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1990 - Alberto Fujimori

Corruption has long plagued Peruvian government institutions, including the security services -- military, police and judicial. The US Government initially believed that President Fujimori was a sincere anti-drug crusader. At first there was no evidence of drug influence over the president. Unlike his predecessor, Fujimori initially avoided any implication that he or his policies have been influenced by the power of the narcotics dollar. But his senior advisor on national security matters - Vladimiro Montesinos - was linked to past narcotics corruption.

Former President Alberto Fujimori's (1990-2000) intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos collaborated with top army and other security officials to develop a web of protection for favored drug traffickers while cooperating with U.S. officials to combat others. Senior military officers worked surreptitiously and closely with (certain) drug traffickers. The military was reluctant to implement a serious plan to pacify the drug growing areasbecause the payoffs from drug traffickers were too profitable.

To many observers, that was Peru's "heyday" of narco-corruption -- a time when the government of Peru verged on becoming a kind of "narco-state" in which those who controlled the main criminal trafficking networks were in fact high government officials. Transparency International has estimated Alberto Fujimori stole $600 million from the state, hardly any of it recovered.

There was no single explanation for the nature and severity of the crisis Peru faced in the early 1990s. The temptation to blame Garcia and APRA was a strong one, given their dismal performance in government, but the crisis had much deeper roots. APRA inherited a nation beset with economic and social problems, but a political climate in which the consensus on the need for reform was unprecedented. The manner in which APRA governed resulted in an exacerbation of an existing breach between state and society. Consensus gave way to polarization and fragmentation of the party system, and economic policy fell prey to internal party politics, with disastrous results.

Concerned about the economy, the increasing terrorist threat from Sendero Luminoso, and allegations of official corruption, in 1990 voters chose as President a relatively unknown mathematician-turned-politician, Alberto Fujimori. “El Chino” was the term of affection for Fujimori, evoking his Asian heritage.

Although Alberto Fujimori was elected by a large popular margin, he had no organized or institutionalized base of support. There have been countless theories as to why Fujimori was able to rise from virtual anonymity to the national presidency in the course of three months.

More than anything else, the Fujimori tsunami, as it was called, was a rejection of all established political parties: the right, despite its refurbished image; the squabbling and hopelessly divided far left; and certainly the left-of-center APRA because of its disastrous performance in government. Fujimori was able to capture the traditional support base of APRA: small entrepreneurial groups and those sectors of the middle class for whom APRA was no longer an acceptable alternative, but for whom the conservative Fredemo was also unacceptable. In addition, Fujimori's success was attributed largely to a great deal of support at the grassroots level.

After serving as a UNA rector and host of a popular television program called "Concertando," Fujimori entered politics in 1989, running on a simple, if vague, platform of "Work, Honesty, and Technology." His appeal had several dimensions. First, his experience as an engineer, rather than a politician, and his lack of ties to any of the established parties clearly played into his favor.

APRA's incoherent conduct of government had led to an economic crisis of unprecedented proportions; at the same time, the polarized political debate and the derogatory mudslinging that characterized the electoral campaign did not seem to offer any positive solutions. The right preached free-market ideology with a fervor and made little attempt to appeal to the poor. The left was hopelessly divided and unable to provide a credible alternative to the failure of "heterodox" economic policy. Thus, not only was APRA discredited, but so were all established politicians.

In addition, and key to his popular appeal, were Fujimori's origins as the son of Japanese immigrants. His Japanese ties also aroused some hopes, whether realistic or not, that in the event of his victory the Japanese would extend substantial amounts of aid to Peru. He capitalized on Vargas Llosa's lack of appeal to the poor by promising not to implement a painful "shock" economic adjustment program to end inflation and with slogans like "un presidente como tu" ("a president like you").

The claim of this first-generation Japanese-Peruvian that he was just like the majority in a predominantly mestizo and native American nation seemed less than credible, and his vague promises of "gradually" ending hyperinflation seemed glibly unrealistic. Nevertheless, his message was much more palatable to an already severely impoverished population than Vargas Llosa's more realistic but bluntly phrased calls for a shock austerity program to end inflation. "El shock" had become a common term in the electoral campaign and among all sectors of society.

The support of the left and APRA virtually guaranteed Fujimori's victory in the second round, but it by no means signified an organized or institutionalized support base, either inside or outside Congress. The lack of such a base presented a formidable obstacle for a Fujimori government that already had an uncertain future. The electoral campaign, meanwhile, was waged in extremely negative and ad hominem terms and took on both racial and class confrontational overtones. It became a struggle between the "rich whites" and the "poor Indians," exacerbating the existing polarization in the system. The political mudslinging and personal attacks, first by Fredemo against APRA and President Garcia, and then between the Fujimori and Vargas Llosa teams, offended the average voter.

The conduct of the 1990 electoral campaign, in conjunction with the prolonged period of political polarization that preceded it, severely undermined faith in the established system and the political parties and leaders that were a part of it. This loss of faith, more than anything else, played into the hands of Fujimori and was responsible for his victory. In the second round of voting, on June 10, 1993, he attained 56.5 percent of the vote over 33.9 percent for Vargas Llosa.

