§ Motion made, and Question proposed, That the sitting be now adjourned.—[Mr. Robert Ainsworth.]9.30 am
§ Mr. Tom Clarke (Coatbridge and Chryston)
We last had a debate on Peruvian elections, which is still an ongoing issue, at my request on 19 April in this Chamber. The hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross) and I had just returned from acting as observers at the election that was held on Sunday 9 April. We gave what we thought was a fair, but sadly, not a very inspiring account of a rigged and unsatisfactory election. We, along with several important bodies from the European Union as well as almost every international organisation involved in such matters, called for a re-run at least between the two main candidates, Mr. Fujimori and Mr. Toledo.
We pointed out that, if a re-run were to take place, it should be held on the basis of the need for that second round to be free and fair and seen to be so. The hon. Member for East Londonderry and I stressed that the democratic process, not personalities, was the key to our objectives, and that the inequality between the Peruvian Opposition and the huge state machine should be addressed.
§ Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Will you advise me how we should proceed, given that the Minister who is to reply to the debate has unfortunately not made it into the Chamber this morning? How will the Minister be able to respond adequately to the debate, given that he has already missed the opening remarks of the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke)?
Mr. Deputy Speaker
The hon. Lady is quite right. The Minister should be present in the Chamber to hear the debate from the beginning. However, I understand that he is not very far away, so the debate will continue.
§ Mr. Clarke
I understand the concerns of the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan), but, because of the storms, traffic conditions are appalling in London. The Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Minister, my hon. Friend the Member for Rotherham (Mr. MacShane), and the Government Whip, who are both present, have assured me that when the Minister arrives they will acquaint him with the beginning of my remarks. Such procedure is not unknown on the Floor of the House and the importance of the subject and the fact that a debate on such issues may not be held for a long time suggests that the procedures, as you have outlined them, Mr. Deputy Speaker, are correct and that we should continue.
204WH I shall return to the main points of the report on the first round of elections. The hon. Member for East Londonderry and I argued strongly for a second election to be held in the cause of true democracy and said that it was absolutely essential that European Union monitoring should continue to be crucial. I hope that I shall have the opportunity to re-emphasise that point later in the debate.
Decisions were not taken as rapidly as we would have wanted following the earlier debate. For a time, there was no proposal for a second round despite the ambiguity and unfairness of the first. Then there was a predicted and predictable political crisis in Peru, which intensified, I am sad to say.
Eventually—it seemed good news at the time—a second round was declared for 28 May. Mr. Toledo was the main challenger to the incumbent, President Fujimori, and all the other candidates withdrew on his behalf after the first round, due to their concerns about its nature. Unfortunately, for reasons that I fully understand, Mr. Toledo withdrew shortly before the polling date, saying that the electoral process was still flawed and that it was impossible to put the electronics and computers right in time to have a fair election and a fair result. He said that the second round was another sham and so refused to take part.
There was a great deal of support for Mr. Toledo's view. No evidence showed that lessons had been learned from the previous election and its unacceptable nature. The President insisted that the election would take place, reminded the world that voting was compulsory, and a result was then declared, seemingly on his behalf. It was a truly remarkable result: Fujimori received 51.2 per cent., Toledo, who had said that he was not standing, received 17.6 per cent., and 31. 2 per cent. of the ballot was spoilt papers, most in support of Toledo or decrying the nature of the election.
The crisis, which had already been identified, became more intense. The election was unacceptable and its result was not regarded as fair. Fujimori's standing was in question among large sections of the people of Peru and in the international community. The crisis came to a head on 28 July, on what was to be Mr. Fujimori's new investiture as President. There were widespread riots, and the scene was nasty. [Interruption.] I welcome the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Leicester, East (Mr. Vaz). I understand the reasons for his seven-minute delay and know that he is now being informed about our debate.
Six people died and more than 100 were injured in the riots. The situation was clearly unacceptable. It brought into question where Peru was headed, whether there was real democracy, and the credibility of the so-called elected president. On 16 September, Mr. Fujimori bowed to international pressure and called new elections. He said that he would not be a candidate, and there was a widespread sigh of relief. In many respects, that feeling of relief was short-lived, and will be until the position is clarified further. Mr. Fujimori's action may have been genuine, and the military was seen to back it, which I hope remains its position as its role is important.
The Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), who is responsible for such matters, is 205WH abroad. He played a major role and is entitled to great credit for the current turn of events. His statement during the first elections, his reply to our previous debate and his contributions elsewhere have been most helpful in getting us thus far, although I do not want to crow too much about where exactly we are.
The role of the European Union and the Organisation of American States remains extremely important, and I know that the Minister will give due regard to their role in future events and to the need for the crucial, democratic election.
I agreed strongly with my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West when, following the announcement by President Fujimori of fresh elections, he said:I hope that the Peruvian authorities will recognise that there is a continuing role for the Organisation of American States in facilitating and strengthening the position of Peruvian democracy.That remains the case and I hope that the Minister will enlighten us on the matter. However, it must be said strongly that some of us are deeply worried that on 14 October, Eduardo Latorre, the OAS permanent representative in Peru, announced that he was suspending talks with the Peruvian Government about reform and democratic elections, which had been agreed in an OAS-brokered accord. Mr. Latorre was worried that the Peruvian Government had passed through Congress a motion extending its present session by two weeks. That begged the question what is it all about. Are the elections for real? Does Fujimori intend to do what he said he would do? Does the military support him? Will the country have that precious democracy? Some saw the two-week postponement as Fujimori playing for time; he would not hesitate to do that if it were necessary to his strategy. He would play for time, for example, to help to protect some of his friends in the military, a subject to which I hope to return.
