LIMA, Peru -- Police using tear gas and water cannons Wednesday dispersed members of the opposition Aprista Party during a protest to denounce charges the emergency government has levied against party leader and former president Alan Garcia.
More than 100 Apristas marched through the upscale commercial district of Miraflores, burning tires and calling for civil resistance against President Alberto Fujimori's government, which imposed emergency rule April 5.
Traffic came to a standstill and shop owners shut their doors for fear of violence as the marchers chanted 'popular resistance,' 'Fujimori fascist' and 'Alan innocent,' referring to Garcia, according to witnesses.
Police dispersed them with tear gas and water cannons, and attacked some marchers with clubs, local radio reports said.
Earlier Wednesday, the emergency government said it would prosecute Garcia, who has been in hiding since the April 5 civilian-military coup, in connection with the alleged discovery of an arms cache in the headquarters of his party.
The official government newspaper El Peruano Wednesday published an Interior Ministry resolution approving judicial action against Garcia for 'possession and use of illegal weapons, munitions and other materials that are for exclusive use by the Armed Forces and National Police.'
Garcia, the leading political opponent of Fujimori, avoided house arrest 10 days ago when soldiers backing the civilian-military coup detained opposition lawmakers and tanks rumbled through the streets of Lima.
The government also said Wednesday that Garcia's interior minister from 1985 to 1990, Agustin Mantilla, would be prosecuted for alleged possession of a similar arms cache in his Lima home and for allegedly defrauding the Police Fund of more than $1 million.
The arms, including high-powered rifles and explosives, allegedly were found in the headquarters of the Aprista Party and in Mantilla's home when soldiers were sent to detain the opposition politicians on April 5, after the constitution was suspended. Interior Ministry officials showed the weapons to the media two days later.
Garcia, secretary general of the Aprista Party, said from hiding Tuesday that the weapons found in Mantilla's home must have been planted there by the government. Garcia made the statement before charges were announced against him and has not yet responded to those charges.
News reports also have said the government is investigating Mantilla for allegedly forming an anti-leftist paramilitary group called Comando Rodrigo Franco named after an Aprista member killed by Maoist Shining Path rebels in 1987.
Fujimori, saying an obstructionist legislature and corrupt judiciary were blocking his plans to lift the nation out of recession and fight Maoist rebels and drug traffickers, dissolved the Congress and took control of the government with military backing. He promised a quick return to democracy.
But a close Aprista advisor to Garcia, Jorge del Castillo, asked rhetorically what kind of justice can there be in the country where the courts are surrounded by soldiers and the accused are not allowed to make any declarations in their defense.
Fujimori's actions have been condemned internationally and the Organization of American States formally 'deplored' them Monday and said it would send a delegation to Lima to urge Fujimori to restore democratic institutions.