Anger in Peru after Fujimori’s pardon on health grounds

Police clash with protesters after clemency of ex-president who was sentenced in 2009 for corruption, kidnapping and rights abuses.

Police in Peru have fired tear gas and clashed with protesters demonstrating against the official pardon of ex-president Alberto Fujimori. 

Tensions were high in Peru’s capital, Lima, on Monday, as thousands took to the streets, a day after current President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ordered Fujimori’s clemency on health grounds. 

In 2009, Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison for corruption, kidnapping and human rights violations.

The 79-year-old was released from prison and sent to intensive care on Saturday, after a severe drop in his blood pressure.

In an address to the nation on Monday, Kuczynski called pardoning Fujimori “perhaps the most difficult decision” of his life.

Calling for an “effort at reconciliation”, he urged the protesters to “turn the page” and not be carried away by hate and “the negative emotions inherited from our past”.

‘My greatest pain’

Fujimori was found guilty of his role in disappearances and murders by a government-sanctioned death squad, Grupo Colina, during the 1990s.

President from 1990 to 2000, Fujimori has always maintained his innocence. His children have been campaigning for his release for years, saying he is ill and frail.

However, an official pardon was never issued, since Fujimori did not have a terminal illness – a condition for a humanitarian pardon.

A poll conducted in May this year showed 59 percent of Peru’s population supported a pardon of Fujimori, who was president between 1990 and 2000.

Avelino Guillen, former Fujimori prosecutor, says he regrets that a large part of the Peruvians think Fujimori is weak.

“My greatest pain is to acknowledge that to a part of the population, Alberto Fujimori was able to portray himself as a victim – looking frail, a depressing image, a hostage of the judiciary,” Guillen said.

‘I haven’t found justice’

Al Jazeera’s Mariana Sanchez, reporting from Lima, said relatives of Fujimori’s victims feel betrayed by his pardon.

“Many fought for justice for more than two decades,” she said.

“Maybe Peruvians, who for years opposed the presidential pardon, were open to Fujimori’s release if he asked for forgiveness for the crimes he committed.

“But for the families of the victims, that would never be enough.”

Norma Mendez, mother of one of Fujimori’s victims, said she wanted Fujimori to complete his sentence.

“They don’t care about our suffering, about our desolation and the pain we still endure. We will never find peace. He’s old while I’m old too. I haven’t found justice, so he must complete his sentence,” Mendez said.

Angry protesters clashed with police in Lima on Monday [Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters]
Angry protesters clashed with police in Lima on Monday [Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters]

However, supporters say Fujimori was crucial in defeating the Shining Path, a communist group that started a violent rebellion in the early 1980s, and preventing an all-out civil war.

Fujimori’s supporters also say it was he who made possible the economic recovery of Peru during the 1990s.

Despite his release, Fujimori is facing another trial. A case is pending for the death of six people.

If he is convicted, he could be facing another 25-year sentence.

Families of the victims have vowed to continue fighting against Fujimori.