I share the concern about stability, which is important, especially in respect of the military. So is justice, however, and we are seeking both. As I said in April, whenever the elections take place, the democratic process should be seen to be the victor rather than any individual. As it stands, Mr. Toledo appears to be the main challenger for the post. During our visit for the first election, and given the view of the other candidates when they withdrew in his favour, it was clear that he represented the hopes of those who were in favour of peaceful change. Those of us who saw Mr. Toledo on the Sunday evening when things could have become even more difficult—there could have been even more bloodshed on the streets—felt that he behaved with grace, responsibility and understanding, yet he was, nevertheless, able to feel the pulse of the majority of people in Peru who genuinely wanted a democratic election leading to a democratic result.
During the Democrats convention in Los Angeles to choose the presidential candidate, I met Mr. Toledo briefly, in the presence of the former Vice-President Walter Mondale. I obtained from our brief conversation Mr. Toledo's acceptance of the fact that in Peru today, mindful of his influence, people acknowledge the need for that transparency and pluralism. What Mr. Toledo rightly demanded for his own candidature should be extended to all the other candidates, who should be free to enter into new elections. He agreed that the rights of 206WH all candidates were paramount. Mr. Toledo's position will be enhanced if he continues to express that view, and I have no reason to believe that he will not. In line with the European Union monitors and the international community, I believe that when the next election takes place, there must be balanced access to the broadcasting media. Unlike during the previous election, candidates should be entitled to fair coverage on television, radio and in the press. They should not be subjected to state-sponsored smears. The atmosphere must be right for a free election, which it certainly was not last time.
I wish to ask my hon. Friend the Minister an important question about the timetable for the election. The Peruvian Opposition are calling for the election to take place in January 2001, whereas the Peruvian Government prefer May 2001. It is legitimate to argue about the timing, but should not the priority be to establish a democratic framework rather than have an election as soon as possible just for the sake of it? However, the other side of the coin is that—consistent with the electoral machine performing to 100 per cent. efficiency, and with transparency and fairness—the people of Peru must feel that their senate and president are truly democratically elected. I look forward to hearing the Minister's response. I wonder whether the British Government have a particular view about the appropriate date or whether, like myself, they are still asking questions about it. If they do have a view, I look forward to hearing it.
I move on to the role of the European Union. I hope that the UK and the EU continue to work together to ensure that the election is seen to be fair. In August, the EU issued a declaration:The European Union reaffirms its support for the efforts made in the framework of the Organisation of American States to consolidate democracy in Peru. It hopes that all sectors of political life will be able to show their maturity and constructive willingness to begin to implement, as soon as possible, the timetable proposed by the High-level Mission of the OAS for strengthening public institutions and democratic coexistence in Peru.It continued:The European Union calls on the Government of Peru to implement the democratic principles referred to in the Rio Declaration, which form the basis of a partnership between the European Union and Latin America.I should like to ask my hon. Friend the Minister a few questions on that. In the light of the OAS suspending talks with the Government, can my hon. Friend shed light on any discussions that may have taken place between the EU and OAS in recent weeks, which sought to encourage the OAS to continue its role in Peru? What is the latest position on the partnership between the EU and Latin America? What ministerial discussions have been held with EU colleagues on recent circumstances in Peru? Finally, does my hon. Friend accept that when the election takes place, it is important for international observers to be present? Does he believe that the UK should be represented?
I now turn to the role of the European Parliament. Consistent with the role of the European Union, the European Parliament adopted resolutions—one on 15 June and another in October—on the presidential elections in Peru. They were occasioned by the crisis following the announcement by President Fujimori of his resignation and the intention to hold new elections.
Significantly, the European Parliament expressed its surprise at the turn taken by events, in particular the request to the Republic of Panama to grant political 207WH asylum to the former national intelligence service adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos. I was pleased that Mr. Montesinos' request for asylum was refused, especially given accusations of his involvement in the trafficking of arms and drugs.
What is the view of my hon. Friend the Minister on the role, or better still the absence, of Mr. Montesinos in future? Considering his influence, he is a truly remarkable person. He is dangerous and sinister. Nevertheless, some aspects of the current circumstances are not without humour. On Friday 27 October, The Scotsman, a newspaper that would not usually be expected to report on such matters, produced an extremely interesting article that read almost like a novel. It was headed: "Fujimori leads search for former spymaster". In it, Fujimori was presented as a sort of Sherlock Holmes, trying to find Montesinos, a sort of cross between the Scarlet Pimpernel and the Artful Dodger. However, we are no nearer to finding out exactly where Montesinos is and what he is doing, and that could be serious.
Jeremy McDermott's excellent piece states:Peru's president has launched a manhunt for his former spymaster, shining light into the shadows where his former adviser once wielded power equal to his own.The president, Alberto Fujimori, surrounded by tight security, led the operation to find Vladimiro Montesinos, heading a search party on Wednesday night and into the early hours of yesterday, with sniffer dogs combing suspected hiding places while helicopters hovered in the vicinity.That was an extremely important search. Later, the article states:Mr Montesinos has eluded capture, perhaps with the connivance of Peruvian security forces, the upper echelons of which he personally appointed over the last eight years—not ideal circumstances for finding the suspect.
Worryingly, the article states:Fujimori critics see the hunt for Mr Montesinos as mere window dressing, and insist the spymaster is still in charge of the all-powerful military and the judicial system, and the president is either still in touch with him, or totally impotent.It is extremely worrying if that last part is true, and any help that my hon. Friend the Minister can give in providing a United Kingdom input to deal with the problem would be welcome.
