Peru's Toledo: the Latin American Acrobat

Unpopular Peruvian leader Alejandro Toledo survived two full cabinet resignations, an open rebellion in the South of the country, several corruption scandals and, recently, the resignation of his Vice President. He is still in office, but... For how long?

Walking on the tight rope since took office in 2000, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo faces a new political crisis after Vice President Raul Diez Canseco surprisingly resigned last week amid a corruption scandal. However, it is not the first institutional crisis Toledo faces in his 2-1/2 year government: his cabinet vanished later last year, as violent protests shake the South of the country from time to time.

At the end of the day, the US educated leader that promised to eliminate corruption, reinstate democracy and take the people out of poverty, sees how his support dropped to less than 15% in two years, despite economical recovering. Perhaps, the only political asset Toledo still has is the memory of the civic dictatorship of his predecessor in power, the Japan fled Alberto Fujimori, and his prosecuted intelligence advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos.

Last year, a popular rebellion in the South of the country sparked protests in the Capital. To control the situtation an stay in power, Toledo militarized the country. Later, all his ministers resigned, as Toledo had to struggle hard to form a new cabinet to rule the badly reputated administration.

On Friday, Vice President Raul Diez Canseco resigned amid allegations that he gave a tax break to his girlfriend's father, a scandal that had forced him to step down as trade minister two months earlier. In his resignation letter Friday, Diez Canseco said he was the victim of a political attack and vowed to fight the charges without the weight of the vice presidency. "I have decided to irrevocably resign," said Diez Canseco, who had been first in the line of presidential succession.

However, Toledo's headaches did not end there last weekend. The local media aired an audiotape that probes that Toledo's friend and former intelligence chief, Cesar Almeyda, had met Oscar Villanueva, a key figure in the corruption network led by former spymaster and CIA collaborator Vladimiro Montesinos, currently facing charges of corruption, weaponry smuggling to the Colombian guerrillas, drug trafficking and the organization of death squads to fight leftist insurgency during the 1990’s.

Toledo distanced himself from the scandal saying he knew nothing about it and "anyone who is corrupt is my enemy." In a televised address to the nation late on Saturday, Toledo said he was "disappointed" that his friend and former intelligence chief, Cesar Almeyda, had met Oscar Villanueva.

But opposition politicians, some of whom have called for him to quit, said his message was a big disappointment and not enough to restore credibility in the battered administration.

According to an audiotape purporting to be of a conversation between Almeyda and Villanueva in December 2001, five months after Toledo took office, and transcripts published in newspapers, Almeyda discussed "putting pressure" on judges and seeing if they could be "bought" to help Villanueva. He also apparently discussed trying to get Montesinos off the hook on drugs trafficking charges, and efforts to control a TV station.

As above said, Toledo's last political asset is his fight against the corrupted administration of Alberto Fujimori. This new scandal goes straight to the core of it, as links his administration to the worst vices of the Fujimori's one. At the same time, center-left opposition led by former President Alan Garcia is there, waiting for an opportunity to give Toledo a death blow and force anticipated elections.

Hernan Etchaleco

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Author`s name Andrey Mikhailov