cedras, and former Guatemalan president
Jorge Serrano Elias.
- ---
MAP posted-by: Don Beck