The European Parliament called on the European Union to undertake a special programme to give active support to the new phase of the democratic process in Peru and to co-ordinate the initiatives taken by member states. It added that itproposes to send a delegation to the Republic of Peru in order to obtain first-hand information regarding the actual political situation and the prospects for peaceful change.I should like my hon. Friend the Minister to give us the latest information on the initiatives supporting democracy in light of recent developments and to tell us whether a delegation has visited Peru on behalf of the European Union, and if so what conclusions it reached.
I am reaching the end of my comments, Mr. Cook—
§ Mr. Deputy Speaker (Mr. Frank Cook)
Order. It seems to be a weekly event, but I must remind all right hon. and hon. Members that the House, in its wisdom, when it agreed to hold parallel sittings here, decided that 208WH the meetings should be presided over by Deputy Speakers unless substitute Chairmen needed to be recruited.
§ Mr. Clarke
Such is my respect for you, Mr. Deputy Speaker, that I feel suitably humble about such a dreadful lapse. I apologise sincerely.
I am aware that other hon. Members wish to speak and I turn now to three important issues, which will impinge upon the election campaign itself, but which will not necessarily be resolved once the result is declared. My hon. Friend the Minister will not be surprised when I touch on the issue of human rights in Peru. Many things have been said, to their credit, by Amnesty International but here in Britain—and I pay tribute to them—the Peru Support Group has been immensely proactive and helpful.
Peruvian society has been suffering for a long time from systematic human rights abuses and a lack of good governance. Future relations between the European Union and Peru must be based on respect for human rights and democratic principles. The European Union has the right to say those things, if only because of its humanitarian contribution. The hon. Member for East Londonderry and I saw evidence of that when we were in Peru. I want that humanitarian aid to continue, but when we visited some of the shanty towns and saw that water was at last being delivered and roads were being provided by EU funding, I found it a little perverse that Mr. Fujimori was turning that into a vote-catching exercise. He took credit for what was being done, and by implication for the resources that were being made available by the EU. The role of the EU in giving that humanitarian aid is nevertheless underscored by that point.
In congratulating very warmly my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and her Department on an excellent contribution that is reflected elsewhere in South America, I turn to an issue that that will be close to her heart. It is the sterilisation programme carried out by the Fujimori Government, which might be described as an anti-woman policy. I understand the population problems and the debate about them, but programmes should be based on consent. Information should also be available to men. The sort of enforcement of which there is clear evidence involving women is wholly unacceptable. It is an infringement of human rights and is repugnant both to our Government and to the international community. What measures will the Government take together with the EU and human rights organisations to establish programmes based on consent? Can my hon. Friend also enlighten us about the reforms recently announced by the Peruvian Government to their population and reproductive health programmes?
I want to turn finally to the issue of terrorism, on which, oddly enough—and I do not for one moment wish to be sparing of my praise even for Mr. Fujimori—every candidate in the election paid tribute to him. Without exception, they said that he had dealt with the matter and dealt with it well. Nevertheless, the way in which he wanted to alter the constitution was unacceptable, and inconsistent with their values.
Early in the 1980s internal stability was threatened by the emergence of the Maoist group Shining Path, which attempted to undermine the country's return to a 209WH civilian administration with violent attacks on Government and army locations. In 1995, President Fujimori introduced tough new laws to combat terrorism, aimed mainly at curbing the activities of Shining Path, which have apparently succeeded in reducing the number of deaths brought about by terrorist violence. Several prominent members of the group have been imprisoned. As I said, there was praise for the stand that the President took.
Nevertheless, a legacy remains to be dealt with. In May 1998, the President initiated a new anti-crime campaign, headed by the intelligence service appropriately enough called SIN. We were told that the reason for that was to deal with terrorism, but it went much further, interfering clearly and blatantly with individual civil rights. For example, it attacked several left-of-centre political groups. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions, based in Brussels, says that the President has deliberately targeted trade unions. The ICFTU noted the widespread use of child labour in Peru today, which has continued even in the face of the elections. On 1 May 1998, Fujimori agreed new draconian laws, including sentences of up to 25 years for 16-year-olds, and trial of civilians by the military courts.
I expect that we all want to erase such past occurrences, and make progress. How do the Government plan to use their influence to end child labour in Peru, something for which they have campaigned very well elsewhere? What measures does my hon. Friend propose to ensure that military trials for civilians are ended, and replaced by procedures that meet international human rights standards? It would be helpful, in the context of those draconian measures, if the three judges who had the courage to go against President Fujimori when he sought to distort the constitution, and who declined to uphold his appeal, were at the very least reinstated and given the opportunity to continue with their work, instead of being penalised for attempting to prevent what is recognised as an outrage to Peru's democratic process.
I hope that the Minister will see that many hon. Members look forward to the forthcoming elections because they are important not only for Peru—of course the emergence of democracy in all its forms is important—but for South America. They are important also for this country, which rightly has the reputation of trying, when the case presents itself, to push the boat that bit further towards democracy, transparency and fairness. My heavens, nowhere more than in Peru is that approach needed.
§ 10.3 am
§ Dr. Desmond Turner (Brighton, Kemptown)
First, I must declare an interest. It gives me pleasure to do so, because I was recently invited by the Peru Support Group to visit Peru on a fact-finding mission with an ad hoc delegation including Lord Avebury just before the inauguration of President Fujimori and the marcha de los cuatros suyos, which was one of the events that precipitated his standing down. The mission was sponsored by Christian Aid, by the Catholic Agency for Overseas Development—CAFODߞand by War on Want. I am grateful to those organisations for making 210WH the visit possible because, as with most of us in Britain, my knowledge of Peru was extremely limited. One rarely sees a reference to matters Peruvian in the British press or media; the country does not normally show on our radar screens. That is unfortunate because it does matter, even if it is remote to us, because it is a crucial part of a region where democracy has a chequered history.
