Profile: Alberto Fujimori

The former president continues to divide Peruvians despite leaving seven years ago.

Former Peru president Alberto Fujimori

Fujimori was arrested after arriving
in Chile in November 2005 [AFP]

Alberto Fujimori remains a divisive figure in Peru even though he has not been the country’s president, or even in the country, for the last seven years.

On Friday, the former leader finally ran out of options when the Chilean supreme court ruled he is to be extradited to face charges of gross human rights violations and corruption.

The ruling is that latest twist in a colourful life that began 69 years ago when Fujimori was born on Peruvian independence day, July 28, to immigrant Japanese parents.

Following a career in agriculture and as an academic he was unexpectedly elected president in 1990 by defeating the renowned novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, whom he portrayed as the candidate of the Peruvian elite.

When he inherited the country from the outgoing president, Alan Garcia, it was blighted by hyperinflation and political violence. He immediately set about tackling both and forged a reputation as a strongman and competent economist.

To carry out his tough economic and political goals, Fujimori temporarily disbanded the legislature, stacked the courts with supporters, and bullied  news outlets.

He stepped up the campaign against the Maoist rebel group, the Shining Path, and scored a major victory in 1992 by capturing its founder, Abimael Guzman.

The group’s leadership then quickly collapsed.

However critics say there was a more criminal side to the crackdown.

Death squad

Peruvian prosecutors accuse Fujimori of ordering a death squad to carry out two notorious massacres – known as Barrios Altos and La Cantuta – in the early 1990s.

Students, a professor and a young child were among the two dozen people killed in the two incidents.

His popularity peaked in 1995 when he won a second term defeating Javier Perez de Cuellar, a former UN secretary general .

In 1997 he gained global attention by forcefully ending a four-month hostage crisis at the Japanese ambassador’s residence in Lima where more than 500 people were held by left-wing rebels.

Fujimori sent in a team of more than 100 commandos in a raid that ended with one hostage, two commandos, and all 14 rebels dead.

However, suspicions about his methods while in power became full-blown accusations after his resignation.

Election irregularities, which narrowly handed him a third term in 2000 prompted demonstrations and allegations of corruption which caused Fujimori to flee to Japan where he resigned by fax.


At the time Fujimori blamed Vladimiro Montesinos, his former senior adviser for the political meltdown.

Confiscated video tapes – dubbed “Vladi-videos” – aired on Peruvian television.The tapes were secretly recorded by Montesinos himself, and showed him giving large amounts of cash to politicians, journalists and businessmen to keep Peru running the way the president wished.

Fujimori is a self-confessed political junkie whose thirst for power brought him to Chile in 2005 after five years in Japan, where he can claim citizenship.

He wanted to be close to Peru to make another run for the presidency. His daughter Keiko had already registered his name with Peruvian authorities and built a political movement behind him.

Instead, he was arrested and embroiled in a legal battle.

His private life has often been as colourful as his political one.

Now married to a wealthy Japanese businesswoman, Fujimori had an acrimonious split from his first wife, who accused him of having her kidnapped and tortured.

He separated from his wife Susana Higuchi, also of Japanese descent, in 1994 and stripped her of the title of first lady and appointed Keiko in her stead.

He was also once pictured on the cover of a popular Peruvian magazine as a samurai, in traditional dress and holding a sword.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies