Peru: Former President Alberto Fujimori Arrested in Chile

NotiSur - South American Political and Economic Affairs, November 18, 2005 | Go to article overview

Peru: Former President Alberto Fujimori Arrested in Chile


Fugitive Peruvian ex-President Alberto Fujimori (1990-2000) left his five-year exile in Tokyo on Nov. 6, flying into Santiago, Chile. He appeared to believe he could stage a run for the Peruvian presidency from the Chilean capital, but, within hours of his arrival, Chilean police arrested him, and Peru's government scrambled to file extradition proceedings against him in Chile's courts. His subsequent requests for bail and release have twice met rejection from the court.

From private jet to luxury suite to jail cell

Fujimori's arrival in Santiago was a surprise to the authorities of Chile, Peru, Japan, and Mexico, where his flight from Tokyo made a brief stopover in Tijuana. News outlets reported that the ex-president, wanted for a long list of human rights and corruption crimes, traveled under a false name and informed almost no one of his intended return to South America after living five years as a protected exile in Japan.

The 67-year-old former leader flew to Chile even though he was the target of an international arrest warrant. Lima daily newspaper El Comercio ran a front-page reproduction of the Interpol warrant with the crimes he is wanted for circled. An editorial in the paper demanded to know what good Interpol was if it could not arrest one of the world's most-famous and recognizable criminal fugitives as he flew from country to country.

To travel from Tokyo, Fujimori rented a private jet from the company Global Aviation for hundreds of thousands of dollars, according to a report in the staunchly anti-Fujimori Lima newspaper La Republica. He brought along a camera crew, which later released photos and video of the leader flying over South America. He passed through immigration controls at the Santiago airport and took a room at the Mariott where he announced plans to work on his presidential campaign and to travel soon to Peru.

Fujimori was arrested at his hotel hours after his surprise arrival and taken to the investigative police academy in a western Santiago suburb. He was transferred the afternoon of Nov. 7 to a training academy for corrections officers. He smiled at reporters, responding to their shouted questions by waving his hand and giving a thumbs-up sign.

The arrest was ordered by Corte Suprema de Justicia (CSJ) Justice Orlando Alvarez at the request of the Peruvian government, which told Chile it would make a formal request for Fujimori's extradition shortly afterward.

Fujimori requested on Nov. 7 that he be granted provisional freedom while the extradition proceeding took place, but that was denied.

Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo thanked Chile for "taking this first step" in arresting Fujimori.

Fujimori fled to Japan in November 2000 as his 10-year authoritarian government crumbled amid corruption scandals (see NotiSur, 2000-10-06). He faces 21 charges ranging from abuse of power and corruption to sanctioning a paramilitary death squad known as Colina, accused of two massacres of suspected rebel collaborators in which 25 people were killed, including an 8-year-old boy.

Peruvian prosecutors are seeking a 30-year sentence and a US$28.6 million fine for Fujimori's alleged role in the paramilitary death-squad massacres in the early 1990s, the most serious charge he faces.

Peruvian authorities have 60 days to make the extradition request and they are moving fast. On the same day as the arrest, President Toledo sent a high-level delegation led by Interior Minister Romulo Pizarro to Chile to try to expedite the procedure. The group included a top anti-corruption prosecutor.

Fujimori had been preparing for another run at Peru's presidency in elections set for April 2006, although the country's electoral authority has banned him from holding public office until February, 2011 (see NotiSur, 2005-10-14).

On Nov. 2, Fujimori signed a document at the Peruvian consulate in Tokyo that showed he was creating an alliance between his political party, Si Cumple, and two others--Cambio 90 and Nueva Mayoria, according to Hector Matallana, Peruvian consul general in Japan.

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