There is probably no country in South America about which one can say that democracy is truly established and flourishing—it certainly has not flourished in Peru for a long time. However, that country has presented a facade of democracy to the outside world, and I found the truth behind that façade profoundly shocking. The form of government could best be summarised as a quasi-military dictatorship pretending to be a democracy, and the manipulation done on every stratum of Peruvian society to achieve that result is truly shocking.
The visit showed me how appalling the social cost of the failure of democracy can be. Over the past 10 years, Peru has not progressed as most countries gradually do—in fact, it has regressed. Fifty-four per cent. of its population live in abject poverty, as defined by the measure of a dollar or less a day. That percentage is appalling and staggering. It must be the highest percentage of people living in poverty in any countryߞhigher even than in Indiaߞyet Peru is internationally perceived as not poor, but a middle-income state. Owing to the appalling maldistribution of wealth, there are a few wealthy people and millions of very poor people. The percentage of poverty has increased alarmingly over the past 10 years, partly as a direct result of Fujimori's Administration and the unbridled application of what are laughingly called "neo-liberal" economic policies, which I would characterise as Thatcherism gone mad. For example, when the mining industry was privatised with massive job losses, where did those workers end up? They ended up in the shanty towns around Lima and other large cities, with no visible means of support because there is no social net.
Fujimori managed to control Shining Path, but at a massive cost, because members of the Peruvian military did not stop to draw a distinction when they came to a village. They did not stop to ask villagers whether they supported Shining Path or were loyal to the Government, but assumed that the villagers supported Shining Path and acted accordingly, with the result that nearly 1 million people were displaced from villages in the remote areas in which Shining Path was active. Those people also ended up in the shanty towns, living on less than a dollar a day.
The land used for peasant farming has been largely depopulated because farmers cannot get a realistic price for their produce. They cannot eke a living out of the land, so they end up in shanty towns around the major cities, with no water, depending on food aid. Lima has one third of the Peruvian population—more than 9 million people. Most live in shanty towns that have grown up during the past nine years. It is one of the most appalling places that I have ever seen, almost entirely as a result of its Government's policies.
The landߞthis is a nice trickߞis reverting at knockdown prices to the people from whom it was originally distributed. When we visited the city of Ica, we saw large asparagus fields, owned by the daughter of 211WH the President. I have taken to avoiding buying asparagus labelled Peruvian when I go to Sainsbury's, because I know where the profits are going and they are not going to the Peruvian people.
As my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) said, it is supremely ironic that the President has used the issue of international aid to his electoral advantage. He has created massive poverty, but has turned it to his advantage by manipulation so bizarre that I am still trying to get my head around it. My right hon. Friend has described some of the extraordinary features of the Peruvian elections. However, it is not just a question of bent elections; the whole country has been bent. There is no way that such a bent election could be tolerated if the whole social structure of the country had not been systematically corrupted and perverted, which sadly is what has happened in Peru.
The fraudulence of the election beggars belief. We are all familiar with counts in our, fortunately, well and tightly controlled elections. If the returning officer finds one ballot paper too many or too few, he goes through agonies until he can account for it. However, in the Peruvian election, a million more votes were counted than there were people on the register. In this country, we would be delighted if we could get anywhere near 100 per cent. turnout, but if anyone tried to claim 110 per cent. turnout, we would smell a large rat. On that index alone, the election was completely fraudulent.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston gave the voting figures in the second round of the election, in which only one candidate was declared. It is even doubtful whether Mr. Fujimori received more than 50 per cent. of the votes in that round, because I am told that exit polls showed a lower figure for Mr. Fujimori. In the first round of elections, there was a large discrepancy between the figures recorded at exit polls and the actual figures that were finally declared.
We heard allegations of extreme ballot-rigging. The name of Mr. Toledo had been cut off several hundred thousand ballot papers. People may have wanted to vote for him, but his name simply was not on the ballot paper. Several hundred thousand papers were issued with a mark already made against Fujimori's name. Other marked papers were given to the women responsible for running the community kitchens in the barrios distributing European food aid; they were told that if they handed over their marked paper and voted for Mr. Fujimori, they would be given a new paper in return and if they showed that they would be paid. Those are small indications of what happened on the day.
Computers counted and registered the votes; there were difficulties with electronic counting in the London mayoral elections, but in this case there were allegations, which I take very seriously, that the numbers in the computer were altered, which is easy to do, especially if observers are not allowed into the count. My information is that international observers did not monitor the counting process. Thus, there was an election in which the ballot was not secret, and the counting process was not transparent and monitored. An election cannot possibly be fair under such 212WH circumstances, especially as most of the electoral sins were committed long before the election day.
A good example is the misuse of international aid to which we are a major European contributor. The aid is largely in the form of food, sent in packages clearly marked "EU" with the blue circle and the ring of stars. It used to be distributed through non-governmental organisations, notably Caritas, which still has the warehouses and the capacity for distribution. However, the responsibility for distribution was assumed by the Government, who set up their own agency for distribution, called PRONAA, which repackaged the food labelled with that name. The community kitchens depended on PRONAA for their primitive equipment and for the food.
The system was run by women, some of whom we talked to. We met a cross-section of Peruvian society, from generals whom Fujimori had sacked to community kitchen workers who had also been sacked because they expressed their opposition to him.
Community kitchen workers who did not support Fujimori and put up his picture in their kitchen did not get supplies and were not allowed to operate. People had to survive on the rations, which did not include meat, a luxury that they could not afford. They were living on vegetable stew and if they were lucky they could add stock, made by boiling up bones. They were poor people, living on a poor diet. The irony is that Fujimori got most of his votes from those poor people. That is one example of the misuse of aid.
