Alberto Fujimori, Peru’s first president of Japanese ancestry, was managing to get some peace in Tokyo, where he’s a citizen and outside the scope of extradition treaties. But for some reason, he decided to fly back to South America. He says he wants to run for president again in 2006: the national legislature passed a law barring him from running until 2011, but he claims the law is unconstitutional. (You’d think it would be, assuming Peru has some sort of equal protection…)
Well, whatever his motive, here’s what happened: once he got to Chile, the authorities showed up at his hotel room and arrested him. He’s been denied bail and Peru wants him extradited; his supporters in Peru say that he has “a plan” and won’t be extradited. Whatever happens, he’s going to be in Chile for about four weeks, as that’s how long the criminal procedures in Peru are supposed to take. Chile has authority to hold him for up to two months before he is sent to Peru.
Peru has charged Fujimori with a number of nasty crimes, including supporting the FARC forces in Colombia, “disappearing” a few scores of students, and pushing a policy of forced sterilization for population control. The more plausible charges include millions of dollars’ worth of corruption and way too much zeal in going after terrorist groups, including the Shining Path guerillas and the MRTA forces that took over the Japanese embassy in Lima in 1997.
Make no mistake, though: Fujimori is not a demon in his home country. Peru is sharply divided over him. His supporters see him as a hero for liberalizing Peru’s economy and shutting down terrorist groups that made life difficult in the eighties. His opponents, including President Toledo, see him as a tyrant who stole from the people, handing back just enough to keep his popularity up. While he isn’t doing too well in the polls for president right now, he’s doing all right for someone who’s been campaigning illegally in absentia.
It’ll be interesting to see what kind of trial he ends up getting. Will it be a giant political show? Which charges will be brought, and which will be substantiated? Will he ever become president? Will he rot in a prison cell? Or will he spend his final days hawking Fuji Cola?