Friday, April 17, 2009

An Ideological Crusade Against Alberto Fujimori.

An Ideological Crusade Against Alberto Fujimori.

By Nicole M. Ferrand. *

Last week, on April 7th 2009, former Peruvian President, Alberto Fujimori, was convicted and sentenced to 25 years in prison for “ordering two (2) massacres” that left twenty five (25) people dead during his time in office from 1990 until 2000.[1]  None of the trial’s eighty (80) witnesses could implicate Fujimori of ordering any killings, kidnappings or disappearances. This was in spite of being constantly intimidated and pressured to do so by the prosecutors and even the judges, who offered to lessen their time in jail if they accused the former leader. These individuals simply could not; one after the other, even the star witnesses of the prosecution, the members of ‘Grupo Colina’[2] who allegedly carried out the ‘murders,’ emphatically denied that Fujimori ordered them to carry out these actions; in fact they declared they never even met him. According to a recent opinion poll, two thirds of the population says that Fujimori was found guilty without any poof or evidence and local opinion leaders, experts and lawyers agree.

According to most legal experts, Fujimori was convicted even before he set foot in the courtroom. They argue that the televised show-trial that lasted sixteen (16) months was a complete sham. First of all, the three judges who condemned the former President, Cesar San Martin, Víctor Prado Saldarriaga, and Hugo Príncipe Trujillo, were given this task even though they were laid off from their jobs in the Justice Department during the Fujimori regime. The charge was that they set terrorists and criminals free while accusing the police and the armed forces of being “too harsh” in their combat tactics.  It is clear that, with this trial, they saw an opportunity to get revenge.


As a result, during the legal process against the former President, San Martin, Prado and Trujillo were overtly against the defendant not even being careful enough to hide their contempt for him when the cameras rolled. They scolded any witness that spoke favorably of the former leader. What is even worse, they redacted the sentence even before the defense had finished presenting their case. That is why many agree that the court issued an Ideological Sentence, one that is not based on facts but on personal bias and that the magistrates and their allies punished Fujimori for adopting neo-liberal policies and a tough stance against terrorism, the opposite of what they so misguidedly believe in. 


Why Ideological?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, many socialists and communists were able to recycle themselves and worked relentlessly to find positions within the Justice System in many Latin American countries.  They thought this would be useful as a weapon against their political foes when legal situations arose. Others decided to organize themselves and form Non-Governmental Organizations (NGO’s such as ‘Aprodeh’) under the umbrella of Human Rights with the clear agenda of aligning themselves with friendly judges to force their socialist ideals on the judicial systems of the countries where they decided to operate. 


In this context, it was under Alberto Fujimori that the left was ousted from the political scene and that Peru was successful in defeating the left-wing terrorist groups, Shining Path and the Movimiento Revolucionario Tupac Amaru. The former President made the bold but correct decision to implement and carry out effective policies that ultimately led to the demise of these groups but that also gained him the wrath of the left who, until today, remain his sworn enemies. They could never forgive Fujimori for being able to take their proxies out of the political scene. For his achievements Fujimori, as of today, still enjoys 60% of the population’s support. This people, in addition, consider him the best President in the history of Peru. (Please see The Americas Reports’ from October 7, 2007 and from October 18, 2007 titled “Fujimori: the other side of the Story” by Nicole M. Ferrand, parts I and II respectively). 


It is important to note that Fujimori inherited a country in total chaos where violence was rampant and where hyperinflation reached 18,000%. The former leader was able to destroy the insurrection by the terrorist groups Shining Path and MRTA who, since the 80’s, systematically killed more than twenty-five thousand (25,000) people, including members of the armed forces and the police who bravely fought against these criminals under the most difficult circumstances. In addition, these terrorists left thousands injured and created thousands of orphans and widows, leaving the population in misery.  


