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Declassified U.S. Documentation on
Human Rights Abuses and Political Violence

 

The Declassified Files on Peru's Former Intelligence Chief, Vladimiro Montesinos

 
State Department Country Background Notes on Peru

 
Peruvian Human Rights Links
Defensoría del Pueblo
APRODEH
Coordinadora Nacional de Derechos Humanos
Instituto de Defensa Legal
 

The Peruvian Townsend Commission Report
and Declassified U.S. Documentation

 

National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 72
Edited by Tamara Feinstein, [Phone: 202 / 994-7219]
Director, Peru Documentation Project
June 26, 2002

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Introduction

On the evening of September 14, 2000, Peruvian cable TV station Canal N broadcast a video of Peruvian intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos apparently giving a bribe of $15,000 to opposition congressman Alberto Kouri for his defection to President Alberto Fujimori's Peru 2000 Party. The video, leaked to the Peruvian opposition party FIM (Independent Moralising Front) by sources unknown, was the first to become public of thousands that had been taped by Montesinos. The disclosure ignited a broad corruption scandal that changed the face of politics in Peru, resulting in Fujimori asking Montesinos to quit (September 15, 2000), the dissolution of Montesinos' National Intelligence Service (SIN) (September 16, 2000), Montesinos's escape from Peru (September 23, 2000), the flight of Fujimori to Japan (November 13, 2000), Fujimori's subsequent removal as president by the Peruvian Congress (November 21, 2000), and the eventual capture and arrest of Montesinos in Venezuela and his extradition to Peru (June 23-24, 2001).

Following Fujimori's fall, the new interim President Valentín Paniagua took significant steps toward the restoration of democracy, including the removal of restrictions on freedom of the press, the replacement of the dismissed magistrates to the Constitutional Tribunal-Peru's equivalent to the U.S. Supreme Court which Fujimori gutted in 1997-and the return of Peru to the jurisdiction of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. On June 3, 2001, Alejandro Toledo (who pulled out of second round elections with Fujimori in 2000 to protest voting irregularities) was elected president in a process that was deemed free and fair by a host of domestic and international observers. Since then, the Peruvian government and civil society groups across the political spectrum have begun a process of reassessing the Fujimori years, with a particular focus on the role of Montesinos.


Townsend Commission

In the wake of the scandals surrounding Montesinos, the Peruvian government launched a number of different criminal investigations and congressional inquiries into the activities of the former intelligence chief. Among them was a congressional commission formed in November 2000 under the leadership of David Waisman of the Peru Posible party. The Waisman Commission-which included Congress members Anel Townsend, Adolfo Amorin, Luis Chang Ching, and Carlos Cuaresma-was designed to look into the complicated web of bank accounts controlled by Montesinos. On June 12, 2001, the Waisman Commission came out with its report, strongly recommending further investigation. Congressman Waisman left Congress in July 2001 to become Peru's Vice President and Defense Minister, but a new commission continued its uncompleted work with Congress member Townsend as its new head, becoming known as the Townsend Commission. The current members of the Townsend Commission include Edgar Villanueva, Gustavo Pacheco, Hildebrando Tapia and Cesar Zumaeta.

On May 15, 2002, the Townsend Commission released a preliminary report, highlighting the key findings of their investigations, based heavily on witness testimony and analyses of the bank accounts. The Commission requested additional time to produce its final report, which was released to the public on June 25, 2002. In spite of the one-month extension, the Townsend Commission still admits that only part of their work has been completed. The Peruvian Congress is considering how to handle the pending investigations of the Townsend Commission and the four other congressional commissions investigating corruption during the Fujimori regime. Congress may create one combined commission to complete the unfinished work of all five commissions.


Townsend Commission Findings

The findings of the Townsend Commission detail many different aspects of corruption surrounding the Montesinos/Fujimori regime. This includes information on electoral fraud; illicit bank accounts; corrupt arms purchasing and trafficking; bribery of government officials, congressmen and journalists; narcotics trafficking and money laundering. After providing detailed information on the evidence collected so far, the commission concludes that it is imperative that the Congress continue its investigations into illicit bank accounts, narco-trafficking, and money laundering. The report also suggests a coordinated effort between the Judiciary, Executive and the Public Ministry to apprehend those at-large individuals tied to these investigations, and calls for the repatriation of illicit funds in foreign bank accounts.

In addition to the charges revolving around corruption, one of the more interesting discoveries of the Townsend Commission's preliminary report involves allegations of human rights abuses committed by the Army Intelligence Service (SIE) and its "Grupo Colina," a death squad linked to various human rights abuses, including extra-judicial executions. Through the testimony of various witnesses who appeared before the Commission, a clandestine military prison, which included an incinerator, was discovered on the grounds of the SIE Headquarters. Victims were held, tortured, interrogated and sometimes killed in this basement facility.

