Peru's Chaos

April 26, 1992

Since Peru's President Alberto Fujimori with army help disbanded the nation's constitution, judiciary and congress on April 5, the congress has returned the compliment. It swore in his vice president, Maximo San Roman, as a rival president. Now Peru has two of them.

What Peru does not have is much government at all. The economy minister resigned after hearing tough talk in Washington from the United States and Organization of American States about losing aid if constitutional law is not restored to Peru. The banking superintendent resigned. The head of the central bank, on the other hand, refused to step down when the runaway president demanded his resignation.

The people in Peru who are not confused are the Shining Path guerrillas. They have moved into the capital of Lima and are murdering community leaders in the shantytowns. The army, which is supposed to be fighting the Shining Path and the cocaine drug gangs, is not doing a good job of it. The army is up to arresting dissidents, cracking down on the country's largest political party and suppressing constitutional institutions, but that's about all. Half of it is deployed on the border worrying about invasion from Ecuador and the other half is not much use against Peru's real enemies.

Mr. Fujimori has dealt with internal and foreign criticism by announcing a 12-month restoration of democracy, centering on a July plebiscite to ratify his coup. This plan must be greeted with some skepticism.

The OAS has given Mr. Fujimori until May 23 to restore constitutional rule in Peru or face economic sanctions. He has used his Japanese ancestry to win unprecedented aid from Japan, but that cannot substitute for good standing in the Americas.

nTC Coups by elected presidents are no better than coups against them. The winner of the stand-off between Mr. Fujimori's supporters and Mr. San Roman's supporters can only be the Shining Path. The OAS should stick to its ultimatum.

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