Deported Fugitive Spymaster Lands in Peru

Ketin Vidal told Peru's Channel 5 television by telephone that Montesinos' physical appearance hadn't changed since he vanished in October, contrary to reports that Montesinos underwent plastic surgery to disguise himself.

"He has the physical characteristics very similar to what we all know. He doesn't have a beard, or anything additional," Ketin Vidal said, adding that Montesinos "was received in good physical condition."

Peruvians Welcome News

Peruvians coping with the aftermath of a deadly earthquake in the country's second-largest city embraced the news of Montesinos' capture.

Peruvian Foreign Minister Javier Perez de Cuellar thanked Chavez for arresting "a delinquent drug trafficker." Peru had offered $5 million for information leading to Montesinos' arrest.

Peruvian President Valentin Paniagua and President-elect Alejandro Toledo also had words of praise.

Montesinos, 55, faces charges ranging from money laundering to corruption to directing death squads. Peruvian legal experts say convictions on those charges will likely land Montesinos in prison for life.

Accused of amassing a fortune by dealing drugs, weapons and political favors, Montesinos was the power broker behind former President Alberto Fujimori's authoritarian 10-year rule. His scandals eventually brought Fujimori down.

Peruvian investigators detailed what they say was a huge criminal network in which Montesinos, as Peru's spy chief, controlled politicians, courts, military officials and businessmen through bribery and blackmail. He allegedly paid off congressmen and judges to ensure Fujimori's 2000 re-election to a third term.

Incriminating Video

In September, videos appeared on television showing Montesinos bribing an opposition congressman to support Fujimori's government. As the number of incriminating videos grew, Montesinos fled to Panama, which denied him asylum. He returned to Peru, and vanished in October.

In November, Fujimori fled to Japan as Peruvian lawmakers declared him "morally unfit" for office.

Montesinos' trail led to Costa Rica, Aruba and finally Venezuela in December, according to statements by three Peruvian army officers and Costa Rican officials. He allegedly used a false Venezuelan passport bearing the name Manuel Antonio Rodriguez Perez.

Until Sunday, Chavez's government insisted it had no knowledge of Montesinos' whereabouts. Months of rumors had Montesinos in Colombia, Ecuador and Cuba.

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