I found the way in which American food aid was used equally disturbing. I take this as truth, as the US ambassador carefully explained it to me. The American aid, which presumably came from the mid-western grain belt surpluses, was sold on the market in Peru for prices that undercut those of native farmers. That forced more peasants off the land, into the barrios, and into dependence on food aid. The proceeds of the sale of food were used for agricultural projects. That was used by the Fujimori Government as yet another opportunity for clientalism, because only Fujimori supporters receive the benefit of support for their agricultural projects.
One cannot have an open lead-up to an election unless there is open access to the media. That has certainly not existed in Peru until now. Opposition candidates are denied access to all the terrestrial television channels. They have only recently been allowed access to a cable channel. It carefully followed our visit to Lima, but I do not know how it managed to survive under the Montesinos regime. A couple of terrestrial channels that showed programmes exposing some of Fujimori's misdoings were confiscated from their owners, who were prosecuted.
If journalists were bold enough to put their heads above the parapet and print anything seriously critical of Fujimori, they were harassed, tortured and even killed. Most tried sensibly to keep their heads just below the parapet, so the Opposition parties could get their hands on little printed media. A couple of brave titles survived—I do not know how—but with only limited circulation. The so-called prensa chicha, the yellow press, is read by vast numbers of the population, 213WH especially those with a low standard of literacy. It is a little like some of our less salubrious press titles, being a mixture of pornography and Government propaganda.
§ Dr. Turner
I know that there is such a thing as parliamentary privilege, but I had better be careful
We heard strong allegations that the prensa chicha was funded by the Government. There were also manipulations of Government advertising. In the lead-up to the elections, the Government's especially large advertising budget went only to organs with the right editorial policy. Lo and behold, the supply of advertising revenue stopped immediately when the election started.
I could go on and on listing the pre-election abuses, but the systematic human rights abuses are most important, too. More than 250 people are in prison and have been there for about 10 years. As far as one knows they are quite innocent; they have been locked up without any evidence because of alleged association with terrorism. They have not been tried and their cases have not been reviewed. An independent tribunal has recommended 58 of them for release; it found that there was no evidence against them. They are still in prison.
There is no permanent independent judiciary in Peru. The only judges are on provisional appointments. That somewhat colours their judgment in court. If they give the wrong judgment their appointment is not renewed. There was a system of appointing permanent judiciary, but that has gone. We receive bitter and worried messages from the Society of Advocates in Peru. The intelligentsia, as represented by all civil institutions, universities and so on, have been systematically corrupted by Fujimori. All senior university appointments are Government appointments. At the same time, more than 6,000 lecturers were dismissed.
A great concern when it comes to replacing Fujimori with a stable democratic alternative is the fact that there is no concerted Opposition, only a generalised feeling that it is wrong and has to change. That is because Fujimori has also systematically repressed political parties so that there are no genuine political party structures, as we would recognise them, and no identifiable Opposition manifesto for alternative government. Those are serious weaknesses if the country is to be revised.
We need to look at the role the international community can play in trying to help Peruvians resolve their problems. In the last analysis, only Peruvians can do that. But there is a great deal that we and the international community can do. We must take a long hard look at the way in which international aid goes to Peru to ensure that it cannot be used by the Government as an electoral weapon. There are strong NGOs on the ground in Peru. I would certainly advocate that they should be the conduit for all aid to Peru in future. With clear international accountability no accusations can be levelled.
We must do something, although I do not know how, to try to support democratic parties in Peru. Above all we must impress on the Organisation of American 214WH States that its role as envisaged by the suspended concordat is no less critical now than it was before Fujimori appeared to stand down and to promise new elections. Until Fujimori and his Government are prepared to stand back and allow internationally organised and accountable election processes, there will always be a nagging doubt that Fujimori is trying to retain his power by another method, as he has consistently over the past 10 years.
I conclude by stressing the need for us and the rest of the international community to help to secure a stable future for Peru and for the continent of South America. That need is as pressing as it ever was. I hope that the UK Government will play a full role in the process.
§ Mr. John McFall (Dumbarton)
I am grateful for the opportunity to make a short contribution to this morning's debate. In common with some of my colleagues, I have visited Peru on several occasions. It is eight years since my last visit, but, sadly, this morning's comments are as pressing now as they were in 1992.
Peru's problem lies in the combined rule of President Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos—a corrupt core that has infected the whole body politic. I have seen that for myself, with respect to the judiciary, the military, the economic sphere and civil society. In the judicial sphere, there has been considerable comment from the American Bar Association and international jurors about the military courts. I saw the results of those military courts when I visited Castro Castro prison in Lima and spoke to innocent people who found themselves behind bars for 20 years or even for the rest of their lives because their neighbour had reported them to the authorities. Back-up, witnesses or evidence were not necessary to condemn those people. I have spoken to them and I know that the judicial system is corrupt.
My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) and my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) mentioned human rights. I visited the valleys outside Lima in which bodies were dropped after being torturedߞand it is still going on. We heard about farmers leaving their farms to go into shanty towns. Drugs are a huge problem in the country, but we shall never overcome it if we allow a system under which farmers in Huagua valley, for example, can earn more for coca growing than for ordinary crops. We in the international community must deal with that pressing problem.
