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Alberto Fujimori


Interpol image of Fujimori

Alberto Kenya Fujimori (born July 28, 1938) was president of Peru from July 28, 1990, until November 17, 2000, when he fled to Japan as allegations of far-reaching corruption in his administration began to emerge. From Japan, he submitted his resignation by fax, but the Peruvian Congress rejected his resignation and removed him from office.

Table of contents
1 Early years
2 First term
3 Second term
4 2000 election
5 Anti-terrorism
6 In exile
7 References
8 See also
9 External links

Early years

Fujimori was born in Lima to Naoichi Fujimori and Mutsue Inomoto, natives of Kumamoto who moved to Peru in 1934. He was trained as an agricultural engineer. Before being elected president, he was rector of the National University La Molina and then later president of the National commission of Peruvian University Rectors (Asamblea Nacional de Rectores), a position that he occupied twice.

A dark horse candidate, Fujimori won the 1990 presidential election with his new party Cambio 90, beating the world-renowned writer Mario Vargas Llosa in a surprising upset. He capitalized on profound disenchantment with the previous president of Peru, Alan García and his APRA party. He also exploited distrust of Vargas Llosa's identification with the existing Peruvian political establishment and distrust of his carefully-reasoned campaign promises for neoliberal economic reform. Since the campaign, he was affectionately nicknamed el chino ("the Chinaman"). Most observers believe his Japanese descent benefited Fujimori as much of the population is of Native American-descent, and his ethnicity helped set him apart from the Spanish-dominated political elites.

First term

During his first term in office, Fujimori's economic strategy, which Peruvians dubbed Fujishock, bore no resemblance to the vague, populist program set out during the campaign under the slogan "Work, technology, honesty". Under close tutelage of the IMF, Fujimori embarked upon tough and wide-ranging economic reforms — far more drastic than anything Vargas Llosa had proposed — resulting in Peru's much-needed reinsertion in the global economy, from which it had become estranged during the García administration. Spurred on by the IMF, Fujimori went on a privatization binge, selling off hundreds of state-owned enterprises, many in hasty and badly-organized privatizations. Of the estimated US$9 billion raised in the process, only a small part ever benefited the Peruvian people; much of the money raised disappeared in Fujimori's patronage machine. Although Fujishock brought macroeconomic stability and a brief upturn in the mid 1990s (economic growth exceeded twelve percent in 1994), it did so at tremendous social cost; it generated massive poverty and pushed Peru's economy into a deep recession from which it has yet to recover.

Self-coup

On April 5, 1992, Fujimori mounted a self-coup (in Spanish: autogolpe), a coup d'etat against his own government. His goals were thought to have been:

  1. the dissolution of the Parliament and setting up a subservient Congress (Congreso Constituyente Democrático) for the purpose of amending the constitution and ensuring his reelection
  2. the co-optation of the judiciary and the curtailment of the constitutional rights by state-of-emergencies and curfews
  3. the total annihilation of the rebels, using 'severe emergency laws' (which reportedly included putting rebel supporters and their relatives in front of death squads)

There was little initial domestic resistance to the self-coup. An opinion poll performed shortly thereafter indicated that Fujimori's decision to dissolve Congress and restructure the judicial system had a seventy-three percent approval rating. The economic and political situation was so poor at the time that for many Peruvians things could only get better. At the time, Fujimori's bold and risky economic reforms (Fujishock) appeared to be working.

The international reaction to the self-coup was predictably negative. International financial organizations delayed planned or projected loans, and the United States government suspended all aid to Peru other than humanitarian assistance, as did Germany and Spain. Venezuela broke off diplomatic relations, and Argentina withdrew its ambassador. Chile joined Argentina in requesting that Peru be suspended from the Organization of American States. The coup appeared to threaten the economic recovery strategy of reinsertion and complicated the process of clearing arrears with the IMF.

Even before the coup, relations with the United States had been strained because of Fujimori's reluctance to sign an accord that would increase United States and Peruvian military efforts in eradicating coca fields. Although Fujimori eventually signed the accord in May, 1991, in order to get desperately needed aid, the disagreements did little to enhance bilateral relations. The Peruvians saw drugs as primarily a United States problem, and the least of their concerns, given the economic crisis, Shining Path, and an outbreak of cholera, which further isolated Peru, due to the resulting ban on food imports.