The final report connects a number of specific human rights cases to Montesinos and Fujimori, including the Barrios Altos massacre (1991); La Cantuta Massacre (1992); the assassination of Mariella Barreto Riofano (1997); attacks against Canal 13 facilities and the torture of Fabián Salazar (2000). It also concludes that previous Congressional investigations into human rights abuses, like La Cantuta, were used by the Fujimori government to cover-up and protect the authors of the crimes.

The commission urges Congress to continue to investigate human rights violations linked to Montesinos and Fujimori. It also recommends that constitutional charges be filed against Fujimori for both the torture of journalist Fabian Salazar and human rights abuses committed in the basement of the SIE facility. Furthermore, they recommend that legal charges be filed against Montesinos for the torture of Salazar.


1) Townsend Commission Preliminary Report, May 15, 2002 (Microsoft Word document - 472 KB)

2) Townsend Commission Final Report, June 25, 2002 (Microsoft Word document - 2.37 MB)

 

Valuable Information in U.S. Government Archives

In its preliminary report, the Townsend Commission specifically cites the value of declassified U.S. government documents to the Commission's efforts. On January 7, 2002, the U.S. Embassy (Lima) posted a group of 38 documents in response to a request from the Townsend Commission. (Click here to see the Archive's analysis of the Embassy's release.) The Commission has submitted an appeal for the material withheld by the U.S. State Department.

In complement to the final report of the Townsend Commission, the following recently declassified documents highlighted in this National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book and received by the Archive through the FOIA illustrate the kind of valuable information that the Bush administration should continue to provide to assist Peru in its investigation of truth and justice relating to Montesinos and the Fujimori regime. These documents demonstrate some of the key themes touched upon by the Townsend commission, and also reveal what efforts the U.S. made to assist in Peruvian investigations of Montesinos.

The documents in this book range from an undisclosed Peruvian source's commentary in 1993 on the symbiotic relationship between Montesinos and Fujimori (Document 1), to descriptions of the US assistance provided to Peruvian investigations of Montesinos in 2001 (Document 12). 




Note: The following documents are in PDF format.
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Document 1
U.S. Embassy (Lima) Cable, [Excised] Comments on Fujimori, Montesinos, but not on Barrios Altos, January 22, 1993, Secret, 10 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

An undisclosed source describes the relationship between President Fujimori and Vladimiro Montesinos. He critiques their counter-terrorism strategy and policy toward human rights. The cable sketches Montesinos's background history and general character, noting his singular ambition for power throughout his career.

Document 2
U.S. Embassy (Lima) Cable, Amnesty Law in Peru: Analysis and Recommendations, June 15, 1995, Secret, 10 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

The U.S. Embassy strongly criticizes the new military amnesty law as a blow to human rights accountability, suggesting that Montesinos or Army Commander Nicolas Hermoza Rios may have proposed the law to Fujimori. The cable notes that both men were tried and found innocent before a secret military court investigation of the La Cantuta and Barrios Altos massacres. The embassy believes these findings were intended as a "paper trail" to ensure that Hermoza and Montesinos would be safe from any eventual civilian court, but also speculates that the secret acquittal of the military courts would not have the same credibility as a general amnesty. The embassy concludes that the United States should communicate its disappointment in the law, but should ensure that such protest does not endanger US counternarcotics cooperation with Peru.

Document 3
U.S. Embassy (Lima) Cable, Press vs. Press - New Campaign to Harrass Journalists, April 30, 1998, Confidential, 4 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

The document describes harassment of the press, including a mounting smear campaign using tabloid papers to attack investigative journalists "perceived as threatening to the Fujimori government." The Townsend Commission report also specifically addresses the issue of bribes used to influence journalists.

Document 4
U.S. Embassy (Lima) Cable, The Montesinos Factor, July 22, 1999, Confidential, 4 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

This cable provides guidance on the pros and cons of a proposed visit to Peru by US drug czar General Barry McCaffrey for late August 1999. It warns that the visit might reopen old wounds created by the public statement McCaffrey made about Montesinos after his 1998 visit. (At a May 1998 D.C. press conference, McCaffrey stated, "I am offended at Montesinos using my visit to attempt to rehabilitate himself in the eyes of the Peruvian people.") Montesinos retaliated against McCaffrey's remarks by temporarily closing down U.S. government supported counter-drug programs, which were resumed after a "face-saving" coordinated press release. Nevertheless, the document reports that the Peruvian government has been and remains unenthusiastic about counternarcotics programs since that time. Montesinos is "part of the equation," the Embassy writes and "like it or not, he is the go to guy, short of the President himself on any key issue, particularly any major counternarcotics issue." The cable notes that Montesinos has been sending out informal feelers for six months to meet with McCaffrey, which the U.S. has "fended off" so far. However, McCaffrey will not be able to ignore or avoid Montesinos without undermining the value of the proposed visit and the post recommends that McCaffrey meet with Montesinos to clear the air. "The bottom line, Montesinos one way or the other, in front of the cameras or not, will get face time with General McCaffrey and we must be prepared to acknowledge this fact publicly. If that is not acceptable then the trip is best avoided."

