Outrage in Peru Over Pardon of Ex-President Fujimori
Thousands of protestors took to the streets amid suspicions that President Kuczynski pardoned former President Fujimori, who was serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity, in order to avoid impeachment for corruption
GREGORY WILPERT: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Gregory Wilpert joining you from Quito, Ecuador. Protests are taking place throughout Peru this week. Peruvians are declaring their displeasure with the pardon that President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski gave to former president Alberto Fujimori on Christmas Eve. Fujimori was serving a 25-year prison term for his role in the murder of 25 people during his presidency, as well as for other crimes against humanity. Fujimori was president of Peru from 1990 to 2000, during which time he ruled Peru with an iron fist. Another reason for the outrage about Fujimori’s pardon is that it happened only a few days after President Kuczynski survived an impeachment vote that relied on the abstention of a block of Fujimori’s political party and parliament.
Joining me to analyze the current situation in Peru is Rael Mora. Rael is a political analyst and co-director of wayka.pe, an independent Spanish-language website of news and analysis on Peru. He joins us from Michigan. Welcome to The Real News Network, Rael.
RAEL MORA: Hi, thank you.
GREGORY WILPERT: So, what have been the protests like against Kuczynski’s pardon of Fujimori? That is, what are the protesters demanding and who are they as far as one can tell?
RAEL MORA: You can say that thousands of people in different cities, all the major cities in Peru are protesting. The people that are protesting differ. There is some people that are calling for just for Fujimori not to be pardoned and there are a group of people also that want PPK, the president PPK, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, to resign, and all the way to also a significant amount of people who want the change in the system and are calling for everybody to leave government.
GREGORY WILPERT: Both Fujimori and Kuczynski have talked about the need for reconciliation in Peru. Here we’ll just show a short clip of Alberto Fujimori from his hospital bed asking for this.
GREGORY WILPERT: What is your reaction to this argument about the need for reconciliation in Peru?
RAEL MORA: Well, there’s major problems with that. First of all, Fujimori has never recognized the crimes and the call for reconciliation, it seems to be just a political strategy to calm down those people who are upset at what’s happening. In my analysis, there could not be reconciliation until people who’ve committed crimes pay for them and also the victims have some form of justice.
GREGORY WILPERT: So, many people in Peru are saying that the reason that Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori wasn’t really just also for reconciliation reasons but also because a significant bloc of Fujimori’s party, in which his son and his daughter, Kenji and Keiko, are leaders, voted to abstain in the impeachment process against Kuczynski. Tell us, first of all, what this whole impeachment process was about. What was he being accused of?
RAEL MORA: Like many other leaders in Latin America, Kuczynski was accused of making illegal deals with the multinational Brazilian company, Odebrecht. In the ’90s, actually in 2000 and 2001. 2001 when he was Prime Minister, he benefited from deals with Odebrecht. While he was the prime director of a company called Western Capital, he benefited from deals with the state in a clear conflict of interest between him, as a functioning state official and also as an official of this private company who made millions of dollars. The accusations were about that but also about how he lied about this because in his previous statements he said that he had no connection with Odebrecht and he’s never been having deals with them.
GREGORY WILPERT: One of the things that he said also, I think, was that after it was proven that there was a connection that he didn’t know about it. Is there any evidence that he actually did know about it or how credible is the argument that he didn’t know about it?
RAEL MORA: Well, he received payments from this company. He said that he wasn’t, at that time, he didn’t sign the contract, he was working in the government but very few people in Peru believe that line of him. In fact, the people that voted for him in Congress, most people that voted and to save him, in Congress, were voting to save him from a takeover by the opposition party, Fujimori.
GREGORY WILPERT: I see. Well, one of the things that’s actually what I want to bring up next is that Keiko Fujimori, Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, was one of the people who actually introduced the impeachment proceedings against Kuczynski in Congress. But then a faction led by the son abstained and then a little later after Kuczynski survived the impeachment process, he pardoned Alberto Fujimori, the former president. Was an explanation ever provided for any of this? I mean, that is, how could anyone not believe that this was a quid pro quo, that is, exoneration from the impeachment process in exchange for liberating Alberto Fujimori?
RAEL MORA: Well, no single analyst who is independent, single analyst, has actually come out and said that this was not a political deal. Every political analyst who does not work for the government has come out and said it’s a political deal. It’s not a humanitarian pardon. There’s just an overwhelming amount of evidence about this. I mean, we probably cannot judge that in a trial and he could keep claiming it’s a humanitarian pardon but there’s several things, there’s his secrecy. Not even the members of his party knew about what’s happening and that’s why many of them are resigning right now. As of an hour ago, there were 15 members of his government that have resigned. The timing of it, it was only 13 days after Fujimori submitted the petition to be pardoned. The doctor’s results included Fujimori’s personal doctor in this analysis, so that leaves it with little credibility. Also, the doctor’s results are just a list of things that people that are about the same age of Fujimori have. In other words, Fujimori has no serious sickness, just old age.
The context of it, he was about to be impeached, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was about to be impeached and a negotiation where many people claim, including people in the Fujimori party have admitted that they have received calls from Alberto Fujimori to vote in favor of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski because he was going to free him. Also, the length of the pardon, the extent of it is pretty significant. This cancels also future cases against Fujimori. There was currently a case for Pativilca, for crimes against humanity against Alberto Fujimori, that has been canceled because of this pardon. Fujimori has not been asked to pay $23 million in fines for money he stole during his government, for which he was condemned. Most of all, Fujimori never accepted any guilt for this and never apologized for any of the crimes.
GREGORY WILPERT: Now, Kuczynski himself, it seems has very low approval ratings, according to some reports. Why is he so unpopular and what effect do you think that the pardon will have on his presidency in the short term?
RAEL MORA: Kuczynski, it is not atypical for a president in Peru to have low approval ratings, especially because they have always sided with big business. Most of them, for the last 20 years and more, 27 years, presidents have supported big business and have done little for the common people. However, in this particular case, Kuczynski got into government with a very small percentage of the vote in the first round and only passed to the second round because of what people called the largest political party in Peru, which is the anti-Fujimori coalition of people that always come for rescue the country from a presidency or the Fujimori regime to take over again.
What is likely to happen? Probably someone from the Fujimori camp, especially those who are closer to Alberto Fujimori and not his daughter are going to support him but he is losing big-time support from all the left and center of the spectrum. Well, he already, he didn’t have the support of the left but the center and those who think of themselves as libertarians or believe in the system but demand democracy, are going to be against them. They’re coming out on the streets in thousands of numbers and they’re coming out tomorrow in what is probably going to be the biggest march about these issues.
GREGORY WILPERT: Actually, this brings me to my last question, which is what effect is all of this having on Peru’s left? That is, during last year’s presidential election, the leftist candidate, Veronika Mendoza, surprised everyone by almost making the runoff vote. How is Peru’s left position now, should, let’s say, Kuczynski fall in one way or another because of this?
RAEL MORA: It’s complex. There were 20 Congress members in the left elected. However, soon after the election, they separated into two different parties, some of which supported the impeachment of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski and others who abstained, saving also of Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. The left, in terms of organized left, is divided. In terms of the people who consider themselves left are very clear about their rejection of this government, their rejection of Fujimori and their rejection of the system that has brought us to this point.
GREGORY WILPERT: Okay well, we’re going to continue to follow this. I was speaking to Rael Mora, co-director of the Peruvian website, wayka.pe. Thanks so much for being here today, Rael.
RAEL MORA: Thank you.
GREGORY WILPERT: And thank you for joining The Real News Network. If you like our news and analysis, please don’t forget to donate to The Real News this holiday season.