Fujimori release around the corner?

7 October 2017

There have been many false alarms, but now the release of Alberto Fujimori may be just around the corner.

On 6 October, President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski reiterated that the release would be triggered by a decision that would be purely and simply based on the health of the former president, who is serving a 25 year sentence for (among other things) crimes against humanity. He made clear that it would not be a presidential pardon as such. He also said that he “we have to be careful; we do not want another Leguía in jail”. President Augusto Leguia, who ruled Peru with an iron fist in the 1920s for a period of eleven years (narrowly beating Fujimori’s ten) ended up dying in custody for corruption. The government of the two presidents had some significant similarities.

Also, perhaps coincidentally, the same day, Kuczynski swore in a new official to oversee questions of presidential pardons. According to the president, the name of Orlando Franchini Orsi was suggested to him by the new justice minister, Enrique Mendoza. Kuczynski denied that the sacking of Mendoza’s predecessor, Marisol Pérez Tello, had anything to do with her opposition to Fujimori’s release. Still, Mendoza is thought to be much more Fuji- and APRA-friendly than Pérez Tello.

For many analysts, the release of Fujimori is the price that Kuczynski is paying for keeping the supporters of the former autocrat and their substantial majority in Congress quiet. Others question whether it may act as a boomerang against his daughter Keiko’s political leadership; once out of prison Alberto Fujimori could become the real figurehead of Fuerza Popular (FP).

What is certain is that many of those who supported Kuczynski’s candidacy in the second round of presidential elections last year did so precisely to stop the Fujimorista bandwagon. They include those who voted for the left-wing Frente Amplio, but their number include people from the centre of the political spectrum who fear the return of Fujimorista authoritarianism.

Any release of Fujimori is seen as highly negative by the human rights community in Peru and around the world. It will be claimed that any such move contravenes international law about the release of those convicted of crimes against humanity.

If or when Fujimori is released, Peruvian politics is likely to become increasingly polarised; one has to wonder if this is a gambit from which Kuczynski will derive any political benefit.

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