On the economic front, the SL and the MRTA, incessantly worked to destroy the nation and condemn the citizenry to lives of poverty.  On the other hand, Fujimori adopted market-friendly policies achieving Latin America’s strongest economic growth from 2002-2008, averaging 6.7%. This is another reason why the left has gone after him with a vengeance: Fujimori was able to demonstrate with his policies that a free market produces results in clear contrast with the socialist model that has already failed in Latin America.  


      The Peruvian legal expert, Enrique Ghersi, gave an interview for the local newspaper “Correo,” after the sentence was read.[1] He stated that the process should be declared null and void. First of all, the three judges that convicted Fujimori should have never been given this responsibility since they were openly biased against the defendant. In addition, according to Peruvian law, the prosecutors needed to be able to prove the personal involvement of any defendant in the alleged crime for which he or she is being accused. Did any of the witnesses accuse then-president, Alberto Fujimori of ordering the killings of fifteen (15) people allegedly mistaken for Shining Path terrorists in Barrios Altos, in the outskirts of Lima on November 3rd 1991? No. Could anyone implicate him personally of ordering the killing in July 1992, of a university professor and nine students from La Cantuta University in Lima? No. The prosecutors could never produce a single piece of evidence indicating that Fujimori gave the orders for these two actions to occur and that is why the trial was political.


After the verdict, the ‘caviar left’[2], the so-called ‘intellectuals’ (such as writer Mario Vargas Llosa whom Fujimori defeated in 1990 and who has remained bitter ever since), Salomon Lerner from the infamous “Commission of Truth and Reconciliation” who most Peruvians consider a traitor, and the mainstream media, immediately reacted by praising and congratulating the court’s decision erroneously stating that Fujimori had been convicted of ‘crimes against humanity’, which is not the case. They would like this to happen because, according to them, if he is convicted of this crime, no court or authority could pardon him or overrule the verdict. But according to Ghersi, the paragraphs that mention this type of crime have only been included in the beginning of the sentence and only as a consideration and were not used to effectively sentence the former President. So the verdict could theoretically be annulled. Why couldn’t the judges sentence him with ‘crimes against humanity’ as much as they wanted? Simply because Chile’s Supreme Court, the country where Fujimori lived before being extradited to Peru, denied his extradition for that crime because the ‘evidence’ presented was rejected outright as insufficient.  


These two crimes were carried out by low ranking members of the armed forces, who had no possibility of contacting the President directly, acting under extreme circumstances, in a climate of death and violence that plagued Peru since the terrorists of the SL and the MRTA started their merciless attacks on the population. As was left clear during the trial, no one could accuse Fujimori of ordering these killings. In fact, the members of the “Grupo Colina” who were the key witnesses during the trial assured one after the other that they never met the President.


The Barrios Altos crime was an honest intelligence mistake and the people responsible are in jail and have repeatedly expressed their regrets. On the other hand, the La Cantuta incident is a different story. It occurred just days after the Tarata bombing[3] when the military was under extreme pressure to capture the ones who carried out the attack. The alleged culprits were actually hiding in the university campus.[4] As the trial was able to demonstrate: according to the Colina members, they never met, spoke or heard from Fujimori so it was impossible for him to order these men to kill anyone.  The killings occurred in the most desperate of circumstances by men who were fighting against an enemy that hid among the innocent. And, most importantly, Fujimori never ordered these actions. This ‘court’ decided that he was ‘indirectly guilty,’ a complete and utter invention of these ‘judges.’ But since they that had nothing on him, they came up with this ridiculous reason to send him to jail.


It is extremely important to understand the following: there was a civil war going on in Peru while Fujimori was President. The terrorists carried out deadly attacks daily all over the country while the military had to fight them in order to protect Peru’s citizens. In this process, it is sad and hard to say, but sometimes mistakes are made and innocent people die. It is important to put things into perspective: twenty-five (25) people died in these two ‘murders’ that the three judges attribute to Fujimori, but they occurred in the process of saving thousands of people from certain death or harm at the hands of the SL and the MRTA. 