However, two weeks after the self-coup , the Bush administration backed off and officially recognized Fujimori as the legitimate leader of Peru. The OAS and United States agreed that Fujimori's self-coup may have been extreme, but they did not want to see Peru return to the deteriorating state that it had been in before. In fact, the self-coup came not long after the US government and media had launched a media offensive against Shining Path ('Sendero Luminoso', SL), a rural guerilla movement. On March 12, 1992, Undersecretary of State for Latin American Affairs Bernard Aronson told the US Congress: "The international community and respected human rights organizations must focus the spotlight of world attention on the threat which Sendero poses." "Latin America has seen violence and terror, but none like Sendero's... and make no mistake, if Sendero were to take power, we would see this century's third genocide" [after Nazi Germany and Cambodia]. Given Washington's concerns, long-term repercussions for the self-coup turned out to be modest.

Fujimori himself claimed the self-coup was necessary to break with the deeply entrenched interests which were hindering him from rescuing Peru from the chaotic state in which García had left it. But critics say he never could have implemented the drastic ultraliberal economic reforms in a democratic government.

Later in the year, on November 13, there was a failed military coup led by General Salinas. Fujimori sought temporary refuge in the Japanese Embassy.

In 1994, Fujimori separated from wife Susana Higuchi (also of Japanese descent) in a noisy, "public" divorce, formally stripping her of the title First Lady in August 1994. He thereupon appointed their elder daughter First Lady. Higuchi publicly denounced Fujimori as a tyrant and his administration as corrupt.

Second term

In April 1995, at the height of his popularity, Fujimori was re-elected in a landslide victory over Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, the former Secretary General of the United Nations. His independent party won control of the legislature.

During his second term, Fujimori signed a peace agreement with Ecuador, with which Peru had territorial differences in the Amazon basin for more than a century, thereby allowing the two countries to obtain international funds for developing the border region. Fujimori also settled unresolved issues with Peru's southern neighbor Chile regarding El Tratado de Ancon (the Ancon Treaty).

However, his re-election was the turning point in Fujimori's career. After several years of economic stability and less terrorism, Peruvians now began to turn to other concerns, such as human rights, freedom of the press, and the return to genuine democracy; they also started paying closer attention to the growing web of scandals surrounding Fujimori and his chief of the National Inteligence Service, Vladimiro Montesinos, which finally led to his downfall in 2000.

2000 election

Despite a constitutional prohibition of a third term of office, Fujimori insisted in declaring his candidacy for the 2000 elections.

He was declared winner of the May 28 election, amidst a flurry of accusations of irregularities. The main opposition leader, Alejandro Toledo, campaigned vigorously to have the election annulled, but the corruption scandal then emerging around Vladimiro Montesinos, who was the director of Peru's National Intelligence Service (SIN), did his work for him. The already developing scandal exploded into full force when sources released to the media a videotape of Montesinos bribing an opposition legislator to switch sides. The allegations severely compromised Fujimori, causing him to flee to Japan in November, 2000. That same month, on November 17, the Peruvian Congress voted to remove him from office after condemning him as morally unfit to hold the presidency.

Valentín Paniagua was sworn in as interim president shortly thereafter. In an election rerun on May 28, 2001, Toledo was elected president in elections widely acknowledged to be clean and fair. He was sworn in on July 28.

Anti-terrorism

Fujimori is credited by many Peruvians for ending the fifteen-year reign of terror of Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and the arrest of its leader, Abimael Guzmán. As part of his anti-terrorism efforts, Fujimori granted the military broad powers to arrest suspected terrorists and try them in secret military courts with few legal rights. At the same time he armed peasants to form the so called "rondas campesinas" which were attributed part of the success of the fight against terrorism.

Critics charge that many thousands of Peruvians (many of whose guilt is disputed) and the American activitist Lori Berenson got caught up in this net.

Guerilla activity declined onwards from 1992, and Fujimori claimed that his campaign had largely eliminated the terrorist threat. While few people dispute the results, critics point out that to achieve its ends the Peruvian military indulged in widespread human rights abuses, and the vast majority of the victims were poor highland campesinos caught in the crossfire between military and the guerrillas. The ongoing investigations of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Committee reveal that while the majority of the atrocities committed during the years 1980 to 1995 were committed by the guerillas, the Peruvian Armed Forces are also guilty of having destroyed villages and murdered campesinos they suspected of supporting the rebels.

In one case, fourteen members of the armed forces were tried and sentenced by a military tribunal from three months to one year in prison for their part in a massacre on May 14, 1988, of forty-seven men, women and children who were killed in Cayara, in the department of Ayacucho. The massacre was in retribution for an ambush the previous day in which a column of Senderistas killed an army captain and three soldiers. The fourteen did not spend a day in jail, and returned to active service.

On December 17, 1996, in one of the last major episodes of terrorism, Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru (MRTA) rebels seized the home of the Japanese ambassador in Lima during a party, taking hostage some eight-hundred diplomats, government officials, and dignitaries. During the protracted standoff that lasted four months, the Emerretistas gradually freed all but seventy-two hostages. Negotiating with the rebels, the government rejected their key demand: the release of a number of their comrades jailed under allegedly brutal conditions. On April 22, 1997, a team of Peruvian military commandos stormed the building to free the hostages, killing one hostage, two commandos, and all fourteen of the rebels in the raid.

