Fujimori, Alberto Keinya (1938–)
Fujimori, Alberto Keinya (1938–)
Alberto Fujimori, the son of Japanese immigrants who worked as farm laborers, was the president of Peru from 1990 to 2000. Raised in a working-class neighborhood and educated in public schools, Fujimori earned an agricultural engineering degree from Peru's National Agrarian University (La Molina) and a master's degree in mathematics from the University of Wisconsin (Milwaukee), taught at La Molina, and was elected the university's rector (president). Although he gained some recognition as host of a public issues television talk show, he was a political unknown when he launched his presidential campaign in 1989 as the candidate of Change 1990 (Cambio 90), newly formed by professionals, small businessmen, and evangelical Protestants.
To virtually everyone's surprise, he won the 1990 elections when the majority of the Peruvian electorate rejected the candidates of the political parties they deemed responsible for the country's worst economic and political crisis in more than a hundred years. Over the course of his administrations, Fujimori presided over the end of hyperinflation (from 7,650 percent in 1990 to 10 percent by 1995); the restoration of economic growth (from minus 10 percent in 1990 to more than 12 percent in 1994) through the application of neoliberal policies that included the reduction of government employees by some 400,000; and the demise of the Shining Path guerrillas (from more than 4,000 deaths attributed to Shining Path attacks in 1990 to less than 200 by 1995). The capture of guerrilla leader Abimael Guzmán Reynoso and the organization's master files in September 1992 was followed by a forgiveness decree encouraging more than five thousand guerrilla militants and sympathizers to return to society, and a major microdevelopment program that focused on Peru's poorest rural districts, which reduced extreme poverty from 31 percent to 15 percent between 1993 and 1998. In foreign affairs, the Fujimori government restored Peru's good standing in the international financial community and, in October 1998, following the Ecuador-Peru war that broke out along the frontier in January 1995, negotiated a definitive settlement of the countries' long-standing border dispute.
In spite of such successes, Fujimori progressively undermined Peru's democracy. In an April 1992 self-coup (autogolpe), he suspended congress, the judiciary, and constitutional guarantees. Although pressured by the Organization of American States (OAS) to restore democratic institutions, a new constitution allowed the president to seek a second successive term. After his 1995 reelection, Fujimori and his close adviser, Vladimiro Montesinos, increasingly engaged in manipulation of democratic institutions and the media to pursue an unconstitutional third term. Such blatant affronts to democracy, combined with an economic downturn beginning in 1998, contributed to growing popular disquiet and protest in the 2000 re-reelection campaign, tainted by what the OAS Election Observation Mission termed a fraudulent process. Within months, however, Montesinos and Fujimori fled Peru after revelations of a sale of Peruvian arms to Colombian guerrillas and of videotapes showing Montesinos buying off opposition members of congress to achieve a government majority; an interim administration took over in November 2000.
From exile in Japan, the discredited ex-president resisted Peru's extradition efforts by revealing that he had never renounced Japanese citizenship, and retained contact with supporters through a Web site. When he abandoned Japan for Chile in early 2006 so as to influence Peru's April elections, however, he was arrested and jailed. As of May 2007, a Chilean court continues to review Peru's request for Fujimori's extradition to stand trial for extrajudicial killings during his administration.
Carrión, Julio, ed. The Fujimori Legacy: The Rise of Electoral Authoritarianism in Peru. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006.
Conaghan, Catherine M. Fujimori's Peru: Deception in the Public Sphere. Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2005.
David Scott Palmer