Fujimori courts controversy

The unfailingly controversial ex-president of Peru Alberto Fujimori has once again inflamed passions in a country where he is accused of human rights abuses and corruption. By Tom Rowe


The three-time president announced his intention to run for a seat in the Japanese Diet (Senate) after he received a request from a small Japanese parliamentary party to run in the elections on 29 July. Critics in Peru are concerned that the move is designed to frustrate the process of extradition from Chile that the he is undergoing at the moment. Detained in Chile in November 2005, Fujimori is now under house arrest while awaiting a review by a Chilean tribunal on whether or not to extradite him to Peru where he will face trial. His Japanese parentage gives him dual citizenship, and Peruvian officials believe he may use a position as a Japanese Senator to force Japanese involvement in the extradition process. If Fujimori is elected, Japan may be forced to intervene to protect the right of a Japanese citizen to fulfill parliamentary duties. 

Peruvian authorities accuse the ex-president of many crimes, including responsibility for 2 massacres during his 10 year reign, one at a university campus and one in a neighbourhood of the capital Lima. He is also accused of embezzling enormous amounts of public funds. He was aided in these actions by his associate Vladimiro Montesinos, an ex-intelligence chief who is now imprisoned for corruption and arms smuggling.

Fujimori, president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, has had a turbulent career in politics. When elected, he had to deal with the final years of Maoist insurgency by the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Marxist-Leninist group Tupac Amaru Revolutoinary Movement, violent rebels who controlled large parts of the country. Fujimori dealt with the insurgents harshly, as had previous presidents, granting the military broad powers and successfully capturing Sendero Luminoso leader Abimael Guzman, effectively ending the campaign. Fujimori's methods during this period are regarded by Amnesty International as constituting "crimes against humanity under international law", as he allegedly endorsed the use of death squads against civilian Peruvians in the areas under insurgent control.  

In 1992 Fujimori led an autogolpe against his own government. This was essentially a coup d'etat by the president, in response to a deadlocked government owing to the control of parliament by a rival party. His international reputation as a dictator grew, but so did his popularity at home, and he was re-elected 2 more times over the decade.

By 2000 his career was in tatters after a video showing Montesinos bribing a politician was shown on television. Fujimori left the country and resigned his presidency by fax from Japan. He was protected there until he left for Chile in 2005, from where he apparently planned on re-launching his Peruvian political career, despite being banned for 10 years from participating in the country's politics.

Fujimori has claimed that his election to the Japanese Diet will make him a "bridge" between the 2 countries.