Peru Arrests Opposition Leader
Keiko Fujimori, a former presidential candidate and powerful Peruvian politician, was arrested last Wednesday, bringing uncertainty to one of Peru’s most powerful families. The Peruvian government alleges that Mrs. Fujimori, leader of the right-wing Popular Force party in Congress, was a co-conspirator in a money laundering scheme.
The arrest comes just days after Mrs. Fujimori's father, former President Alberto Fujimori, was ordered back to prison following a Supreme Court decision revoking a prior pardon involving his conviction on human rights abuses, which were executed when he ruled the country under a dictatorship in the 1990s.
Ms. Fujimori was detained at the chief prosecutor’s office along with 19 other suspects including her husband and her former campaign chief, Jaime Yoshiyama. Ms. Fujimori’s lawyer called the arrest “arbitrary.”
Prosecutors are accusing Fujimori of receiving illicit donations from a disgraced Brazilian company, Odebrecht. Money from these donations was spent on her 2011 presidential election campaign. Odebrecht has been at the center of numerous bribery scandals across Latin America, ensnaring Peru’s last four heads of state.
In March, the President of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, resigned after allegations arose that he had been indirectly involved in a vote-buying scandal involving Odebrecht.
According to Peru’s Judiciary, Ms. Fujimori has been deemed a flight risk and will be held in jail for ten days.
In a letter posted to her Twitter on Wednesday, Ms. Fujimori denounced her arrest, claiming she was politically persecuted, “Persecution is disguised as justice in our country. I’ve been detained without legal grounds.”
The second arrest of a Fujimori in weeks is a dramatic hit on one of Peru’s most powerful families. Fujimori’s father led an autocratic regime in Peru in the 1990’s. Alberto Fujimori was elected president in 1990, quickly suspending the countries Constitution. He ruled the country as a dictator for 10 years. Mr. Fujimori was eventually convicted in 2009 for human rights abuses and sentenced to 25 years to prison. Mr. Fujimori’s abuses included the killing of 25 people by a military death squad which he created in the early 90s while the country was locked in a battle with Maoist rebels.
Ms. Fujimori has become one of Peru’s most powerful politicians, serving as the head of the Popular Force party, which is currently the majority party in the country’s congress. As a right-wing populist wave has swept through Europe and Latin America, analysts feared that Ms. Fujimori’s rise to power would enact lasting damage on the democratic institutions of Peru.
With the fall of both her and her father, analysts now believe the opposite may be true.
“I think it’s a major point of weakening for Fujimorismo,” said Eduardo Dargent, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru. The term Fujimorismo refers to the political movement that the Fujimori’s have led in Peru.
In the most recent months, a weakening has occurred within the ranks of the Popular Force Party. Ms. Fujimori publicly clashed with her brother Kenji Fujimori, a former congressman, over an initial attempt to impeach President Kuczynski.
A second endeavor to impeach Mr. Kuczynski in March was led by Ms. Fujimori. This attempt proved successful, applying enough pressure on the disgraced President, that he voluntarily elected to resign. Her second push led to a further estrangement with her brother, splitting the party even more.