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If Peru Is to Vote in April, Lawmakers Have Job to Do

Wed, Nov 1, 2000

Press

The Washington Post / By Nora Boustany

Cesar Gaviria, secretary general of the Organization of American States, told Washington Post reporters and editors yesterday that Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori and his top advisers are committed to holding elections on April 8, which will require constitutional reforms to cut short his third term in office.

Gaviria is just back from Peru, where he said he pressed officials to separate plans for early elections from a proposal for a general amnesty law that would protect military and political figures involved in drug trafficking and terrorism from prosecution by a successor government. He said the government agreed to discuss the amnesty proposal with members of the opposition after the election decision was made.

The proposal coincided with the return to Peru of disgraced intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, who has remained in hiding. “The main problem is not Fujimori and Montesinos, but how to deal with the military,” Gaviria said, adding that the Congress will vote on the constitutional reforms on Thursday.

Activists Head for Brazil

Xiao Qiang, the New York-based executive director of Human Rights in China, said he has two dreams: to see a Chinese soccer team play against Brazil, and to live as a free man in his homeland. “Until today, I still feel the first dream is harder to reach than democracy in China,” he told a small group gathered for lunch at the National Endowment for Democracy last Friday.

Xiao will address his second passion in his capacity as an exiled human rights activist and a member of the steering committee of the World Movement for Democracy, which will meet in Sao Paolo from Nov. 12 to 15.

Carl Gershman, executive director of the endowment, said the movement’s meetings will draw nearly 500 democracy activists, scholars and practitioners and will be organized around the challenges democrats face, not only from undemocratic regimes but from corruption and narcotics.

New regional networks will be set up and workshops will focus on innovations such as how to use the Internet effectively, as well as techniques used by activists in other countries.

Xiao said that unlike other international meetings he has attended where he was sitting across from Chinese government delegates, the upcoming conclave will present a “very unique change.” In addition to the exiles, there will be some non-governmental Chinese voices. “They will be coming to Sao Paolo, not to combat the concept of democracy but to participate,” Xiao said.

He and Mahnaz Afkhami, an Iranian democrat and president of Women’s Learning Partnership, a Washington-based non-governmental organization, will lead workshops with women such as the Plaza de Mayo mothers of victims killed during Argentina’s “dirty war” of 1976- 1983. The women will pass on their experience to mothers of students killed in Beijing’s Tiananmen square in 1989.

“We have been working very closely with Tiananmen mothers, who are now demanding accountability from the government, collecting evidence and making demands for investigation with our assistance,” Xiao said. “In Sao Paolo we [will] bring their voice to the international community and make information about mothers elsewhere and their activities available to them.”

Beijing has forbidden the Tiananmen mothers to travel abroad to human rights conferences and has threatened that if they leave for Sao Paolo, they might not be allowed to return home. Liu Junning, an independent Chinese scholar who has written on human rights, has been persecuted by Beijing and is currently at Harvard University, will go to Brazil.

However, three Cuban activists granted visas by the Brazilian government are having trouble getting exit visas. They are Maritza Lugo Fernandez from the November 30 Democratic Party, Manuel David Orrio from the Cooperative of Independent Journalists and Marcos Lazaro Torres of the November 30 Revolutionary Movement “Frank Pais.”

Also, Angolan journalist Rafael Marques, who has written critically of President Jose Eduardo dos Santos, has been banned from traveling abroad.

Brazilian Ambassador Rubens Barbosa said President Fernando Henrique Cardoso will give the keynote speech at the meeting. “Every step in the direction of a truly democratic order . . . brings mankind closer to a better and just world,” Barbosa quoted Cardoso as saying.

East Timor’s Diplomat

Constancio Pinto, a senior member of the East Timorese leadership, is now the representative of the East Timor Development and Reconstruction Organization to the United Nations and Washington.

Pinto, a longtime leader of the underground movement in the East Timorese capital of Dili, was the key organizer of the November 1991 demonstration that ended in a massacre of unarmed civilians by Indonesian troops and earned him a top position on Jakarta’s death list. He is now East Timor’s chief diplomat in the United States.

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About Mahnaz Afkhami

A lifetime advocate for the rights of women, Mahnaz Afkhami works with activists across the world, especially in Muslim majority societies, to help women become leaders. She is Founder and President of Women’s Learning Partnership for Rights, Development, and Peace (WLP), Executive Director of Foundation for Iranian Studies...more

Quotables – Human Rights

"We must pose the question: why is it that the denial of the most rudimentary rights to civil treatment for women is always based on some fundamental point of culture? Is this culture real, or is it a fetish that is used to maintain some economic, social, or simply psychological privilege?" - A Vision of Gender in Culture

"Women's status in society has become the standard by which humanity's progress toward civility and peace can be measured." - Architects for Peace

"The crass infringement of women's rights we see in the Muslim world has more to do with power, patriarchy, and misuse of religion as political weapon than with religion properly understood as individual faith." - Gender Apartheid, Cultural Relativism, and Women's Human Rights

"Rights and empowerment are interconnected: unless a substantial number of women in a community come to believe that they have rights and demand to exercise them, right remains an abstraction." - Faith and Freedom