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by Angel Paez

Exiled Fujimori Says He'll Return To Peru, Run For President

(IPS) LIMA -- Human rights groups in Peru warned that the 14 recently elected legislators loyal to former president Alberto Fujimori will try to use the legal system to recast their leader as a victim of political persecution.

Fujimori has been in prison in Chile since November, awaiting the results of an extradition trial. He is wanted in Peru on a number of corruption and human rights charges.

In the April 9 elections, the pro-Fujimori slate, Alianza por el Futuro (AF), made up mainly of former ministers, legislators, military officers and officials from the 1990-2000 Fujimori regime, captured many more votes than anyone had expected.

The former president's daughter, Keiko Sofia Fujimori -- who served as first lady when Fujimori divorced his wife -- garnered more votes than any other legislative candidate in the country.

With 43 percent of the votes tallied so far, she already has 286,000. In second place, with 94,000 votes, is Carlos Bruce, a former minister from the government of incumbent President Alejandro Toledo.

The Fujimori loyalists won an extraordinary number of seats in Congress, considering Fujimori's past. AF will now be the fourth-largest political force in the legislature.

Fujimori, who first took office in 1990 and was removed by Congress in 2000, dissolved the opposition-controlled parliament, suspended constitutional guarantees and the activity of political parties, took over the courts, and began to govern with the support of the armed forces in 1992. A constitutional reform made his reelection possible in 1995.

His authoritarian regime collapsed in 2000 under evidence of widespread corruption, anti-democratic practices and human rights abuses, including fraud in the elections that year, in which he won a third term. He resigned by fax after fleeing to Japan and was sacked by Congress.

In the 2001-2006 legislature there were only four Fujimori loyalists in Congress, three of whom were suspended for taking bribes from Fujimori's former intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who orchestrated a vast network of corruption and is now in prison in connection with a large number of human rights violations and corruption cases.

The AF presidential candidate, lawmaker Martha Chavez, also made a surprisingly good showing, coming in fourth with 7.47 percent of the vote, ahead of Valentin Paniagua (5.76 percent), who was designated by Congress as caretaker president after Fujimori went into exile in Japan in 2000.

Former Fujimori minister Luisa Maria Cuculiza, a close friend and associate of Montesinos, said the AF would consider an alliance with the party of retired lieutenant colonel Ollanta Humala, who won the first round of elections.

Humala's party won 43 of the 120 seats in Congress. If Humala wins the runoff -- to be held in late May or early June -- he will need to forge agreements with other parties to obtain a majority in the legislature.

Chavez refuted Cuculiza's statement.

But Humala responded that if he were to win, he would not marginalize the Fujimori loyalists in his search for alliances in Congress. "We will converse with Keiko Fujimori's group because the will of the people must be respected," he said.

The possibility of eventual ties between Humala and the Fujimori loyalists worries human rights groups.

Humala himself is under investigation for alleged human rights abuses during his command of a counterinsurgency base in the Amazon jungle region in the early 1990s. Furthermore, his chief advisers include former military officers who were close to the Fujimori regime or to Montesinos' associates.

"The AF legislators will seek a mechanism to ensure impunity for Fujimori," Amnesty International representative in Peru, Ismael Vega Diaz, told IPS.

"Since Fujimori was not able to run in the elections, the only option he had was to achieve representation in Congress to forge alliances and bolster his strategy to make himself look like a victim of political persecution and thus secure impunity for himself," he said.

In the campaign, the Fujimori loyalists rejected the report issued by the Truth and Reconciliation Commission, which investigated the 1980-2000 counterinsurgency war against the Maoist Sendero Luminoso guerrillas. They also called for a review of the cases against members of the military who committed abuses against civilians during the so-called "dirty war."

"Several pro-Fujimori candidates spoke of pardons or an amnesty for people accused of human rights violations. It would not be surprising, now that they have been elected, if they seek impunity for the accused. That's where the danger lies," Gloria Cano, a lawyer for the APRODEH human rights association, told IPS.

Keiko Fujimori said her victory marked the beginning of her father's return "through the front door," and added that from Congress she would clean up his image from "the false accusations he faces."

The former president is accused of complicity in the crimes committed by a paramilitary group formed by the National Intelligence Service (SIN), headed up by Montesinos. One of the most high-profile incidents was the abduction and murder of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta University in July 1992.

Fujimori is also accused of paying Montesinos an "indemnification" of $15 million before the former spy chief fled to Panama.

The ad hoc Fujimori-Montesinos prosecutor's office confirmed to IPS that Keiko Fujimori herself is facing investigation for receiving public funds that were reportedly used to cover her tuition costs at Boston University.

In 2001, Keiko told a congressional investigation committee that during her father's term, he gave her money in cash to pay her tuition and that of her sister and two brothers, who also studied in colleges in the United States.

The comptroller-general's office estimates that Fujimori spent more than $500,000 on his children's education. But he never explained where the funds came from.

Montesinos testified in court that he handed the president funds from SIN to make the tuition payments.

Accounts containing up to $270,000 have also been discovered in Keiko's name in Citibank in New York, said sources with the ac hoc prosecutor's office. The authorities have requested the lifting of bank secrecy rules in order to determine the origin of the funds.

One of the Fujimori loyalists elected to Congress is Cuculiza, who is accused of complicity in crimes committed by Montesinos.

When the Inter-American Court of Human Rights ruled that the military courts set up by Fujimori to try terrorism suspects were illegal, Cuculiza appeared on the country's most popular talk show programs in tears to warn that the members of Sendero Luminoso would be released from prison en masse as a result, and begin killing civilians.

Another of the newly elected legislators is Santiago Fujimori, the former president's brother, who is facing prosecution for corruption from his alleged participation in the purchase of a Boeing 737 for $25 million.

From 1990 to 1996, Santiago worked as an adviser to Fujimori behind the scenes, and according to testimony by Montesinos, took part in the purge of judges and prosecutors opposed to the regime.

Rolando Reategui, another of the pro-Fujimori legislators-elect, faces trial in two cases, involving the forgery of signatures to register Fujimori's candidacy in the 2000 elections, and payments from Montesinos for his own congressional campaign.

"There is a sector of the population that respects Fujimori's government because it solved concrete problems that touched directly on their lives, like terrorism, and because they do not worry about the high cost in lives that the counterinsurgency policy entailed. That explains the large proportion of votes obtained by Keiko Fujimori," said Amnesty International activist Ismael Vega.

APRODEH's Gloria Cano, meanwhile, warned that "If the pro-Fujimori legislators strike up an alliance with Humala and his team, Peru could become an international pariah."

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Albion Monitor   April 20, 2006   (

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