Peru's Garcia asks Congress to repeal amnesty bill
LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's embattled President Alan Garcia asked Congress on Monday to repeal a decree he issued two weeks ago that gave virtual amnesty to hundreds of people accused of atrocities during a civil war that killed 69,000.
Garcia backtracked only hours after acclaimed Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa harshly criticized him in a letter in which he resigned as head of a commission appointed to build a museum to honor victims of the 1980-2000 conflict, which was one of the bloodiest ever in Latin America.
Garcia's decree said that defendants in trials for human rights crimes committed before 2003 must be sentenced within 36 months of the start of their trial.
As most of the hundreds of pending cases have been bogged down for years, Vargas Llosa called the measure an "amnesty in disguise." Other critics have said the measure could violate the U.N. agreements on human rights signed by Peru.
Peru's Truth and Reconciliation Commission found that widespread rights abuses occurred during the 1990-2000 presidency of Alberto Fujimori and, to a lesser extent, during Garcia's first term in the 1980s.
Fujimori has been convicted for rights crimes, and activists say they want to put Garcia on trial, too.
"This is truly a disgrace that will revive political divisions in the country, precisely at a time of exceptional (economic) progress and during an election that should be used to reinforce our legal institutions and democracy," Vargas Llosa wrote in his letter made public by the human rights group Instituto de Defensa Legal (idl-reporteros.pe/).
Peru will elect a new president next year and Garcia is barred by the constitution from running for a second straight term. One of the frontrunners in the race is Keiko Fujimori, a popular lawmaker and the daughter of the former president.
In his letter, Vargas Llosa accused Garcia of capitulating to pressure from the military, which was accused of rights abuses in repressing a leftist guerrilla insurgency. Continued...