The political battle surrounding the indulto for former President Alberto Fujimori continues to be waged unremittingly in the Peruvian media. The indulto is an official pardon conceded by the president to those who are at death’s door or whose life prospects are seriously impaired by their being held prisoner.
Fujimori, one of the few past presidents in Latin America to be convicted by the courts and given a lengthy jail sentence, has appealed to President Ollanta Humala for an indulto. Fujimori was convicted by the courts in 2009 on crimes of human rights violation and corruption and imprisoned for 25 years. The issue has opened up a chasm in Peruvian politics between those who support the indulto and those against it.
The campaign to free Fujimori has been one of the main unifying forces behind his supporters in Congress. Keiko Fujimori, the ex-president’s daughter came within an ace of winning the presidency in last year’s elections, and on her coat-tails the Fujimorista party became the second largest force in the country’s Congress. The influence of the Fujimoristas in Congress is undeniable. They have consistently argued that the health of Fujimori is failing and that he should be immediately released from confinement on compassionate grounds.
Those who oppose Fujimori’s release point to the fact that he is not suffering from a terminal illness, and that the claims made by his supporters to this effect are exaggerated. They also point to the fact that, as the only inmate in a substantial penitentiary built specifically for the ex-president with luxuries unimaginable in Peru’s other jails, it cannot be argued that he is suffering unduly from the pressures of confinement.
The decision rests with Humala. Ostensibly, it is to be based on ‘humanitarian’, not political considerations. A special group of people, appointed under the previous Garcia administration, will ‘advise’ him as to whether they consider the appeal for indulto to be justified or not. But their advice is not binding.
In fact, the decision is highly political. If Humala sides with the Fujimoristas, he runs the risk of finally breaking his political party, Gana Perú, which has already seen important defections to date. If he opposes the indulto, he can expect open war from the Fujimoristas in Congress. Given his lack of a parliamentary majority, it will only increase the problems of governing the country in what remains of his five-year term.
Since its election last year, the Humala administration has shifted its ground substantially under pressure from the Right. The most recent example was its role in orchestrating the suspension of Javier Diez Canseco, the left-wing congressman, for 90 days. Diez Canseco, accused by the Fujimoristas of acting unethically, has been one of the most consistent and outspoken critics of the crimes of the Fujimori regime.
That a majority of Humala’s members of Congress switched their votes on this at the last moment, was taken by many as a sign of the government’s desire to appease the Fujimoristas in Congress. As such, it could be a sign of Humala’s eventual decision on the indulto.
If the indulto is eventually agreed, it will be on the basis of understandings – an unwritten deal of course – of Fujimorista support for government initiatives. One such initiative may be the removal of legal obstacles to Nadine Heredia, Humala’s wife, standing as presidential candidate in his place in the 2016 presidential elections.