HC Deb 03 June 1992 vol 208 cc809-10
1. Dr. Kim Howells

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what recent representations have been made to the Government of Peru in relation to the coup in that country; and if he will make a statement.

The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office (Mr. Tristan Garel-Jones)

The recent events in Peru are a substantial setback to democracy in that country. In company with our Community partners, we have expressed deep concern at the suspension of constitutional rule and reports of human rights violations. We urge the early re-eastablishment of democratic institutions and respect for human rights within the framework of the rule of law. The Peruvian charge d'affaires was left in no doubt of our position when he called on me at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office on 22 May.

Dr. Howells

If the principle of delivering non-humanitarian aid to Governments who are prepared to move towards liberty and democracy is to mean anything, will the Minister ensure that the Peruvian President is made aware of the fact that the people of this country consider that the days of South America being ruled by dictators are long gone? Will he further ensure that our partners in Europe understand our policy on that matter and that we deliver no aid to that country, other than the most vital humanitarian aid, until we have proof that democracy has been re-established?

Mr. Garel-Jones

We discussed those matters at length last week in Santiago, Chile, with our Community partners and with members of the Organisation of Amercian States. We are working with them to try to bring about a return to democracy in Peru as soon as possible. As the hon. Gentleman says, we must take other action to reinforce that position and we have already suspended balance of payments assistance promised to President Fujimori during his visit to this country earlier this year. We have also suspended consideration of the write-off of certain Peruvian debts owed to the Government, as well as action on aid proposals. We shall, of course, continue with existing humanitarian aid programmes.

Rev. Ian Paisley

Will the Minister tell the House what representations have been made by members of the joint Houses of Parliament of Peru to the British ambassador, and what action he intends to take about them?

Mr. Garel-Jones

I cannot answer the specific question, but the hon. Gentleman will wish to know that we are aware that there is substantial support for President Fujimori inside Peru and that our efforts and those of our Community partners are directed towards seeking to help him to return to democracy as soon as possible. I understand that on Monday of this week he made a statement that elections for a constituent assembly would be held on 18 October. That seems to us a hopeful step towards a return to democratic rule in Peru.

Mr. Foulkes

Although we welcome what the Government have already done, and the Minister's statement today, the Minister will have read the Amnesty International report published yesterday, which shows that the human rights situation is much worse than we feared. Members of APRA—the Alianza Popular Revolucionaria Americana—in particular, are under threat and there is no indpendent judiciary. It is, therefore, necessary to convey to Mr. Fujimori—and I hope that the Government will take strong action to do so—that unless there is not only a return to democracy but an end to human rights violations, the Government, through the EC and the United Nations, are prepared to take much firmer action.

Mr. Garel-Jones

I take the hon. Gentleman's point and he can rest assured that any action that we take, with our Community partners and in co-operation with the Organisation of American States, will aim to assist Peru to rectify the mistake that we believe has been made.

Mr. Jacques Arnold

Although my right hon. Friend is correct in stressing our support for the spread of democracy in Latin America and in disapproving of the action of the President of Peru in overturning the power of his congress, will he please bear it in mind that the President has to cope with a terrorist movement—Sendero Luminoso—which in many ways is worse than the IRA? It does not have popular support in Peru and it did not have the courage to test its popular mandate in either the recent presidential elections or the elections for the congress.

Mr. Garel-Jones

My hon. Friend's point is well made. That is why we have to balance our reaction to these events with the knowledge that there is substantial support for President Fujimori in Peru. Much of that support derives from the fact that the Peruvian people have suffered for more than a decade now from one of the most violent terrorist organisations on the face of the earth.

Forward to