The dynastic Fujimoris continue to make their political weight felt in Peru, despite former president Alberto’s imprisonment for human rights abuses and daughter Keiko’s defeat in last year’s election.
Is it possible that just one family can paralyse an entire nation’s political dynamic, centrally occupy its institutions and establish a parallel government that overrules the actual executive?
If the family is called Fujimori and the country is Peru, the answer is yes.
Since losing the presidential elections in June last year, but winning an absolute majority in the Congress, Keiko Fujimori, daughter of the former dictator imprisoned for crimes against humanity, has done all she can – and with some success – to impede the government of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK), depriving it of its best ministers and revealing the fragility of a government of technocrats lacking any political ability.
Keiko’s pathological resentment at having been deprived – and by a derisory 0.24 per cent! – of a presidency that she felt was already in her pocket after two highly expensive campaigns, has translated into fifteen months’ fierce boycott of executive action by making powerful and bullying use of her absolute majority in the unicameral Congress of 130 MPs.
The 71 orange Congress members – the colour represents her party, Popular Force (Fuerza Popular) – have been defined as a ‘bunch of unthoughtful cavemen’ and ‘monkeys with machine guns’, dedicated to challenging, censoring and insulting the more competent members of the government –six ministers, plus an entire cabinet, have already resigned – due to pure spite. Their sole activity has been to promote reactionary laws such as removing protections for women and LGBT victims of violence or offering generous tax exemptions to large companies, causing an ungovernable climate of instability which does not help the necessary economic recovery.
When it rains, it pours. The floods caused by the coastal El Niño phenomenon at the beginning of the year and the political damage resulting from the revelations in the Odebrecht case – with former president Ollanta Humala and the ex-first lady imprisoned, the former president Alejandro Toledo and his wife fugitives from justice and pressure building on the once-bulletproof Alan García and Keiko Fujimori herself – have aggravated the sense of disappointment over the PPK government’s first year. Its opening period has shown a government that is weak and servile when faced by Ms Fujimori’s vengeful attacks, which explains the reasons behind the resounding fall of popularity of the current president.
In contrast, the Fujimoris’ implacable ascent – despite the fact their patriarch is serving a 25-year sentence for crimes committed (and nearing a possible release) – has not paused since the late-1980s, when an unscrupulous rector of the La Molina Agrarian University burst into politics and beat an opponent as famous as Mario Vargas Llosa to the presidency.
The illusion that a political outsider could rescue the country from the crisis provoked during Alan García’s first presidency lasted a very short time. On 5 April 1992 – less than two years after assuming the presidency – Alberto Fujimori staged a sudden autogolpe (self-coup) and installed a dictatorship, seemingly inspired by a Japanese shogunate, which lasted until 2000 thanks to a fraudulent election.
What transpired was almost a decade of the suspension of fundamental liberties, the closure of Congress, institutional surgery (the imposition of a new Constitution, establishment of a unicameral legislature, intervention in judicial power), repression or co-optation of all opposition, the explosion of a dirty war against Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) that caused thousands of innocent deaths, communities exterminated by the army, galloping corruption at all levels (see the famous videos by Vladimiro Montesinos, the regime’s Rasputin, who filmed many politicians taking bribes), collusion with drugs traffickers (a presidential plane ‘caught’ with 176 kilos of cocaine is not an everyday occurrence), plunder of public finances calculated at six billion dollars, thousands of forced sterilisations in Andean regions and a long etcetera of infamies.
Some crimes during Alberto Fujimori’s autocratic trajectory are particularly vile. When his wife, Susana Higuchi, claimed her sisters-in-law had appropriated humanitarian aid sent from Japan, the dictator had her abducted and detained for four months by state intelligence services, where she received beatings and electric shocks and was injected with unknown substances. Susana Higuchi, who once declared her daughter Keiko ‘has the face of the devil’, was mentally incapacitated for life. Rather than come to their mother’s defence, the children maintained complicit silence with Keiko, the future despotic and power-hungry leader, happily assuming the role of first lady at her father’s side.
However, the ex-dictator’s crimes – ‘errors’ according to his eldest daughter – go far beyond ordering his wife tortured and strangling democracy. The creation of the Grupo Colina, a death squad used to execute political dissidents and uncomfortable adversaries, led to several totally unjustified massacres such as those at La Cantuta (where a university professor and nine students were kidnapped, tortured and executed for suspected senderista sympathies) and Barrios Altos (15 people at a party, among them an eight-year-old boy, were killed erroneously, believed to be terrorists).
The downward spiral of the fujimorista parable, not without its novel-like connotations, begins on 19 November 2000, when the then-president of Peru, after attending an APEC meeting in Brunei, resigned his position via fax from Japan. There, under the protection of the powerful Yakuza, he unsuccessfully applied to the Japanese senate. His misdemeanours, which were by now impossible to conceal, caused the cesspool enveloping Peru’s main institutions to overflow.
Captured in 2005 during an ill-advised trip to Chile and extradited two years later, Alberto Fujimori was sentenced, following a faultless trial, to 25 years in prison for crimes of premeditated murder, aggravated kidnapping and other serious indiscretions, plus another seven and a half years for embezzlement, appropriation of public funds and perjury against the state. Although he has never demonstrated any remorse for the crimes committed, nor unpocketed a single cent of the $16 million dollars owed for civil reparations, the ex-dictator continues begging for a humanitarian pardon from whichever president is in charge. Attributed to a dubious cancer of the tongue, the pardon so far has been consistently denied. Recently, however, President Kuczynski appears oriented towards conceding it, apparently overlooking the deep-rooted anti-Fujimori sentiment which took him to the presidency.
Paradoxically, a pardoned Fujimori is what least benefits his daughter Keiko, who would see her current leadership inevitably diminished. This is already threatened by her brother Kenji, the image of the faithful son, who explicitly demands the release of the father while criticising all legislative initiatives by his own representatives to such an extent he risks expulsion from the party.
In any case, the Fujimoris rarely leave the front pages, whether it’s Kenji’s nonsense, the patriarch’s prison laments or Keiko’s threats. Tainted by the Marcelo Odebrecht revelations over hidden financing of her electoral campaigns, Keiko is targeting the upper echelons of judicial power with a bold counterattack that has shaken democratic institutionalism to the foundations.
Added to the aggression towards the Constitutional Court and the Prosecutor’s Office, press intimidation via criminal denunciations and repeated attacks on the sitting president Kuczynski, the disturbing claim of the political analyst Nelson Manrique is validated: ‘The principal challenge facing Peruvian democracy today is the fujimorismo offensive, which seeks to destroy weak existing institutionalism to ensure Keiko Fujimori’s impunity’.
Translated by Alborada
This article was originally published in Alainet. To read the original Spanish-language version of this article, click here.