Sunday, April 26, 2009

A Caudillo Comes to Justice

After experiencing many years of fiscal, political, and social peril, Alberto Fujimori came to power in Peru in 1990 and stayed there through 2000 with his strong-armed tactics. Fujimori bribed countless politicians and government agents, he embezzled $1 Billion U.S. dollars from the Peruvian government, and would often use the military and his Intelligence supervisor to get what he wanted. However, these were only a few of his most deplorable actions. What could be seen as his worst is what he has recently been found guilty of, not in an activist European Court, but in his own country.

Fujimori was found guilty, on April 7, 2009, of Human Rights abuses stemming from his knowledge that a death squad, the Colina Group, had killed a number of Fujimori's opponents, individuals associated with "The Shining Path," a Maoist terrorist group which started in the hills of Peru, but quickly became involved with politics and violence within it's cities, such as Lima. Though the Shining Path did not consist of angels, this was still a brazen act of unjustifiable violence. The Court also ruled on the kidnapping and murder of 10 students from a teacher's training center. These cases are only a few of a number of kidnappings that the Colina Group participated in during the years of Fujimori, and are two known cases in which he can be implicated as the "indirect perpetrator." 

This is a monumental ruling due to the fact that after being dissolved of power some nine years ago, and his subsequent fleeing of the country, Fujimori had been brought back to justice by the new government, which coincidentally is headed by the President he took control from, Alan Garcia. Not only does this help solidify his control of the country and the justice that he sought to bring the people, this is also a major issue for the region in general. After the circus that became the deportation of Pinochet and his subsequent trial before his last days of 2006, it is refreshing to see that justice may be served in the area. Though there are many factions within Peru that appreciate what Fujimori did for the government and the country, there are many more that do not appreciate his heavy handed means in which he achieved his ends. The murders and kidnappings of their own citizens by governments and indirectly their own President is never something that should be condoned or glanced over, not even for the members of The Shining Path. Though this is a recent ruling, it can only be hoped for Peru, and for the region, that this ruling is upheld and that Fujimori will pay for the Human Rights abuses that his regime inflicted.  


Elle said...

Wow. This ruling represents so much in Latin America. Fujimori is undoubtedly one of the most controversial Presidents in Peru's history. This condemnation of his actions will represent so much to so many people. When I was in Peru during the summer of 2007, the effects of his rule were obvious. Along with the thousands of people who died as a result of his presidency, he left the country penniless. One of the most moving parts of my visit was a trip to see the "memoria historica" which chronicled the country's fight against the Shining Path. While Fujimori was able to capture Gabriel Guzman, the leader, he later had to use similar strong arm tactics against his political opponents to stay in power. Fujimori unarguably did a large amount of good for Peru and it's economy. Nevertheless, this came at the cost of governmental repression. Again we see the age old question: Is it justifiable to sacrifice political rights and freedoms for economic and social well being?

Kiki L. said...

I agree with Ellen that this represents a huge step for Latin America. After decades of deplorable violence in which few were brought to justice, it is refreshing to see justice being served on the national level in Peru. Even so, I do not think that this step should re-track from the value of the international courts that have been established. Although the trial of Pinochet may not be the success story of the ICC, it was effective in alerting the world that former heads of states are not unaccountable for their actions. Many countries lack the rule of law necessary to prosecute crimes against humanity that occur within their borders. In the case of Chile, amnesty had been granted to Pinochet so the country was unable to prosecute him until the law was overturned. While Peru was able to seek justice within the country itself, this is a rare story for the region. Due to this, I do not think the value of international and regional institutions should be undermined.

calisunshine said...

While I too believe this verdict is a major victory for human rights, I am not yet convinced that Fujimori will actually serve out his entire sentence. Recent polls indicate that the former presidents daughter, Representative Keiko Fujimori is the leading candidate for the next president elections. She has called the verdict "vengeful" and has vowed to go on a crusade to clear her father's name. In the event of Keiko's elections, it appears that justice will not be served. Furthermore, it is not yet clear how the public will react to the conviction of what many consider a beloved president who brought Peru out of the devastating economic crisis in the 1980s. Thus, while the recent verdict does have possible worldwide, precedent-setting implications, I caution against premature celebrations that overlook political and social realities in Peru that could possibly allow Fujimori to escape justice.