As to the economy, it is shameful to call it a privatisation programme. It is simply a rip-off with thousands of people losing their jobs. There is no genuine party political structure, only bribery on a country-wide scale. The international community must recognise that that is what is happening in Peru. We must establish fraternal political links, particularly with non-governmental organisations and the good indigenous people of Peru. The country needs to be built up democratically from the floor. The international community should acknowledge the corruption, but realise that there are good people in civil society—in the barrios, for example, where women help by working in the soup kitchens. I took those memories back with me. The international community must demonstrate solidarity and ensure that not just a veneer, but real democracy takes root in Peru.
§ Mr. Mark Oaten (Winchester)
I start by congratulating the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) on securing this debate. It is the second occasion on which he has raised these important issues in this Chamber. His insight into what is happening in Peru has been invaluable. I also congratulate the hon. Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) on his contribution, particularly his detailed and absorbing analysis of what took place in the elections. He demonstrated clearly how rotten to the core is the electoral system in Peru. His knowledge, based on such recent visits, was invaluable.
None of us who attended the previous Westminster Hall debate on Peru could have expected the dramatic events of the past six months. Just as the world had become resigned to the depressing conclusion that Mr. Fujimori had steamrollered through the extension of his presidency, the wheels appear to have fallen off during the past couple of months. Mr. Fujimori's announcement that he would stand down on 16 September—less than two months into his third presidential term—has suddenly given the people of Peru some fresh hope, but their understandable optimism must be sobered by the assessment of the scale of the task ahead. The stark realities of turning that window of opportunity into a genuine democracy will be very hard, as the contributions to this morning's debate have demonstrated.
It is now a month since Mr. Fujimori's so-called resignation and it is clear that both he and Vladimiro Montesinos, the former chief of the national intelligence service, will not disappear from the political scene as easily as we would like them to. Peru is an apple that is rotten to the core, not only in terms of bribery and corruption and the way in which its election system operates, but in terms of the severe poverty that we have heard about this morning. Since 1992 when Mr. Fujimori temporarily closed the Congress and the supreme court, and relaunched state institutions under his control, the army has enjoyed a central role in running Peru's affairs. Mr. Montesinos has hand-picked many of the army's commanders. Four regional commanders were former classmates at the military academy and even his brother-in-law was put in charge of the garrison in Lima.
How can some of the difficulties be resolved? The diagnosis is clear: Peru needs a democratic framework if the next elections are to stand a chance of being fair. Transitions from an authoritarian rule are invariably messy and, at the very least, Peru now faces several months of instability. The key question is whether the armed forces can be persuaded to accept the genuine democratic reforms that are needed. Reforms in the media, the electoral authorities and the courts will all have to take place if elections are to be meaningful. I strongly believe that the army should have no place in politics, but achieving that position in Peru will clearly not be easy.
Last weekend, Mr. Fujimori sacked key chiefs in the army, air force and navy who had been loyal to the disgraced Mr. Montesinos. However, we should treat such sackings with caution because it has been suggested by observers that all Mr. Fujimori has done is to replace those chiefs with other supporters.
216WH On 16 September, Mr. Fujimori promised that he would deactivate the national intelligence service, but that action was not signed into law until a month later, thus generating fears that supporters of Fujimori, agents and equipment had been smuggled out into various military installations during the intervening period. Let us not forget that the national intelligence unit is believed to be responsible for ordering death squad killings, taking protection money from drug traffickers, manipulating the media and corrupting the armed forces. It is deeply disturbing if individuals from the unit are still active.
The Government and military in Peru must be separated, which involves removing army commanders who are linked to the previous era. The resulting military and intelligence service must be made as transparent as possible and that should be coupled with the establishment of an independent prosecution service and judiciary. It could begin with the reinstatement of the three constitutional tribunal judges who were dismissed by Mr. Fujimori after they had attempted to block his changes to the constitution.
Other steps need to be taken. The elections need to be fair and democratic. That requires the handing back of the private television company to its ousted owner. Next time, Opposition parties that try to fight fair elections must be guaranteed airtime on popular television stations. At the time of the previous election, the costs were set at deliberately high levels to preclude that from happening. In addition, the discredited electoral authority needs to be fully reformed. One head is currently under investigation and the other head has resigned. It is important that a new head is appointed who can then begin to tackle the whole electoral process that we have heard about from the hon. Member for Kemptown and ensure that there is an accurate electoral register.
It is important that the international community plays its part in solving the problems in Peru. It is vital that outside bodies, such as the Organisation of American States, promote productive discourse between all parties. A genuinely democratic order must be based on an effective system of checks and balances. As Peru attempts to begin such a transition, it is important that outside forces, including Britain and the European Union, play a major role in attempting to put the country in the right direction. I hope that the Minister will comment on the action that we plan to take. A solid start would be to persuade the Administration to return to the jurisdiction of the Interamerican convention on human rights. There are clear human rights problems, which need to be solved.
We need to recognise that if the current issues are to be resolved and if democratic elections are to take place, perhaps the Opposition parties will need help with techniques for fighting a proper campaign. There are major difficulties ahead for Peru, but the first priority is to ensure that Peru can lay the foundations of a new and lasting democratic order, beginning with urgent reform of its flawed institutions.
§ Mrs. Cheryl Gillan (Chesham and Amersham)
First, I join the hon. Member for Winchester (Mr. Oaten) in congratulating the right hon. Member for Coatbridge 217WH and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) on securing the debate. His passion for Peru is well known in the House and he was ably supported by the hon. Members for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) and for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall); the latter obviously has an abiding interest in the country's future.
I am delighted that the Minister is with us. I hope that in addition to providing us with an assessment of what Her Majesty's Government will be able to contribute to the election process in Peru, he will, from his perspective as Minister for Europe, tell us what the European Union proposes to do in that respect.
