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Peruvians demand extradition of ex-president Fujimori
Thousands of angry workers, students and human rights advocates marched in Lima last week demanding the extradition of former president Alberto Fujimori from Chile. If returned to Perú, Fujimori would face trial on 22 criminal charges of corruption and human rights abuses. The charges carry sentences of up to 30 years in jail and $29 million in fines.
Fujimori arrived in Santiago, Chile on November 7 and was arrested soon after as the Chilean courts yielded to the Peruvian government’s demands for his detention.
After a decade in power, Fujimori deserted the Peruvian presidency in October 2000 amid accusations of corruption and abuse of power. He fled to Japan, where he was granted citizenship and lived under the protection of right-wing politicians.
In March 2003, Interpol issued an international warrant for his arrest on charges of murder and kidnapping in Perú. Included in the charges were the ex-president’s leading role in the activities of the death squad known as Grupo Colina, responsible for the massacres of La Cantuta and Barrios Altos at the beginning of his presidency in 1991-92.
Relatives of death squad victims have traveled to Chile to pressure the Chilean government to extradite Fujimori to Perú. “We want the victims’ voice to be heard,” said Alejandro Silva, a representative of the Lima-based National Coordinator of Human Rights, which organized the trip.
Immediately after Fujimori’s arrest, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo promised on national television that his government would not allow the ex-president to escape. Toledo has sent a high level delegation to Chile led by Interior Minister Rómulo Pizarro to work on Fujimori’s extradition. The Peruvian government has 60 days to present its case.
It remains unclear why Fujimori ended his voluntary exile in Japan.
His partisans say that Fujimori decided to fly to Chile to be close to Perú and begin preparations to run for president in 2006—despite being banned from running until 2011 under current Peruvian law.
After his arrest, Fujimori declared: “It is my aim to temporarily stay in Chile as part of a return to Perú to keep a promise to a large part of the people of Perú.” Even at the end, when his regime was besieged by charges of corruption, he retained a base of support for his policies of authoritarianism and right-wing populism. There were also pro-Fujimori demonstrations in Lima after he arrived in Chile.
Some, however, think Japan pressured him to leave. According to Ernesto Velit, an independent political analyst in Lima, Fujimori’s had become a liability to his protectors.