Thursday, December 6, 2012

VOXXI: Alberto Fujimori: A possible pardon for imprisoned dictator in Peru

Alberto Fujimori: A possible pardon for imprisoned dictator in Peru
W. Alejandro Sanchez
November 16, 2012
Originally published:

Despite numerous atrocities and crimes committed during his decade in power, imprisoned Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) may receive a presidential pardon due to his allegedly failing health. In the past months, political parties allied with Fujimori and his family have pressured Peruvian President Ollanta Humala into pardoning the imprisoned former head of state. However, victims who suffered Fujimori’s cruelty while he was in power, along with the majority of the general population, want the former dictator to remain in jail. Should Fujimori’s health continue to deteriorate, Humala will likely face growing pressure from Fujimori’s allies to grant him a pardon. One can only hope that, in respect to the numerous victims of Fujimori’s brutal rule the current president will not succumb to pressure that would allow for the release of the former dictator.

A brief history: Alberto Fujimori

Alberto Fujimori’s decade in power was rife with criminal operations, from alleged bribery practices to the creation of paramilitary death squads. The head of state carried out an auto-coup in April of 1992, in which he dissolved the national congress and called for new elections for a national assembly. Unsurprisingly, the national assembly was full of pro-Fujimori congressmen who drafted a new constitution in 1993, which allowed for direct presidential reelections. Consequently, Fujimori was re-elected into office in 1995 and 2000. Fortunately, video footage that showed intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos, (a close ally of Fujimori) bribing a congressman was made public in 2000. This revelation prompted the downfall of his dictatorship (he memorably renounced the presidency via fax while on a trip to Asia). Fujimori would eventually be arrested in 2005 during a trip to Chile and subsequently extradited to Peru to be tried in 2007.
After a two-year trial, the dictator was sentenced to 25 years in prison for his participation in the massacre of La Cantuta and the massacre of Barrios Altos, in which he ordered death squads to carry out mass executions. He has currently spent three years behind bars in a special prison known as Establecimiento Penal Barbadillo, located in a police base (DIROES), which was specifically designed for him.
Nevertheless, his time in prison has not been the painful experience that many Peruvians may have longed for. The Peruvian media has published videos and photographs that portray Fujimori enjoying an extravagant and relaxed lifestyle behind bars. His personal cell reportedly measures 800 square meters, which includes a kitchen, a room with a 21-inch television, and painting materials for him to use at his leisure.

The possibility of a pardon

Recent media reports and allegations by Alberto Fujimori’s family hint that the former dictator may have developed tongue cancer. Pictures have appeared of Fujimori’s tongue, supposedly showing the growing cancer. However, doctors disagree on the extent of his illness and how much time he has left to live; while many are questioning whether the dictator’s illness exists at all.
In response to the diagnosis, Fujimori’s family and political allies have pressured the current Peruvian president to release Fujimori. Perhaps it is not surprising that Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori, has been one of the most prominent supporters of his release. In addition to being a former congresswoman and the leader of the political movement Fuerza 2011, she also ran for Peruvian presidency in 2011 and was only narrowly defeated by Humala. During the campaign, she was forced to promise that if she were elected, she would not pardon her father under any condition. However, this promise appears to only have been a political ploy to win her the presidency. After losing the election, she is now putting pressure on Humala to pardon her father as some kind of humanitarian gesture. Humala has been placed in a difficult position as several op-eds and media declarations have appeared, discussing whether or not Fujimori should be pardoned. The Peruvian president has yet to declare his stance on this issue.

Does Alberto Fujimori deserve a pardon?

A Fujimori pardon would be calamitous. The arguable severity of Fujimori’s health aside, his atrocious crimes oblige him to complete his sentence. Recently, the former dictator painted a self-portrait in which he had inscribed the words “I am sorry”, though he does not actually acknowledge having done anything wrong during his brutal dictatorship. Nevertheless, his three years in jail have not been served under particularly harsh conditions, and a semi-apologetic self-portrait is hardly sufficient restitution for his decade-long crimes, especially as there are several alleged crimes for which he was not prosecuted. For example, the victims of a forced sterilization campaign under Fujimori, one of the crimes he hasn’t been put on trial for, have come out to protest against the dictator’s possible release. Other sectors of the population have also shown their disapproval: in October, hundreds protested in Lima against a possible pardon.
It is noteworthy to highlight that the Peruvian dictator is not the only former head of state currently convicted of crimes, and whose health has become a factor in carrying out a prison sentence. Health issues have stirred debates in regards to the incarceration of other deposed leaders, such as General Manuel Noriega in Panama, and Hosni Mubarak in Egypt.
Alberto Fujimori was a cruel dictator who dragged Peru’s population through a decade of pain and suffering. Whatever positive economic and security initiatives may have been carried out throughout his presidency do not outweigh his transgressions—which include the violation of the country’s constitution, bribe scandals of political opponents, control of the national media via intimidation and bribery, and numerous human rights violations. If the Montesinos videos had not been made public, Fujimori and his allies would have attempted to unconstitutionally perpetuate themselves to power.
Although Alberto Fujimori was never prosecuted for all his alleged crimes, it does not necessarily mean that he did not commit them. Various Latin American experts, along with the Peruvian population that suffered during his rule, are keenly aware of Fujimori’s crimes—prosecuted or otherwise. In a positive development, a new trial has been ordered for the deposed dictator for “misappropriating nearly $50 million in public funds to bankroll a group of tabloids.” Hopefully, President Humala will not allow himself to be coerced into letting one of Latin America’s worst human rights violators go free.

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