When Alberto Fujimori took office in 1990, all was not well with Peru, as those present would no doubt acknowledge. The Administration of Alan Garcia left behind some woeful figures. The monthly rate of inflation ranged from 25 per cent. to 32 per cent. in the second half of 1989, exceeded 40 per cent. in June 1990 and mounted to an incredible 78 per cent. by July. The central Government deficit increased from 4 per cent. of gross domestic product in January 1990 to 9 per cent. by May. The money supply of the country increased six times over from January to the end of July and the new Fujimori Government had to act quickly. They did so, as we have heard, with some criticism from many quarters. They acted on privatisation, deregulation and structural adjustment and those were painful measures. However, from an economic perspective, Peru had been taken by the scruff of the neck and there were improvements.
The figures speak for themselves. Gross domestic product went up from $28.8 billion in 1989 to $57.2 billion in 1999 and inflation came down from a staggering 2,926.6 per cent. in 1989—and then 7,650 per cent. in 1990—to 3.8 per cent. in 1999. We must ask ourselves why, with success like that, anyone would want to tamper with the so-called democratic process. Sadly, that is exactly what Fujimori did. On 5 April 1992, following a disagreement with Congress over proposed economic and political reforms, the President staged a military-backed self-coup, shutting down Congress and the courts. A new election was set and not surprisingly he won his first term on 9 April 1995. I say that it was his first term; the new constitution that he drew up allowed a President two consecutive terms and his supporters argue that his first term did not count since he was elected under a previous constitution.
The election in 2000 was set for 9 April with a second round on 28 May. As we have heard, the Opposition candidates faced major handicaps. One was the media. With a few brave exceptions they are completely subservient to Mr. Fujimori. The television has been cowed by threats of withdrawal of Government advertising. For example, Mr. Baruch Ivcher, an Israeli-born immigrant, was stripped of both his Peruvian nationality and his televise on station after it screened reports concerning Montesinos, Mr. Fujimori's intelligence chief. Mr. lvcher's former station now carries a diet similar to that of the yellow press and other stations simply ignore the activities of Opposition candidates. It is quite unacceptable.
Alejandro Toledo, the Opposition presidential candidate, soon discovered how the system works. On the campaign's final day, the President's closing rally 218WH was at one point being transmitted simultaneously by all seven free access television channels. Those of the Opposition candidates did not appear at all. On election day, only one free access channel provided full coverage, and it switched abruptly to a Mexican comedy film when Mr. Toledo's protests began. For ordinary Peruvians, there was a complete news blackout.
Another handicap is that Mr. Fujimori has built a powerful political organisation that blurs the division between Government, state and party. Known as Peru 2000, the machine has been set up on corporatist lines, working in shanty towns and among peasant farmers and small businesses. In Lima's poorer surburbs, once independent community leaders have been won over with the offer of paid jobs distributing Government food aid in return for supporting the Fujimori cause. Mr. Fujimori also has the backing of the armed forces, an expensive and sophisticated intelligence service and a pliant congressional majority.
Many hon. Members have discussed the abuses of the elections in 2000. Three days after the presidential election, the authorities announced that with almost 98 per cent. of the ballots counted, Mr. Fujimori had 49.84 per cent. of the vote, just short of an absolute majority, which meant a run-off against Alejandro Toledo. However, the first round of the presidential elections had been one of the dirtiest election campaigns in Peru's history. The Opposition complained of irregularities, and we have already heard from the hon. Member for Kemptown how Mr. Toledo's name was excised from the voting slips—one of the most blatant abuses.
Suspicions arose when the national electoral processes office, the Oficina Nacional de Procesos Electorales, which had promised a result within hours of the vote, was issuing partial results showing Mr. Fujimori within a whisker of an absolute majority, despite observers finding that most of the ONPE's computer centres were closed. Mr. Eduardo Stein, head of the observer team sent by the OAS, said that the results were "coming out of nowhere" and that "something very sinister" was going on. It is hardly surprising that Mr. Toledo withdrew from the run-off, as the right hon. Member for Coatbridge and Chryston said, and that Fujimori claimed victory.
Events move quickly in Peru. A month ago, Fujimori seemed to be firmly in charge. He had fired Montesinos, the former head of intelligence. It does not help someone's political cause when his spy chief surfaces on a video, allegedly paying $15,000 to buy the political support of an Opposition member of Congress. He announced the dissolution of the intelligence service, which has the appropriate acronym SIN, and called new elections in which he pledged not to participate. I suppose that he should be congratulated on that. Indeed, Peruvian Opposition leaders and the United States Government hailed his decision to step aside and hold new elections, while Montesinos fled in disgrace to an uncertain exile in Panama.
Sinister events have overtaken the delicate democracy. With his claim for political asylum rejected, Montesinos seems to have turned the tables on Fujimori, and has returned to Peru and gone into hiding. Varying reports have been received about what is happening to him. However, there is a belief in certain quarters that although Fujimori says that he is firmly in 219WH charge, Montesinos and his cronies, who command Peru's armed forces, may force Fujimori to step aside sooner than expected to create a power vacuum into which Montesinos can step. I hope that the Minister will enlighten us on his assessment of the latest developments.
We all hope for a peaceful transitional period and that Peru can achieve the democracy that it so desires. The latest report suggests that the election should take place no later than 8 April next year, and both the Government and the Opposition in Peru seem to have agreed on that. We welcome that development and hope that the Minister can confirm it today.
