Tuesday, January 20, 2004

A Man With Two Valdivias: Agence France Press, the Associated Press, the BBC, the Financial Times, Pravda, Reuters, and even the Voice of America all write up their own courtroom scene with Vladimiro Montesinos as the defendant "on charges he directed a scheme to parachute-drop 10,000 assault rifles into the hands of Colombian guerrillas." This is his fifth trial; he faces nearly 80 charges; and prosecutors are seeking a 20-year sentence. And both the leading prosecutor and the defense's lawyer have the same surname: Valdivia. Now for some differentiation:
- AFP is the only one to publish Estela Valdivia's denial that "she is pregnant with Montesinos' child," as well as the only one to include references to Charles Acelor and Yevgen Nepochatov, a Ukrainian who Peruvian authorities believe is involved in the case. On the CIA connections/allegations, AFP says there is no "factual proof."
- the AP's Drew Benson suggests that Vladi is bothered by the "mosquito-infested room" he has to use to speak with his lawyer.
- the BBC's Hannah Hennessy suggests she has an exclusive: "A Peruvian state prosecutor, Luis Valdivia, told the BBC that press reports of CIA involvement in the case would be also investigated."
- the FT's Mark Mulligan adds that the trial was two hours late and that Vladi was accompanied by co-defendants (and brothers) Jose Luis and Luis Frank Aybar. This piece also suggests that Fujimori was "manipulated by Mr Montesinos through a web of extortion, political favours and state-sponsored violence."
- Pravda's Hernan Etchaleco has this headline: "Operation Siberia links the CIA to Colombian narcos" and it seems there is no doubt: "The Peruvian former prominent official in the nineties was a close collaborator of the CIA to fight drug trafficking in South America. ... After allegations became known CIA agents in Washington refused to answer questions to news agencies saying the issue was under due legal process." Pravda is also the only one to include Vladi's middle name: Lenin. (Somehow, a Reuters' interview with Interior Minister Fernando Rospigliosi is also included ... but not in Reuters' pieces.)
- Reuters' Jude Webber, (the only one to file a preview: see "The Spy" in Peruvia, Jan. 18 below), datelines his story, "Callao Naval Base," and is the only one to state the value of the arms deal ($750,000). He gives the brothers Aybar Cancho their full names and Webber also declares: "A key question will be: how much did the CIA know? ... Investigators say CIA agents have refused questions about the matter and a spokeswoman in Washington declined comment."
- in a slightly different Reuters filing, Jude Webber starts off with a profile of Vladi and his lawyer, headlining, "Montesinos Lawyer Says Peru Treatment Is 'Torture.' " Estela Valdivia complains about the conditions of the prison and the cubicle she uses to communicate with Vladi but Webber is clear that they were "built to Montesinos' own design." This version ends with Valdivia stating: "Yes, the CIA was involved, and my client too -- but it was to break up this criminal ring."

Poll Ratings: A Reuters semi-opinion piece by Robin Emmott offers a full scan of AToledo's poor polling using quotes from the (wo)man on the street as well as Augusto Alvarez (Peru.21), Manuel Saavedra (CPI), and Juan Jose Gorriti (CGTP).
- the highpoint of the article: "Many Peruvians saw the allegations against [Beatriz] Merino as an unfounded smear campaign."
- the oddest hypothesis: AToledo is "much more vulnerable to prolonged strikes and major protests of the kind that toppled Bolivia's President Gonzalo Sanchez de Lozada in October."
- the oddest quote comes from Datum's Manuel Torrado: "If [Toledo] can get through the first few months of the year, when protests are statistically most common, he should be able to survive."
- the simple problem/solution: Toledo packed his cabinet "with loyal Peru Posible party allies rather than capable independents."
- the height of irony: Emmott reports all this from Pachacutec, Peru, "on the desert fringes of Peru's capital."
Inside a separate Reuters piece on the Davos Conference, ("Defiant Latin American leaders snub dinero of Davos"), Robin Emmott slips in this bit: "The latest cancellation came this weekend from Peru's Toledo, wallowing in a low popularity rating of 10 percent halfway through his term. Rubbing elbows with the elite in the snowy Alps may not go down well at home. 'Toledo is not going to Davos because he now realizes the precariousness of his situation,' said Giovanna Penaflor, political analyst for CPN Radio. 'It is definitely the right decision.' "

- Dow Jones reports that the JNE voted to remove Freddy Ghilardi as president of the Ancash region. The region's vice president Eloy Ricardo Narvaez will assume the presidency until 2006. Both Ghilardi and Narvaez are members of Apra. Official Reason: Ghilardi had failed to attend half a dozen regional council session meetings. Unofficial Reason: reports had also said he had misused government funds.
- Reuters reports that "Peru may delay launching bank tax" according to an interview with Economy Minister Jaime Quijandria with El Comercio yesterday.

On Funiculars: In a piece by Swiss Info on "the quest for sustainable tourism" at the World Social Forum, a large-scale conference on eco-tourism, counts David Ugarte Vega Centeno, of the "National Cultural Institute of Peru," as a participant. However, the 'Institute' is of Cuzco, not Peru, and he somehow suggests that Macchu Pichu's "tourism is controlled by a single company, which owns the railway line and airline that brings people to the Inca city." He also rejects wholeheartedly the building of a 'funicular.'

The Mountain, Cont.: New York's Village Voice and the the Los Angeles Times review "Touching the Void" positively. Says the VVoice: the movie "unexpectedly bridges genres—it's a buddy movie, a horror story, a boy's-own adventure, and a near metaphysical meditation on the limits of human endurance." (See "The Mountain" in Peruvia, Jan 18. below.)

International Relations:
- South Africa's News24 notes that on this day in 1839, "Chile wins Battle of Yungay against Peru-Bolivian Federation, resulting in dissolution of that union."
- Indonesia's Laksamana reports that Peru is one of the 15 countries exempted from their new visa fees.

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