Fujimori pardon creates political havoc

30 December 2017

President Kuczynski’s highly controversial decision to release former president Alberto Fujimori from jail and to offer him a full pardon has continued to rock Peruvian politics over the week since Christmas. There have been huge demonstrations on the streets of Lima while, internationally, both the United Nations and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have condemned the move. The latter has ordered a hearing on the matter for 2 February.

Kuzynski has now lost a number of influential supporters unwilling to stomach the pardon. First to go was Congressman Alberto de Belaunde who had said he could not support the government over the pardon. He was immediately followed by Vicente Zeballos, another congressman and official spokesperson for Kuzynski’s Peruanos Por el Kambio (PPK) party. And later Gino Costa decided he could not remain either. This has reduced PPK’s strength in Congress to just 15 out of 130 seats.

As for ministers, Carlos Basombrío, the interior minister had asked to be relieved of his post when the crisis began and, on 27 December, he was followed by Culture Minister Salvador del Solar. A cabinet reshuffle is currently in the offing, and it expected that the new cabinet will bring in a number of Fujimori supporters into key positions. Kuczynski (probably without irony) has dubbed it a ‘cabinet of reconciliation’.

Many mid-ranking officials from the Ministry of Justice have tendered their resignations as have many in key positions in the Culture Ministry. As for senior presidential advisors, Máximo San Román and Felipe Ortiz de Zevallos, resigned on 29 December.

The reaction on the streets has been loud and clear. An estimated 40,000 people marched through Lima on 28 December, and many thousands more in other cities in the country. Although some incidents were reported, the demonstrations were for the most part peaceful. Youth organisations and student movements led the march in Lima, alongside human rights organisations and victims’ groups. Reflecting the loss of trust caused by the pardon, demonstrators demanded the resignation of Kuczynski and his government.

Within the judiciary, heads appear to have begun to roll. The Executive Council of Judiciary has ordered Judge Richard Concepción Carhuancho off the money laundering investigations linked to Odebrecht. He has refused to agree to transfer this investigation to the National Anti-Corruption System, arguing that he has the right to continue his investigation into scandals, at least those surrounding Alan Garcia. It would appear that the recent changes to the National Magistrates’ Council (Consejo Nacional de la Magistratura) are now having an impact on how investigations are conducted. Concepción Carhuancho finds himself at loggerheads with the president of the judiciary, Duberlí Rodríguez. 

Meanwhile Keiko Fujimori finally visited the office of José Domingo Pérez Gómez on 28 December to give evidence to the investigation into her 2011 presidential campaign finances. She claims to have had no knowledge of any wrongdoing, and the investigation continues.

If he manages to hold on to office over the next few weeks, Kuczynski is likely to find himself a prisoner of the Fujimorista Fuerza Popular (FP) party. Having failed to appease the Fujimori majority in Congress, he has now alienated many of those who supported him in the 2016 elections as the only person then standing in the way of a Fujimorista take-over. There is little reason to think that he will be able to recover his autonomy or authority over the three and a half years between now and the end of his term in 2021.

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