This sentence, in addition to being wrong, sets a very dangerous precedent in Peru. Terrorist activity has emerged and is on the rise due to extremely soft policies taken by the Garcia and the Toledo Administrations. Just last week, the Shining Path murdered fourteen (14) soldiers in the Apurimac region. If these terror activities spread, who will dare order any action against these groups since they could end up being accused like Fujimori of fighting against these left-wing organizations? If the armed forces tragically commit a mistake while in combat against terrorist groups that results in the death of an innocent, this sentence absurdly assumes that the President “has to know” all the actions of his subordinates and that “most probably,” he ordered them. So, in essence, you don’t need any proof or evidence in any trial in Peru from now on.  


Unfortunately, the ramifications of this verdict will not only be felt in Peru. Presidents Alvaro Uribe of Colombia who is fighting the FARC and Felipe Calderon from Mexico who is waging a war against the drug cartels, or any other conservative leader in the region that is faced with the decision to combat any left-wing terrorist group or organization, could decide to soften their policies to avoid being persecuted by the left in their respective countries when they leave office. As already stated, many analysts have raised their concerns that recycled socialists have moved at an alarming pace to occupy high positions in the Justice Systems all over Latin America and together with the so-called “Human Rights” NGO’s that only protect terrorists and criminals, will go after them with a vengeance when the political tide turns in their favor.  


In the case of Peru, the vast majority of the population has already rejected the verdict and many supporters or independents that recognize Fujimori’s achievements have gone to the streets to express their frustration with the sentence. His daughter, Keiko Sofia Fujimori Higuchi, who is a candidate for the presidency in 2011, and who is leading in the polls, has already declared that, if elected, she would pardon her father, adding: “Such a tough sentence will be a boomerang for Fujimori’s persecutors and enemies. There are many people who support my father. The ruling is not a defeat of Fujimorism. On the contrary, it strengthens us, and the reaction (against it) will multiply.” I think we can all agree that the next elections will be a referendum on Alberto Fujimori’s legacy. 


*Nicole M. Ferrand is a research analyst and editor of "The Americas Report" of the Menges Hemispheric Security Project. She is a graduate of Columbia University in Economics and Political Science with a background in Law from Peruvian University, UNIFE and in Corporate Finance from Georgetown University.

[1] “Es una sentencia ideologica.” Entrevista a Enrique Ghersi. April 14, 2009. Diario Correo. Peru.

[2] Term to describe someone who claims to be a socialist without feeling the need to espouse an appropriate lifestyle. A person is not really sincere in their beliefs. Hypocrisy is generally implied.

[3] A terrorist attack in the upper scale district of Miraflores, where two trucks, each packed with 1,000 kg of explosives, exploded on the street at 9:15 pm, killing 24 and wounding up to 200. The blast destroyed or damaged 183 homes, 400 small businesses and 63-parked cars.

[4] In the La Cantuta University’s campus, the SL and the MRTA had such a strong presence that they basically run the place and explosions were a daily occurrence.  In the pre-dawn hours of 18 July 1992, two days after the Tarata bombing, six members of the Grupo Colina raided the dorm of Enrique Guzmán in La Cantuta forcing all the students to leave their rooms and lie on the floor. Nine students and a professor linked to the Tarata Bombing — Bertila Lozano Torres, Dora Oyague Fierro, Luis Enrique Ortiz Perea, Armando Richard Amaro Cóndor, Robert Édgar Teodoro Espinoza, Heráclides Pablo Meza, Felipe Flores Chipana, Marcelino Rosales Cárdenas, and Juan Gabriel Mariños Figueroa — were separated from the others and taken away. They were never seen again.

[1] These “massacres” occurred in 1991 and 1992.

[2] Group created in the early 1990’s, which allegedly operated on the orders of Vladimiro Montesinos, head of the National Intelligence Service (SIN). The head of Colina was Captain Martin Rivas who in turn was under the command of General Rivero Lazo. Rivero Lazo allegedly took orders from Montesinos but this link has never been proven.


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