Fujimori allowed himself to be photographed in commando gear standing over the bodies of the dead rebels, using the incident to enhance his reputation for toughness. But later it emerged that the government had not negotiated in good faith; it used the four-month standoff to stall for time in order to meticulously plan the assault. Moreover, it emerged in 2002, on the basis of forensic investigation and testimony of witnesses that only one of the fourteen rebels actually died in the assault; the others surrendered peacefully but were summarily executed by the commandos by order of Montesinos.

Before leaving office, Fujimori declared an amnesty for any members of the Peruvian military or police convicted or accused of human rights abuses between 1980 and 1995. His action was condemned by human rights activists and by many other nations.

In exile

As of 2003 Fujimori is in self-imposed exile in Japan, where he was granted citizenship because his parents registered him with Japanese consular authorities in Peru as an infant.

On September 5, 2001 Peru's attorney general filed homicide charges against ex-President Fujimori.

At the beginning of March, 2003, at the behest of the Peruvian government, Interpol issued an international arrest order for Fujimori on charges that include murder, kidnapping and crimes against humanity. "The order will be issued worldwide for human rights crimes for which he can be pursued and which do not expire," said Peruvian Justice Minister Fausto Alvarado. In addition, the Toledo administration is currently preparing an extradition request that was submitted to the Japanese government in September, but it is not clear how the petition can prosper, as Peru and Japan do not have an extradition treaty.

The former president is accused of murder in connection with the 1991 Barrios Altos massacre in which fifteen people at a barbecue in a poor neighborhood of Lima were killed by an army death squad thought to have been organized by Montesinos. The victims included an 8-year-old boy. Fujimori is also accused of murder for the 1992 La Canuta massacre in which nine students and a professor, suspected members of Shining Path, were murdered by the same army death squad.

Peru's Attorney General Nelly Calderon plans to travel to Tokyo to argue Peru's request for Fujimori's extradition before Japan's judicial authorities. She plans to detail Fujimori's crimes to Japanese authorities and point out irregularities in the former president's double Peruvian-Japanese nationality.

In September, 2003, Peruvian congressperson Dora Núñez Dávila (FIM) denounced Fujimori and several of his ministers for crimes against humanity because of forced sterilizations committed during his regime. According to Núñez, the Fujimori administration initiated a family planning program with extensive forced sterilizations in which health workers were given monthly quotas of sterilizations to perform.

On November 14, the Peruvian Congress approved more charges against Fujimori. It voted 63-0 with two abstention to approve charges that he took part in the air-drop of nearly 10,000 Kalashnikov rifles into the Colombian jungle in 1999 and 2000 for the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. Fujimori maintains he had no knowledge of the arms smuggling and blames Montesinos. By approving the charges, Congress has lifted the immunity granted to Fujimori as a former president. It is now up to the attorney general's office to file charges and for courts to decide on a trial.

Congress also voted 65-0 with one abstention, to charge Fujimori for responsibility in the detention and disappearance of 67 students from Peru's central Andean city of Huancayo and the disappearance of several residents from the northern coastal town Chimbote during the 1990s. They also also approved charges that Fujimori mismanaged millions of dollars from Japanese charities to build schools, with an unexplained $2.3 million shortfall in funds received, among other irregularities.

Undaunted by the denunciations and the judicial proceedings underway against him, which he dismissed as "politically motivated", Fujimori, from Japan, has established a new political party in Peru, Sí Cumple, to participate in the 2006 presidential elections. However, in September 2003, the president of the of the Jurado Nacional de Elecciones (JNE) (National Election Commission), Manuel Sánchez Palacios Paiva, dismissed the possibility of Fujimori participating in those elections, observing that the fugitive ex-president was barred by the Peruvian Congress from holding office for ten years because of abandoning his office and submitting his resignation by fax from Japan. Critics of Fujimori believe that his new political party is more than anything a strategy of presenting himself as a "persecuted politician" so as to evade justice.

Fujimori remains a controversial figure in Peru. On the one hand, he is credited for bringing stability to the country after the tumultuous García years, and he still enjoys a small group of vociferous supporters and an approval rating of seventeen percent in the polls. However, during his decade in power, Fujimori also established a vast network of corruption and patronage, unparalleled in the country's history, with the assistance of his associate, Montesinos, currently imprisoned at the Callao naval base. Montesinos is currently facing dozens of charges that range from embezzlement to drug trafficking to murder, and is undergoing a lengthy trial in Lima that is exposing the breadth and depth of corruption of the Fujimori regime.

References

See also

External links