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Fujimori’s possible pardon: What it means for Peru

By Ashna Butani

Current Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has proposed a potential pardon for Fujimori, 78, on grounds of health. Once hailed as a national hero, former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was convicted of crimes against humanity in 2009 and was sentenced 25 years in prison. Fujimori’s doctor Alejandro Aguinaga has said that Fujimori suffers from ailments including a recurrent growth on his tongue, a hernia in his back, and an abnormally fast heartbeat. On the grounds of medical issues, President Kuczynski said that he would follow medical recommendations and consider a pardon.

President Kuczynski’s promise to not pardon the convicted former president during the presidential election campaigns had paved the way for his narrow win against Fujimori’s daughter. The possible pardoning reveals that the president is ready to fall back on his word. Many Peruvians took to the streets, condemning the president’s anticipated move. Around 2000 protesters participated in the march in the capital Lima, revealing the nation’s animosity towards the once revered president.

The fall of Fujimori

When Fujimori, the son of a Japanese immigrant, came to power in 1990, it was seen as a victory against poverty and prejudice. The enigmatic leader defeated terrorists, stopped hyperinflation, transformed the economy, and made peace with Ecuador, hence turning into a political hero for the country. However, a series of events exposed Fujimori’s human rights violation—including murder and kidnapping—and forced him to step down from office. When his right-hand man Vladimiro Montesinos was accused of bribery and money-laundering, Fujimori fled to Japan.

On a visit to Chile, Fujimori was arrested by Peruvians and extradited to stand trial in Peru. He was convicted of ordering a military death squad to carry out two massacres that killed 25 people. The ruling was the start of a fight for human rights in the country. “The Peruvian court has shown that even former heads of state, cannot expect to get away with serious crimes,” said Maria McFarland, a member of the Human Rights Watch.

“A saviour, not a sinner”

Fujimori’s daughter, also a conservative, has been a front-runner in the last two presidential elections. She has maintained that her father was a saviour, not a sinner. She had promised that if she came to power, Fujimori would be pardoned. Kuczynski, on the other hand, had promised to ensure that the former president would not be granted a pardon. The sudden ruling by the president has unleashed tensions in the country, which is divided between those that favour a humanitarian pardoning and those who do not.

Looking through the ‘humanitarian pardon’ façade

Peru’s open-list electoral system gave a Congressional majority to Fujimori’s Popular Force party, now ruled by his daughter, Keiko Fujimori. Ever since he came to power, Kuczynski’s party has been besieged by opposition members. The Congress recently ousted Kuczynski’s finance minister, which was a major blow to the president. Internal conflicts have thwarted the government’s ability to rule efficiently. The decision to grant pardon to Fujimori is seen as a political move to pacify the opposition. Given the impending crisis, the president must choose between keeping his promise to the people and appeasing the opposition.

The decision will have far-reaching consequences on the working of the government and on human rights in the country. While the people of the country prove that they want justice for those killed by Fujimori, the government’s opinions are tilting towards Fujimori’s pardon. The president’s decision will be a development to look out for in the given scenario. 


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