In one room he hid 25 black and white screens that broadcast day and night for him. They showed the perspective of the main avenues of Lima, the entrance and exit of the airport and the offices of its political allies and enemies. On one of the televisions appeared a map that recorded in real time the exact location of the American cars he collected. His obsession with listening to other people’s conversations was also famous. He placed mikes in offices, vehicles and toilets. During that time hours and hours of vain and useless talks were recorded between government officials who kept up appearances when they knew they were spied on. Vladimiro Montesinos was the man hidden behind the curtain, the one who wanted to know everything in Peru in the nineties.
His reappearance these days, the most turbulent in the recent history of the country, has left everyone in awe. Montesinos, 76, was recorded this month while speaking from the landline of the maximum security prison in which he is held. The main adviser to the autocrat Alberto Fujimori, a number two A teetotaler and orderly man who ran the intelligence service, he explained to a retired colonel how to reach the electoral court judges who were studying the nullities requested by the candidate Keiko Fujimori to avoid victory at the polls for his rival, Pedro Castillo. Keiko referred to him as a teenager as Uncle Vladi.
“If we had done the work we had proposed we would no longer be in this shitty problem,” Montesinos says at one point. It is understood that it refers to the victory by the minimum of Castillo, a leftist rural professor seen by the country’s elites and the most recalcitrant right as a danger because of his discourse against foreign companies and the free market. The revealed conversation gives rise to multiple interpretations, but what is certain is that Montesinos, who many imagined as an old man who consumes his last years of life in a cell, has not lost his ability to plot a plot.
He suggests looking for an intermediary to bribe each of the three members of the national election jury with a million dollars to remove from the final count the tables where Castillo won en masse. Montesinos is aware that Keiko may go to prison, as she is accused of money laundering and criminal organization. What do I get out of this? Nothing. I’m just trying to help because if they don’t fuck, the girl will end up in jail. That’s the situation ”, you hear him say.
The Fujimori-Montesinos duo guided the destiny of Peru three decades ago. The first was a middle-aged engineer and university professor, the son of Japanese immigrants, who by surprise reached the second round of the 1990 elections, in which he defeated the writer Mario Vargas Llosa. Fujimori was a outsider of politics who had trained his orality in a boring talk show on television. Shortly after donning the presidential sash, the first of the many scandals in which he would be involved in the next ten years occurred. His advisers recommended that he solve this problem with the help of a lawyer, a somewhat puny guy with glasses, who was beginning to lose hair by then. His name was Vladimiro Montesinos.
He was a low-ranking ex-military man who had ended up imprisoned for desertion. In the last days of dictator Juan Velasco Alvarado, in the mid-1970s, he aligned himself with the wrong colonels, those who did not succeed in succeeding the dying general. The soldier Montesinos, more apt for books and paperwork than for the battlefield, did not accept the fate with which he was punished and fled. At that time he had a reputation for collecting private information from his colleagues and superiors. Everything was written down in notebooks. That faith in leaving testimony of reality in writing or on video, in the long run, would end up taking its toll.
Fate put him in Fujimori’s path. The two got used to sleeping in the afternoon and meeting at dawn. Fujimori and his enigmatic smile were very popular. With the auto coup of 1992, he was given full command powers. Montesinos was his link with the army generals. It was a moment marked by the fight against the Shining Path, a terrorist organization headed by a bloodthirsty and messianic leader, Abimael Guzmán. Montesinos dealt with the war against Sendero, drug trafficking and, his favorite subject, political espionage. His was the idea of taking the Fujimori to live at the headquarters of the SIN, the intelligence service. It didn’t seem like the ideal place for a family – father, grandmother, and four children – but the president felt safe there. Montesinos was a little god in those offices, which he built to his liking as a perpetual voyeur. The false walls, the hidden cameras and microphones and the crystals that allow one to look without being seen proliferated.
The detail of the central screen from which Montesinos had the illusion of controlling an entire nation appears in the book Vladimiro, vida y tiempo de un corruptor. It is written by Luis Jochamowitz, a cult Peruvian author who years before had published the most celebrated biography of the president, Ciudadano Fujimori. Jochamowitz draws profiles in which psychological introspection abounds, in this case about the two men who have united the most power in modern Peru. Count their inner lives as a secret to the ear. The writer and journalist believes that in these audios Montesinos is revealed in his essence, with some truth, a bit of exaggeration and the almost pathological need to influence from the shadows.
“I imagine him in the know from prison,” explains Jochamowitz over the phone. “But with a bit of bluff in his statements, just in case he links up with something that happens. All his life he has taken advantage of the strength of another ”, he continues. In the book he cites as an example the arrest of Abimael Guzmán, which was carried out by an elite group of the police, but which Montesinos wanted to pass off as his own. In his routines he included visiting the terrorist leader and for a couple of years they had an ideological discussion that forged into almost a friendship. The two are locked up in the same prison, at the Callao naval base in Lima.
Over the years he recorded hundreds of their meetings. He left visual testimony of the bribes with which he bought opponents, businessmen and media owners. The revelation of those videos, known as vladivideos, ended his career, on a par with Fujimori’s. In 2000 he fled on a sailboat to the Galapagos Islands and later arrived in Venezuela, where he was found and extradited to Peru to face countless trials for corruption and other charges. His name was forever associated with espionage, ruse, conspiracy and conspiracy. The revelation of his phone calls have come to be called vladiaudios.
The lawyer Gloria Cano defends the victims of the Colina Group, the Army detachment created by the Fujimori and Montesinos government to disappear opponents under the guise of anti-terrorist operations. “I do not believe that his calls abroad are careless, for me it is one more suspicion of corruption,” he says. He explains that Montesinos does not attend many of the judicial proceedings in which he is accused of murder or forced disappearance, alleging that he is ill.
American jurist and professor Jo-Marie Burt closely followed the first trials for corruption and human rights violations followed by Fujimori and Montesinos. For Burt, Keiko Fujimori represents a political project that was born in 1990. “That project was consolidated thanks to a pact between Fujimori and Montesinos, whom Fujimori needed to govern when he had neither party. Montesinos made the link with the Armed Forces. But it also helped him to control the Judiciary and then other powers of the State, including the electoral authorities ”, he describes.
For Burt, Montesinos is still in force in Peruvian politics because it is part of the Fujimori power. “Montesinos appears from time to time because despite being in jail, he is a factor in the essential power of Fujimori. And because the institutions have shown themselves too soft before, characters like Montesinos who once held power, despite his prison sentence of many years ”.
The two Montesinos conversations broadcast on Thursday by a local politician, Fernando Olivera, have on the other end of the phone a retired Army colonel, an admirer of Alberto Fujimori. In the call Montesinos complains that the environment of “the girl” has not known how to fix things to snatch the victory from Castillo. The great warper, in the shadows, is convinced that he would have done better.
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