It is not all doom and gloom for Peru. Peru has come a long way, but it is far from perfect. I finish by quoting two paragraphs from a letter sent to me by the Ambassador from Peru, Mr. Gilbert Chauny, who tries to keep hon. Members informed. He should be congratulated on his work in keeping us up to speed with developments in Peru, although I do not always agree with what he writes in his letters. However, two paragraphs of a letter that he wrote in June suggest that there is a political will to move towards an improved democracy. He writes:
Nevertheless, we must recognise that all countries have not and cannot consolidate simultaneously the same level of democracy. In the case of Peru, we have met many difficulties in this regard. We are all aware of the deep crisis we experienced at the end of the 80s, which evidently slowed us in our objectives. Democracy presumes peace and reciprocal trust, it implies co-operation and common work. On the other hand, terrorism brings insecurity and fear, people change and this weakens democracy. That is why building democracy has been difficult and risky in our country. It has been necessary to start laying down the foundations for making possible a productive environment, with incentives, with a real desire to join efforts to attain the welfare of our people. We were, therefore, obliged to obtain both internal as well as external peace.
Nevertheless, much has been achieved. As Peruvians, we would like not to be judged for what we still need to accomplish in order to reach a utopian level of democracy; but to be judged for what we have already accomplished with great effort, and for our strong commitment to further improve and perfect our democracy. I hope that the Minister will reassure us that his Government will help support the Peruvians in their commitment to further and improve their democracy.
§ The Minister for Europe (Mr. Keith Vaz)
The debate has been excellent, and I am sorry that I could not be present to hear my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston (Mr. Clarke) open it. My right hon. Friend has taken up causes with great passion and eloquence throughout his parliamentary career. The way in which he put the case today shows the strong feelings he has about Peru, democracy, international development and human rights.
My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds, West (Mr. Battle), the Minister of State, Foreign and Commonwealth Office, wanted to be present, as he is responsible for that area. He has asked me to pass on his good wishes to my right hon. Friend. Important parliamentary commitments abroad prevent him from attending the debate, but he spoke in the previous debate on Peru and set out clearly the Government's position. In his speeches both in Parliament and publicly, he has expressed the Government's concerns about the situation in that country.
220WH The speech made by my hon. Friend the Member for Brighton, Kemptown (Dr. Turner) was better than any Foreign Office brief that any Minister could receive, and was peppered by personal recollections that none of us could really gain from official visits. His insights, and those of my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston, help me to assess the situation and help my colleagues in the Foreign Office to consider future policy directions.
One matter was the subject of all contributions to the debate, including those from my hon. Friend the Member for Dumbarton (Mr. McFall), and the hon. Members for Chesham and Amersham (Mrs. Gillan) and for Winchester (Mr. Oaten), who made his usual succinct speech. There were serious irregularities in the process leading up to the presidential and congressional elections held earlier this year. My right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston and the hon. Member for East Londonderry (Mr. Ross), who monitored the first round of voting in April, rightly drew attention to those problems, as have missions from the Organisation of American States, the Carter Centre, the Electoral International Reform Services and our European Union partners.
I assure my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston that my colleagues in the European Union are considering the matter carefully, but no decision has been made about a monitoring group that might attend the next elections. The EU, because of its historical connections with that part of the world, considers those matters carefully, and my right hon. Friend's comments and those of other hon. Members will be brought to the attention of the relevant Commissioner and other member states.
There are doubts about the constitutional propriety of President Fujimori's decision to stand for a third successive term. After the controversial—to judge from the descriptions of the voting procedures, the term is a lame one—second-round voting system, we have heard disturbing accounts of Congress men being bribed to defect to the governing party and other such stories. We are aware of those issues, so we welcomed the decision of the OAS Foreign Ministers in Windsor, Ontario on 4–6 June to help the Peruvians re-energise their democracy. A list of 29 points was drawn up. Eduardo Latorre, the former Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, who has already been mentioned, was appointed to oversee the task.
We also welcomed President Fujimori's announcement on 16 September that fresh presidential and congressional elections would be held, that there would be a thorough investigation of all bribery allegations, and that the national intelligence service would be de-activated. We remain concerned about the negative influence exercised by President Fujimori's former intelligence adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos, on the re-energising of the democracy. We have heard about the attempts to find out where he is, and are worried about the effect that his unexpected return on 23 October, after he had spent a month in Panama, could have on the situation in Peru. Whether through Sherlock Holmes or any of the methods being adopted by President Fujimori to find him, we hope that he will swiftly be located and brought before the Peruvian courts to face the charges against him.
221WH We have also been encouraged by the determination of all parties in the OAS-sponsored talks not to allow recent events, including the return of Montesinos, to impede progress on the talks or for new elections. The democratisation process has inevitably had ups and downs. We are glad that the representatives of the Government and Opposition appear to have agreed on the constitutional changes needed to reduce the current presidential and congressional mandates to one year, and to permit fresh elections in 2001. It is also encouraging that a specific date for those elections—8 April—is likely to be formally announced in the next few days. We shall watch the situation carefully, but I know that the announcement will please my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston and other hon. Members.
We urge the Peruvian Government and Opposition representatives to show flexibility and moderation, with a view to ensuring real progress towards democracy on the basis of the 29 points. We hope that special emphasis will be placed on ensuring that the playing field of the election in April 2001 will be much more level than that of the previous election. That especially means that all parties and candidates must have equitable access to the media, and that the reform of electoral and judicial authorities is ensured
. The British Government will continue to support efforts to aid the democratic process through expertise funded by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Department for International Development. I appreciate what was said about my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State for International Development and the work of her Department by my right hon. Friend the Member for Coatbridge and Chryston. Given his background in international development, it was real praise. We want free, fair and transparent elections and to ensure that Peru moves forward. As the hon. Member for Chesham and Amersham said, we have come a long way, but there is further to travel before the people of Peru feel that they can have the Government whom they deserve.