The Fujimori government came to power without a coherent team of advisers, a program for governing, or any indication of who would hold the key positions in the government. Fujimori's advisers were from diverse sides of the political spectrum, and he made no clear choices among them, as they themselves admitted.

At the same time, he made it clear that he would reestablish relations with the international financial community, and that he was not interested in a radical economic program. How he would reconcile those goals in the context of hyperinflation, with his promise not to implement a shock-stabilization plan, was the cause of a great deal of uncertainty.

The 1990 electoral results reflected a total dissatisfaction with and lack of faith in traditional politicians and parties on the part of the populace. Fredemo's dogmatic and heavy-handed campaign was partially to blame for undermining that faith, as were a succession of weak or inept governments for the past several decades. Yet, in the short-term, the disastrous failure of APRA, the country's only well-institutionalized political party, was most directly to blame. The results of the 1990 elections merely demonstrated the exacerbation of a preexisting breach between state and society in Peru that had occurred from 1985 to 1990. The rejection of traditional parties did not necessarily reflect a rejection of the democratic system. Instead, it reflected an ongoing evolution of participation occurring outside the realm of traditional political institutions.

In 1990 Peru's political spectrum and party system were polarized to an unprecedented degree. In addition, the vote for Fujimori was to a large extent a vote against the shock stabilization plan that Vargas Llosa had proposed to implement. After less than a month in government, however, Fujimori was convinced, both by domestic advisers and prominent members in the international financial community, that he had to implement an orthodox shock program to stabilize inflation and generate enough revenue so that the government could operate.

Although Fujimori ran on a populist platform, promising not to implement the macroeconomic shock package proposed by his opponent, novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, the severe economic situation forced Fujimori to carry out radical changes. He immediately implemented drastic economic policies to tackle inflation (which dropped from 7,650% in 1990 to 139% in 1991), but encountered opposition to further economic reforms, including dealing with the growing insurgency.

On April 5, 1992, Fujimori dissolved the Congress in an "self-coup" ["autogolpe"] set aside the 1979 constitution, and carried out a mass firing of judges and “reorganization” of the courts. Later, pressured by the international community, Fujimori called new congressional elections. With a large majority in Congress, Fujimori proceeded to govern unimpeded, and in 1993 pushed through a new constitution with a strong executive function. Fujimori's security advisor, Vladimiro Montesinos, used bribes and intimidation to co-opt large segments of the judiciary, military, and media.

In 1996 the Fujimori administration, allied with a Congressional majority, undertook a series of actions that jeopardized rule of law and weakened Peru’s democratic institutions. Their goal was to guarantee Fujimori’s second reelection in 2000. Unconstitutional laws were passed to permit this reelection; three judges of the Constitutional Tribunal were removed when they ruled against them; free press was curtailed through direct or indirect government pressure; smear campaigns on opposition members were carried out using tabloids financed by the National Intelligence System; a majority of the judges in the judicial system were made provisional and dependent on the executive branch; the traditional “culture of secrecy” prevalent in Peruvian public administration was furthered through Congress’ abdication of its oversight responsibilities and lack of access to public information; local government lost many of its authorities which were centralized in the national government; state officials openly used public funds to support government party candidates and secure local popular support.

The government unleashed a counterattack against the insurgencies that resulted in numerous human rights abuses on both sides and eventually quashed the Shining Path and MRTA. During this period Fujimori introduced far-reaching legal and economic reforms, privatized most state-owned companies, removed investment barriers, and significantly improved public finances. After a short but intense border war, Fujimori reached a milestone peace accord in 1998 with Ecuadorian President Jamil Mahuad related to the common border, ending decades of hostility between the two countries.

The Fujimori government succeeded in defeating insurgent groups militarily, but it became autocratic and corrupt over time. Fujimori’s government passed an amnesty law giving immunity to military personnel implicated in human rights abuses during the emergency [in 2001 a truth commission was appointed and the Peruvian government finally agreed to investigate 165 cases]. Fujimori mired Peru in political and economic turmoil with his questionable decision to seek a third term and his subsequent tainted electoral victory in June 2000. National and international pressure resulted in several electoral supervision processes, most of them allied with the Organization of American States (OAS) mission.

Despite these efforts, the polling process was plagued with irregularities, most of which were publicly denounced before, during, and in the aftermath of the elections. Prior to the run-off elections, the OAS, the Office of the Ombudsman, and civil society oversight groups presented a list of conditions that had to be met in order to guarantee democratic polls. Most were not met and the OAS decided not to supervise the run-off. The opposition candidate – Alejandro Toledo — called for a boycott of the elections. They were held, however, and Fujimori was declared the winner. The Organization of American States (OAS), as well as the US and many other states, refused to recognize the election results.

The fraudulent electoral process aroused citizen indignation and protest. Pro-democracy demonstrations were held in many cities, including the massive march of the “Cuatro Suyos” (“Four Cardinal Points”), when close to a quarter million Peruvians marched into Lima from all regions to protest Fujimori’s third term inauguration in July 2000.

