PANAMA CITY — Panama on Saturday rejected a request to give asylum to Vladimiro Montesinos, a shadowy former spy chief suspected in a bribery scandal that quashed Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori's plans to remain in power.
Panama has provided asylum to some of Latin America's most disgraced and reviled former leaders, but it apparently drew the line at accepting Montesinos, whom Peruvian opposition leaders want tried.
"After studying the request, the Cabinet recommended that this petition not be accepted," read a terse statement issued by the office of the presidency.
The unusual decision was made in an urgent meeting between Panamanian President Mireya Moscoso and her Cabinet officials Saturday.
The asylum request was made late Friday in a telephone call by Fujimori's top Cabinet officer, according to the statement.
Brazil and Argentina also reportedly made clear that Montesinos would not be welcome. Some political analysts said Cuba might consider taking him in.
Montesinos, viewed as Fujimori's right-hand man throughout the 1990s, has remained out of sight since earlier this month, when Peruvian broadcasters aired a videotape showing him allegedly bribing an opposition lawmaker.
Fujimori sent his Congress urgent legislation late Friday to disband Peru's National Intelligence Service, which Montesinos had headed, after opening talks with the opposition on holding new elections.
The bribery scandal prompted Fujimori to promise the new elections, in which he said he would not participate, and to pledge to dismantle the spy agency.
Peruvian opposition groups warned Friday that the talks with Fujimori on the new elections would be damaged unless Montesinos is arrested.
Some of the disgraced Latin American leaders to whom Panama has provided asylum are former Ecuadorean President Abdala Bucaram, former Haitian dictator Gen. Raul Cedras and former Guatemalan President Jorge Serrano Elias.