During a more-than-30-year career, Monte Hayes, BA’66, developed a deep knowledge of a region stretching from the Rio Grande to the Straits of Magellan at the tip of South America, a knowledge that he used to educate readers in the U.S. and around the world about the diverse people of Latin America. Now retired, Hayes was an Associated Press foreign correspondent and chief of bureau for Peru and Ecuador.
Hayes got his journalistic start working for the Indiana Daily Student. He served as reporter, editor and editor-in-chief during his time at IU. He edited incoming AP and UPI wire stories on the night of Nov. 22, 1963, covering the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, and helped to lay out the historic front page of the IDS.
Although he most enjoyed writing about the region’s common man, he came to be on a first-name basis with half a dozen Ecuadorian presidents and had such access to Peru’s controversial authoritarian leader Alberto Fujimori that he scored multiple scoops against competitors.
These scoops included being told by Fujimori at one of their last midnight rendezvous in the darkened National Palace that he was finally going to dismiss his spymaster Vladimiro Montesinos, for many years seen as his alter-ego with even more power than the president. It was such a scoop that El Comercio, Peru’s most important daily, spread the story across its front page and gave Hayes a byline, the first time in its history it printed a bylined story by a foreign correspondent about news in its backyard.
Hayes balanced coverage of civil wars and insurgencies with experiences like chatting with Queen Elizabeth aboard her yacht off the Pacific Coast of Mexico, and stories like that of Peru's "little mermaid," a baby girl whose legs were joined at birth. Her story gripped the attention of readers around the world when Peruvian doctors carried out a risky operation to separate her legs.
Once while on assignment in Honduras, he scooped his competitors when he discovered a secret CIA air base hidden deep in the mountains that was being used to support rebels battling the leftist Sandinista regime in power in neighboring Nicaragua — this at a time when the U.S. denied all involvement.
He received recognition for his achievements from the people he reported on as well as from his AP colleagues. Venezuelan President Carlos Andres Perez personally decorated him with the prestigious Order of Francisco de Miranda for stories he wrote about the government’s attempts to reform its educational system. He also won the coveted Associated Press Managing Editors’ "Top Reportorial Performance" award in 1997 for the Lima bureau's coverage of the dramatic rescue of 70 high-profile hostages held by pro-Cuban guerrillas for four months.