Fujimori walks: soft coup in Peru?
Protests are breaking out in Lima following the Christmas eve "humanitarian pardon" of Peru's imprisoned ex-dictator Alberto Fujimori by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski (PPK). The supposedly ailing Fujimori has been transferred from prison to a private clinic in Lima's Pueblo Libre district, where protesters are gathering, to be dispersed by police tear-gas. Demonstrators have also filled central Lima's Plaza San Martín. Angry protests have lkewise broken out in Cuzco, Arequipa, Chiclayo and other cities. The pardon came three days after PPK survived a congressional vote on removing him from office over his embroilment in the Odebrecht scandal. A right-wing bloc led by the dictator's son Kenji Fujimori abstained from the vote rather than following the majority of his own Fuerza Popular opposition party, led by his older sister Keiko Fujimori, in voting to remove PPK. Kenji's defection was critical in Congress failing to win the 87 votes necessary to sack PPK.
The smaller left-wing bloc in Congress was also divided, with Marisa Glave and Tania Pariona of Nuevo Perú abstaining. Nuevo Perú leader Verónika Mendoza warned that removal of PPK would allow the fujumoristas to take power and constitute a "coup." But the 10 lawmakers in Marco Arana's Frente Amplio voted to remove. In the end, there were 79 votes in favor of the motion, 19 against and 21 abstentions.
Kenji Fujimori thanked PPK in a tweet for his "noble and magnanimous gesture" on behalf of the Fujimori family, adding "we are eternally grateful to you." Despite their split on the vote, this sentiment was echoed by his sister. "It's a night of joy and happiness," said Keiko, speaking outside the Centenario Clinic. "It's been more than 10 years of waiting, with my father deprived of liberty. Finally justice has been done."
This has raised obvious accusations of a quid pro quo. Two lawmakers from PPK's own Peruanos Por el Kambio party, Vicente Zeballos and Alberto de Belaunde, resigned from the president's congresional bloc in protest of the pardon. (El Comercio, Dec. 26; BBC News, BBC News, Diario Correo, Xinhua, InfoBae, Dec. 25; The Guardian, Dec. 24; ABC, Madrid, Dec. 22; RPP, Dec. 21; Peru21, Dec. 21)
Carlos Rivera, a lawyer with Peru's Legal Defense Institute, said, "We are not looking at a humanitarian pardon, even if it has that appearance. It is a political pardon." Recalling Fujimori's convictions for overseeing death-squad massacres, Rivera called on the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) to declare the pardon illegal. (Gestión, Dec. 25)