After a trial lasting more than a year, on Jan. 8 a Peruvian court sentenced former president Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) to eight years in prison for embezzlement. The court found that between 1998 and 2000 Fujimori diverted some $43 million from the military to the National Intelligence Service (SIN) in order to pay tabloid dailies to follow the government's editorial line. The colorful tabloids—known in Peru as "diarios chicha" after a popular musical style—supported Fujimori's campaign for reelection in 2000 by characterizing his opponents as communists, homosexuals and spies; some of the papers were actually created by Fujimori's government for the purpose. The former president claimed in court on Dec. 29 that he didn't know about the diversion of the money. In addition to the prison sentence, Fujimori lost his right to hold public office for three years and was ordered to pay a fine of 3 million soles (about US$1 million). (RRP, Peru, Jan. 8; El País , Madrid, Jan. 8, from correspondent)
This was the fifth conviction for Fujimori since 2007. On Dec. 11, 2007, he was found guilty of ordering an illegal search of the home of the wife of his former adviser Vladimiro Montesinos to seize compromising video tapes. On Apr. 7, 2009, a court sentenced him to 25 years in prison for two massacres of unarmed civilians carried out by the Colina Group, a death squad organized by military intelligence and allegedly reporting to the president: the November 1991 killing of 15 people at a family barbecue in the Barrios Altos neighborhood of Lima, and the July 1992 abduction and murder of nine university students and a professor from the Enrique Guzmán y Valle (La Cantuta) university; the group also kidnapped journalist Gustavo Gorriti and business owner Samuel Dyer in 1992. Also in 2009, Fujimori was sentenced to seven years and six months for appropriating $15 million from the treasury for Montesinos; in a separate case, he was sentenced to six years for spying on phone calls, payoffs to the media and the buying of Congress members.
Although elected as a populist in 1990, Fujimori quickly imposed a harsh neoliberal program known as "Fujishock." In 1992 he seized dictatorial powers with a "self-coup," claiming this would clear the way for combating two leftist rebel movements. He fled the country in 2000 when his government's massive corruption came to light, and sought asylum in Japan. In 2005 he went to Chile as part of a plan to return to Peru, but Chilean authorities imprisoned him and turned him over to the Peruvian government in 2007. The maximum sentence in Peru is 25 years, so the five sentences will run concurrently. Fujimori will theoretically be released in 2032, at the age of 94. (La República, Peru, Jan. 8; El País, Jan. 8)
In other news, judicial authorities announced on Dec. 30 that Attorney General Carlos Ramos Heredia had been suspended from his post for six months to "safeguard the optimal development of the investigations" into charges that he impeded inquiries concerning alleged corruption in the central western department of Ancash. Officials there took $113 million in public funds between 2008 and 2011, according to Mesías Guevara, the president of the parliamentary commission investigating the allegations. Ramos Heredia told RPP radio that he would respect the suspension but wouldn't resign. (Yahoo News, Dec. 30, from AP)
From Weekly News Update on the Americas, January 11.