Document 5
U.S. Embassy (Lima) Cable, Victim of Suspected GOP-Directed Persecution Thanks Embassy for Intervention, January 1, 2000, Confidential, 4 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

This cable describes the alleged persecution of an undisclosed Peruvian by the National Intelligence Service. The harassment abates after U.S. Ambassador John Hamilton personally takes up the matter with Montesinos.

Document 6
U.S. Embassy (Lima) Cable, The State of the Military on the Eve of the Elections, April 7, 2000, Confidential, 6 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

This document recounts interference by the military during the presidential elections, and speculates that further blatant intervention by the armed forces is unlikely due to Toledo's rise in the polls. "In sum, the armed forces can only be asked to do so much before they begin to bridle and resent the political tasks set before them," the cable concludes.

Document 7
Peruvian Government, Resolución Número Uno, September 5, 2000, 8 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

These are the formal charges filed by the Fujimori administration against the group accused of arranging the illegal transfer of 10,000 AK-47 assault rifles purchased from Jordan to the Revolutionary Armed Forces of the Colombia (FARC), a Colombian guerrilla group. The charges followed an August 21, 2000 announcement by Montesinos that the SIN had broken up the ring that had delivered the arms to the Colombian insurgents. While Montesinos was suspected of involvement in this scandal, the charges were filed prior to the September 2000 bribery scandal with Montesinos and his subsequent fall from power, and make no mention of his participation.

Document 8
U.S. Embassy (Lima) Cable, Montesinos Video, September 15, 2000, Secret, 2 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

The U.S. Embassy notes that the September 14 release of the Montesinos video "provides incontrovertible, public evidence of Montesinos' abuse of the concentration of power in the National Intelligence Service". The embassy notes that the tape is "clearly authentic" since the US has been aware that Montesinos tapes most of his meetings, and the embassy recognizes the office depicted in the video as that of titular SIN Chief Admiral Humberto Rosas.

Document 9
U.S. Department of State Cable, Guidance on Peru Policy, September 20, 2000, Secret, 3 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

The State Department provides policy guidance to the US Embassy in Lima, and requests that Ambassador Hamilton meet with Fujimori. The Ambassador should show US support for Fujimori's decision to remove Montesinos and state that the US government will no longer have any contact with Montesinos. Furthermore, the Ambassador should assure the Peruvian government that the US will continue its cooperation with "legitimate" Peruvian government agencies on counternarcotics efforts.

Document 10
Fiscal Provincial Penal de Lima, Declaracion Testimonial de Carmen de Guadalupe Delgado Mendez, November 28, 2000, 10 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

This is the testimony of a witness regarding the Jordanian/Peruvian/FARC arms scandal. The witness worked for the British as an intelligence agent. According to her testimony, in February 1999 she met with a U.S. Embassy official about information she had uncovered about arms trafficking. She states that later, in March 1999, the US Embassy gave the SIN a report on a possible drug deal in South America that involved Peruvian personalities and that also mentioned a possible arms trafficking operation. She also declared that the arms trafficking operation that was later uncovered was led by Vladimiro Montesinos, Julio Salazar Monroe, Martha Chavez and General Hermoza Rios, not by the Aybar Cancho brothers, who were on trial for it. According to her testimony she was harassed by Montesinos and his "Grupo Jupiter" on several occasions (including on June 7, 1995 and February 27, 2000). She claims to have met Fujimori on November 6, 2000: the president wanted to know the information she had regarding arms and drug trafficking and corruption because he wanted to capture Montesinos and determine his successor. Delgado also mentions that Montesinos planned to kill Jose Aybar and his wife and that she had knowledge of the existence of a list of targets for assassination, all of whom were involved in the arms trafficking case.

Document 11
U.S. State Department, Agenda for Law Enforcement/Intelligence Cooperation Meeting, February 13, 2001, Secret, 2 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

This document provides the agenda of a meeting held to coordinate U.S. government cooperation with Peruvian investigations of Montesinos. It includes an attached copy of the December 1998 bank account record of Charles Acelor, an arms dealer implicated in the Jordanian/Colombian arms scandal.

Document 12
U.S. Embassy (Lima), Circa early 2001, 2 pp.
Source: Freedom of Information Act Release to the National Security Archive

This U.S. Embassy document highlights U.S. government activities aimed at cooperating with Peruvian investigations of Montesinos. Included in this list of tasks is how to respond to Peruvian requests for the declassification of documents. The document notes that the US Embassy in Lima transmitted requests to the Department of State, the Department of Defense, the Drug Enforcement Agency, the Central Intelligence Agency and the Defense Intelligence Agency, on behalf of the Peruvian Government. As noted earlier in this briefing book, the Townsend Commission received 38 documents in January 2002, in response to their request to the State Department. However, they have still not received documents from any of the other US government agencies listed.

 

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