The Legacy of Alberto Fujimori in Peru, Part 1 – Hans’ History Bites

The gradual fall of the Soviet Union expedited
the process for other nations influenced by socialism to rid themselves of the Red Terror
that had been illustrated by the United States. Many nations that had been democratic still
had socialist and communist parties until the 1990s, and many nations still do today.
A good example of a Western nation with a socialist party would be France and its “La
France insoumise” party, led by Jean-Luc Melenchon. However, many nations south of
the equator had and continue to have robust socialist and communist parties, one of which
is Peru. Long a nation led under military rule, Peru has had elected or succeeded presidents
since 1980, one of which was Alberto Fujimori. Prior to the election of Fujimori in 1990,
Peru had been in the midst of an economic crisis. Under former socialist president Alan
Garcia, the nation had been in a period of hyperinflation. Furthermore, rates of poverty
had increased to 70% of the Peruvian population by 1989. This changed in 1990 following the
election of Alberto Fujimori, a Japanese-Peruvian politician born in Lima, who began to privatize
businesses and implemented laws in order for job creation to flourish. Poverty had decreased
to 54% during Fujimori’s first term, and undernourishment dropped by 29%. However, Alberto Fujimori’s main concern
in 1990 was to eliminate the threat of communism and the “far-left” within Peru, and he
set his targets on the Shining Path terrorist organization. The group had been committing
acts of terror within Peru since 1978, when a resurgence of the group led by Chairman
Gonzalo, whose real name was Abimael Guzman, began. Fujimori’s goal was to completely
rid of the Shining Path, however he faced the realization that his congress at the time
was slow in passing anti-terrorism legislation in order to eliminate the organization. This led to the controversial action to dissolve
congress, the judiciary and abolish the Peruvian Constitution on April 5, 1992. The actions
would lead to two results. The first was that Fujimori now had total control over the executive,
legislative and judicial branches of Peruvian government, which allowed him to set up his
own courts in order to rapidly arrest and convict terrorists. This action was met with
approval from the majority of Peruvians who agreed that not only were the legislative
and judicial systems necessary of reformation, but the internal conflicts within Peru must
be put to an end. In response to the abolishment of the constitution,
the Shining Path executed their most deadly attack on Peruvian citizens. On July 16, 1992,
the terrorist organization executed the Tarata bombing, an attack on a high-end neighbourhood
in the capital city of Lima, which was followed by a week-long attack on the capital. The
bombing itself took the lives of 25 people, injuring 155 more. An additional 40 deaths
would occur during the strikes, with Lima being shut down. Fujimori’s response was
to intensify the crackdown on Peruvian communist terrorism, and on September 12, 1992, Chairman
Gonzalo was arrested by Fujimori-led forces and sentenced to life in prison. The second result of the abolishment was that
Fujimori was able to rewrite the constitution and allow incumbent presidents to seek a second
consecutive term. With his approval rating at 85%, Peruvians did not see an issue with
allowing Fujimori to write himself in as president for another five years beginning in 1995.
However, this result would return to become a major issue when Fujimori ran for a third
term in 2000. After Fujimori had been elected to his second
term in a landslide victory, he had to face a second terrorist organization named MRTA,
and on December 17, 1996, the group took hundreds of diplomats hostage. Some of the hostages
were released within a week of the takeover, however the majority of diplomats remained
as hostages for four months. Fujimori attempted to negotiate with the organization, however
after neither side could come to an agreement, Fujimori ordered Peruvian Armed Forces to
raid the complex. This resulted in a firefight where one diplomat and two commandos were
killed, along with all of the MRTA militants. MRTA would dissolve after this incident, and
Fujimori was credited for the takedown of another Peruvian terror organization. The victory against MRTA did not aid Fujimori
in his campaign in 2000 for his third term, which the pro-Fujimori congress had allowed.
Fujimori was faced with multiple claims of corruption and human rights violations as
a result of his Peruvian War on Terror. He was re-elected in 2000, however due to allegations
of voter manipulation, including a recording of one of his aides bribing voters to vote
for him, Fujimori exiled to Japan and faxed a resignation letter. However, the new Peruvian
congress decided to formally impeach Fujimori, leading to another presidential election in
2001. Fujimori would be convicted of several charges
after his presidency. In November 2005, he was arrested in Chile and extradited to Peru
in September 2007. This began a long timeline of trials where Fujimori would be tried and
convicted of multiple charges. From 2007-2009, Fujimori would eventually be convicted of
illegal search and seizure, human rights violations including murder, bodily harm, and kidnapping,
embezzelment, and bribery. However this is not the end of the Fujimori
story. Alberto Fujimori had four children, two of which entered politics and continued
the Fujimori legacy, even after their father was convicted of multiple high crimes. Their
legacies are just as fascinating, but that is a historical footnote for another day.

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