A political bribery scandal broke just weeks after Fujimori assumed his third term of office in July 2000. His hold on power began to crumble in mid-September 2000 with the release of a videotape revealing an effort to bribe a member of the Peruvian congress. Although corruption has permeated Peruvian political institutions since Colonial times,The public screening of the first “Vladi-video” in October clearly supported the growing suspicion that Vladimiro Montesinos, the chief of the National Intelligence Service, and Fujimori had co-opted a good portion of political and state authorities through bribes.

Montesinos had made this and hundreds of other videotapes of high-ranking Peruvian government officials, members of the media, businessmen, and private citizens. Many of these tapes documented the corruption that permeated the Fujimori administration, such as attempts to blackmail or bribe some of these individuals. It was clear that Montesinos had taped most of these transactions, probably for future extortion purposes.

The whole corrupt power system was put in jeopardy and rapidly collapsed. Montesinos left Peru for Panama in September 2000. After returning to Peru in late October, Montesinos went into hiding and was believed to have left the country. A brief diplomatic dispute erupted in 2001 between Peru and Venezuela in connection with the capture of the former advisor to Peru’s intelligence agency, Vladimiro Montesinos, in Venezuela.

Hugo Chávez granted asylum to Montesinos. Peru alleged that Venezuela had temporarily hidden and protected Montesinos after formal charges had been brought against him in Peru, a claim that Venezuela denied. Venezuela temporarily severed relations with Peru between June 28 and July 28, 2001, but relations between the two countries were normalized. Chavez was eventually forced to hand over Montesinos.

Fujimori called new elections in which he would not run.

Fujimori fled to Japan and resigned from office in November 2000.

Fujimori is recognized as a citizen in Japan, which refused to extradite him to Peru. Peru sought Mr. Fujimori's extradition so he can face charges of corruption and of authorizing death squads. He denied the charges, calling them politically motivated. In July 2003, Peru presented a formal extradition request to the Japanese government for Alberto Fujimori based on criminal charges. The request was rejected by the Japanese government due to Fujimori’s Japanese citizenship. On October 15, 2004, Peru made a second request for extradition based on forgery and embezzlement charges, but the extradition process stalled. Peru’s commercial and other ties with Japan were not adversely affected by the dispute.

In October 2005 Fujimori left Japan after five years in exile and flew to Chile with the intention of returning to Peru to run for president next year. He was arrested in Chile in November 2005 at Peru's request. In September 2007 Chile’s Supreme Court approved his extradition to Peru, ending a protracted legal battle.

Fujimori faced new criminal charges linked to the government's forced sterilization program during his rule in the 1990s. More than 200,000 Peruvians say they were pressured into being sterilized between 1996 and 2000. An investigative committee said only about 10 percent participated voluntarily in Peru's controversial sterilization program during the 1990s. The committee said most of the victims were Indians from poor areas with high birth rates. Some Peruvian lawmakers are pressing for genocide charges against Fujimori, alleging he was well aware of what was going on.

Fujimori is serving four concurrent prison sentences. In December 2007, a Peruvian court convicted Fujimori on charges of abuse of power for ordering an illegal search and seizure of documents and sentenced him to 6 years in prison. In April 2009, a court convicted Fujimori of human rights violations and sentenced him to 25 years in prison. Another court convicted the former president in July 2009 on embezzlement charges and sentenced him to 7.5 years, and ordered him to pay $10 million in civil reparations.

In September 2009 he was found guilty of illegally tapping phones and bribing journalists, businessmen and opposition politicians. In July 2009 he was sentenced to seven-and-a-half years for giving $15m in state funds to his spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos. On 07 April 2009 Alberto Fujimori was convicted of "crimes against humanity" and sentenced to 25 years in prison. Fujimori is serving a 25-year prison sentence for his role in death squad killings in the 1990s.

Fujimori sits in a jail cell near Lima serving his various sentences, where he might remain until the year 2034. Montesinos is imprisoned on multiple convictions, including running guns to Colombian rebels and organizing death squads.

Demetrio Chavez, nicknamed "The Vatican," was released from prison 13 January 2016 after 22 years. In the early 1990s Chavez was one of the top suppliers of cocaine paste for Colombian drug kingpin Pablo Escobar. Chavez claimed that he once paid the government of former president Alberto Fujimori $50,000 per month to fly drugs to Colombia from his private runway near a military base without interference. Chavez said the Andean country became a "narco-state" during her father's 1990-2000 government.

Even from prison, Fujimori retained the capability of influencing the country's politics. Though he is a prisoner, he is in a “golden cage” where he can receive innumerable visitors. The former President hosted 653 visits to his cell between 01 August to 28 October 2015. These visits included authorities from his place of origin and party sympathizers, while the rest were either business-related, newspaper reporters or people interested in Keiko Fujimori’s (his daughter)presidential campaign.

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Page last modified: 10-03-2016 11:27:17 ZULU