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Alberto Fujimori
Biography, history of Peru since 1990

Official electoral result, 2nd voting round, May 2000.
Result in % of expressed votes - % of valid votes:
PERU POSIBLE: 1, 835, 512 votes or 17.15% - 25.23%.
PERU 2000: 5, 438, 759 votes or 50.82% - 74.77%.
Blank votes: 114, 304 or 1.07% of expressed votes.
Not valid: 3, 302, 750 or 30.86% of expressed votes.

Article added on June 9, 2000
 
Alberto Fujimori was born in Lima, Peru, in 1938. He has a degree in agronomic engineering from the Agricultural National University (La Molina) - he finished top of his class in 1961. Fujimori also has a M.A. in mathematics from the American University of Wisconsin, 1969. He is an agronomist who has, despite his close relation as President to the military and the intelligence service, never served in the military. Fujimori is the son of a Japanese immigrant and his wife, Susana Higuchi, is Japanese by birth too. They have four children. Fujimori is a Roman Catholic (like the majority of Peruvians).
 
From 1984 to 1989, Fujimori was dean of the faculty of sciences at the Agrarian National University (La Molina). He was a host of the television talk show Getting Together which served as a platform for building up a reputation as political analyst. In 1989, Fujimori founded the political party "Cambio 90". With a simple slogan, "honesty, technology and work", and thanks to a populist grass-roots movement approach, visiting peasants in remote villages, his knowledge of the Agrarian world and its problems, the outsider (a helpful status in the protest vote against the political establishment) managed to beat the clear favorite, writer Mario Vargas Llosa, who could not connect with Indian peasants and simple people during the campaign. Llosa was a credible advocate of political and economic liberalism (in the European sense), but he did not distance himself from less trustworthy right-wing parties who lacked the support of a majority. At the same time, the former socialist government of Alan Garcia and his party were completely discredited. An ideal situation for Fujimori, who has served as President of Peru since 1990.
 
After the left-wing Alan Garcia's disastrous government, Fujimori inherited a country on the verge of collapse. Economic chaos, mismanagement, corruption, drug dealers and the guerrilla warfare against the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path) and Tupac Amaru movements were no promising point of departure for the new president.
 
Peru suffered from hyperinflation and a declining gross national product. Peru was rich in natural resources, but it lacked the investment capital to use them - and Alan Garcia's socialist experiments had left a disastrous effect on foreign direct investments. Fujimori first tried to re-establish a free-market system. He deregulated (e.g. airline and bus travel as well as road transport), decentralized, cut down the state's expenditures, forced state-owned companies to sell products and services at market prices, eased procedures for registering businesses, liberalized foreign exchange rates and cut down import restrictions. Fujimori was able to "stabilize" the inflation at about 140% after one year. He started to regain the confidence of international lenders.
 
On the guerilla warfare side, Fujimori took dictatorial measures to fight the Maoists and began to arm the peasants - a policy which costs thousands of lives but finally proofed successful. In 1992, the army was able to capture the leader of the Shining Path, Abimail Guzman. Fujimori also purged all those who he felt hindered his policies from the government - even high-level officials. He dissolved the congress and suspended the constitution, dismissed 13 of 23 Supreme Court justices and numerous other judges. Fujimori's re-election in a landslide victory in 1995 was no surprise to anyone.
 
A setback came on December 17, 1996, when Tupac Amaru guerrillas seized the home of the Japanese ambassador to Peru and held hundreds of diplomats and government officials who were attending a party there hostage. Through negotiations the government was able to obtain the release of many of the hostages, but the rebels insisted on their goal: the release of several hundred Tupac Amaru guerillas held in Peruvian prisons. An unacceptable demand for Fujimori who, on April 22, ordered the attack during which 71 hostages were freed and one was killed. Two soldiers and all fourteen rebels lost their lives in an operation shown on TVs worldwide. Soon afterwards, Fujimori showed up on the "battle scene" in order to show the rebels, Peruvians and the world who the master is.
 
Fujimori's dictatorial style continued even after the end of the immediate danger by the guerilla movements. If one thinks that democratic leaders such as François Mitterrand in France or Helmut Kohl in Germany have partly lost their connection with reality and republican traditions, one can easily imagine that, after ten years in power as an almost absolute ruler over Peru, Fujimori feels needed and is not ready to step down. Within his entourage, there is surely no independent and self-critical voice left to show the President his failures. The justice system is far from being impartial, human rights' violations are common and independent politicians and media are under undemocratic pressure. The National Intelligence Service has become Peru's most powerful institution. Vladimiro Montesinos, an ex-Army captain who was cashiered in 1977 for allegedly selling state secrets to the CIA at a time when Peru was receiving military aid from the Soviet Union, is the second most powerful man in the shadow of President Fujimori who governs with the help of a tiny inner circle. They have "reinterpreted" the 1993-Constitution to allow the president to stand for a third term. "The constitutional tribunal that opposed the move was dismissed. An opposition-led drive to hold a referendum on the legality of Fujimori's maneuvers was quashed" (Bowen, author of: The Fujimori File: Peru and its President 1990-2000). In 1997, the president shut down the oppositional TV station Frequencia Latina, run by Baruch Ivcher, who had supported Fujimori during his first term but did not want to comply to the intelligence service's pressure in 1996 and 1997. There was also a phone-tapping scandal with highest officials involved.
 
Dissatisfaction with Fujimori grew in recent years, especially because the economic situation did not improve further as expected and democracy was not fully re-established. In 2000, the situation resembled the one in 1990 which brought Fujimori to power. Again in 2000, there was a promising and clear opposition candidate, the mayor of Lima (Andrade), and a government which had largely (not as dramatically as the socialist government in 1990) lost the people's confidence. Again, towards the end of the presidential race, an outsider candidate suddenly rose to prominence from nowhere and became the main contender (Toledo). Toledo's program and ideas are maybe a bit clearer than Fujimori's were in 1990, still, one wonders, where Toledo would have led Peru.
 
After his electoral success, Fujimori promised to democratize Peru (so it was no full democracy until today!). The steps taken by the OAS in order to force the President to do what he announced are not convincing so far. After the Peruvian pseudo-election in May 2000, the OAS' reaction seems more than timid. Before, the OAS as well as other objective organizations came to the conclusion that the elections took place after an unfair campaign in which the opposition leader Toledo was completely ignored by state television - the only channels that poor people can normally watch - and the tabloid press is in the hands of people loyal to Fujimori. The quality newspapers are far too expensive for ordinary Peruvians. On the other hand, Alejandro Toledo has no majority either. The opposition as a whole does not look like a credible alternative to the discredited government. Therefore, Peru's future is once more in jeopardy.

Check also the article added on November 10, 2000:  Montesinos, Fujimori, Toledo and Peru's future and the article of July 29, 2001: Alejandro Toledo and his government.






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