On the 6th of November, Alberto Fujimori, former Peruvian president (1990-2000) was detained in Chile, after having lived in self imposed exile in Japan for the last four years.
A fugitive from justice, believed to have been born in Peru but with Japanese nationality, he arrived in the Chilean capital on a secret flight from Japan, where he has been living under protection after having resigned from the presidency of Peru in the middle of a corruption scandal that brought his decade in power to an end. His flight touched down briefly in Tijuana in northern Mexico, before proceeding to Santiago. There is much political speculation for the reasons that led Fujimori to land in Chilean territory, but many assert that he and his political entourage had been preparing his return to Peru for a long time, and that his move to Chile was part of a well-planned strategy.
In effect, it seems that Fujimori wanted to campaign from Chile in view of the coming 2006 elections. Even if he cannot run for public office, (including participating in any electoral process) owing to an impediment issued by Congress in 2001 which effectively disqualifies him, he can use his image and political discourse in favour of his party Sí Cumple. The attorney’s office investigating cases against Fujimori said: “Directing a campaign from Tokyo isn’t the same as directing a campaign from Santiago de Chile”. He would be closer to his party network and better placed to reactivate sympathies in his favour with a view to whipping up popular pressure to register his presidential candidacy.
In any case, it was significant that Fujimori decided to land in Chile, just when diplomatic relations between it and Peru were going through particularly tense moments owing to disagreements over the demarcation of the maritime boundary separating the two countries.
Probably, Fujimori thought that he would not be detained, at least not so promptly, and still less extradited to Peru. The Chilean judiciary does not have a good record in agreeing to Peruvian extradition requests. It had rejected three Peruvian requests for extradition of close collaborators of the Fujimorista regime. Also, between Chile and Japan, there are excellent bilateral relations, especially on trade matters, which made it inconvenient (particularly for Chile) to generate discord or differences that could prejudice international ties between the two countries. Delivering to justice a citizen who Japan has always insisted on protecting would put Chile in a tricky situation.
Up until now, at least, the position assumed by the Chilean government has been correct and efficient. The Chilean authorities refused the provisional application for bail filed by Fujimori’s defence and they have ruled that he should remain in custody until Peru formalises an extradition order within a period of 60 days.
In the streets of Chile, a country with a history of dictatorships and systematic human rights violations, there exists a deep rejection of the presence of Fujimori. According to polls, eight out of ten Chilean citizens say that “Fujimori is a problem for the Peruvians, not for Chile” and support extradition.
The extradition of Fujimori
The important decision to bring him to justice is now in Chile’s hands. The Peruvian judiciary faces the considerable challenge of organising and presenting, in just 60 days, the evidence necessary to support the extradition of Fujimori. The Chilean Supreme Court will evaluate this application and decide whether or not to proceed with the extradition. If the extradition is granted, Fujimori will only be able to be tried for those accusations in which the Chilean courts have found presumed responsibility. This means that of the 22 cases against Fujimori, he will be extradited and tried only for those that have sufficient supporting evidence and that are also compatible with Chilean penal legislation.
What is of concern here is that there are factors that could favour Fujimori. For example, many of the accusations lack sufficient evidence and some of the crimes have already passed their statutory limitations (they have, in effect, expired). The most serious accusations are to do with his responsibility for human rights violations, but according to a Peruvian Supreme Court judge “the Peruvian government does not possess sufficient evidence to prove his responsibility in these cases”. Because of this, the Chilean judiciary can reject the extradition order for those serious accusations, and Fujimori would only face prosecution for less relevant offences, from which he may easily be freed.
Given this, many Peruvians are still asking themselves whether Fujimori did in fact calculate all this, and may finally slip the hook.