Chinochet – Translation
[Daniel Alarcón, host]: Welcome to Radio Ambulante from NPR. I’m Daniel Alarcón.
[Alberto Fujimori]: We’re twenty kilometers from Lima, ten kilometers from Callao (laughs). Finally, we made it!
[Daniel]: We’re listening to Alberto Fujimori, former president of Peru, in a video he recorded on November 6th, 2005. In the video, he’s flying over the capital of Peru, after five years in Japan. He had fled there after the collapse of his government.
He dreamed of going back to Peru, but at that time, he couldn’t. He recorded this video on the way to a third country: Chile.
[Carlos Meléndez]: Because effectively, if he landed in Lima, he could be found guilty of 21 crimes and offenses.
[Daniel]: This is Carlos Meléndez. I met him in Santiago a few years ago, and he’s an expert on the topic of Fujimori. I talked to him about this very strange episode in the former president’s life. We Peruvians know what happened, in broad strokes, but as happens with many stories, you start getting closer, and everything becomes surprising, strange.
So, Fujimori couldn’t enter Peru because Interpol had an arrest warrant out for him. Peruvian authorities were looking for him on charges of corruption and crimes against humanity. Returning to Peru would almost certainly land him in jail.
But the former president had a plan.
[Carlos]: So, somehow he needed to find a… a way around that. One way, for example, is to go to a third country.
[Daniel]: In this case, the third country would be Chile. His planned hinged on several assumptions. First, he assumed that once he arrived in Chile, the Peruvians would request to have him extradited. He also assumed that the Chileans would refuse that request. And then…
[Carlos]: From Chile, you go toward northern Chile. You go to the… to the border with Peru and you enter free to run your 2006 political campaign. That was Alberto Fujimori’s plan.
[Daniel]: In other words, he wanted to go back. And not just to set foot on Peruvian soil for sentimental or patriotic reasons, but rather to run for president again. Which sounds, to be honest, pretty off the wall. As a plan, that is. But Carlos tells me that for Fujimori, it wasn’t. Not at all. In fact, it made all the sense in the world.
So, from Japan, Fujimori and his closest collaborators gathered their funds. Rented a private plane and left on November 6th, 2005.
It was a rather long journey —more than 20 hours— so they made a technical stop to refuel in Tijuana, Mexico. Fujimori didn’t even get off the plane. During the flight, he was so excited that he was recording videos to share with the press when he landed in Santiago. They were videos like this on, with a very poor quality.
[Alberto Fujimori]: I’m trying to put together a strategy. Finally, I decided to take…
[Daniel]: You can’t hear it very well, but in the video you can see the former president of Peru on the plane, talking to his children on the phone. He says that he’ll arrive in Chile that same day, November 6th. And he’ll arrive in Peru at any moment.
Fujimori was recording the video when the plane landed at Santiago’s main airport. He looks directly at the camera and says:
[Alberto Fujimori]: We’ve touched ground in South America. Next stop, Per
[Daniel]: “We’ve touched ground in South America. Next stop, Peru.”
[Carlos]: Since it was a private plane, this private plane goes in a private hanger, and then the Immigration personnel sent an official to the hanger to process the people there.
[Daniel]: The immigration agent asked for their passports, looked at them —there were two Peruvian, one US, and one Japanese— and he stamped them like it was nothing. He welcomed them and let them enter Chile.
[Carlos]: When he goes back to his spot, he puts their names in the system, and the Interpol alert goes out. Then he says: “Damn, Alberto Fujimori, of course. the ex-president of Peru. I didn’t know the justice system was after him.”
[Daniel]: When the agent realized the mistake he’d made…
[Carlos]: The guy leaves his office to look for Alberto Fujimori at the taxi exit of the airport. I mean, imagine the scene from the movie The Usual Suspects, right? When they’re looking for Keyser Söze, right? When they realize that Kevin Spacy is Keyser Söze. It’s identical. This official goes out to the… the taxi area and sees a Mercedes-Benz belonging to Fujimori’s lawyer (laughs) takes the… the whole delegation away.
[Daniel]: Fujimori had done it. He got around the international arrest warrant against him and entered Chile legally.
[Carlos]: Fujimori is welcomed with open arms by his friends, right? I mean, the plan had worked. Fujimori manages to leave Tokyo, goes through Tijuana, and arrives in Santiago. His Peruvian passport is stamped with a tourist visa, and he manages to go… to walk the streets of Santiago freely.
[Daniel]: He was already closer to Peru than he had been in years.
The immigration agent notified his superiors about what had happened. And the news started to spread all over Santiago.
[Constanza Santa María]: I was at the station. We learned that Alberto Fujimori had landed in Chile and that he had entered the country despite the international arrest warrant, and someone had approved Alberto Fujimori’s passport, and he was in Chile.
I’m Constanza Santa María. I’m a journalist for Canal 13 in Chile.
[Daniel]: In 2005, Constanza was a reporter for the local news station and she remembers very clearly the commotion Fujimori’s arrival caused in Santiago.
[Constanza]: You can imagine how crazy those investigations were, at customs, everyone trying to understand how Alberto Fujimori was able to enter the country without anyone realizing. But it was very… it was late. It was dark, I remember. It was… I don’t know, it must have been nine or ten o’clock at night.
[Daniel]: No one could explain what was happening.
[Constanza]: So, the arrival was really a… a shock to the system for the president at the time, Ricardo Lagos. I mean, an unwanted guest in the full expression of the phrase. I mean, you can imagine: What do we do with this person?
[Daniel]: This person whose visit caused so much political turmoil in Chilean society, not to mention Peruvian society, of course. In order to understand what brought Fujimori to first flee to Japan and later get around an international arrest warrant to go to Chile, we need to go back a little.
Carlos Meléndez continues the story.
[Carlos]: Alberto Fujimori was one of the first successful outsiders in Latin American politics. I say outsider because early in 1990 —the year of his presidential campaign— he was an unknown engineer and university professor, descended from Japanese immigrants. In other words, he wasn’t a figure in public life.
At that moment, Peru was in an economic and social crisis: hyperinflation had reached more than 2,000% annually, the terrorist groups the Shining Path and the MRTA, the Túpac Amaru Revolutionary movement were waging a war against the Peruvian State which would cause almost 60,000 deaths. The people of Peru had lost faith in the traditional political parties. Amid this situation, Fujimori decided to found Cambio 90 in order to run as a presidential candidate.
[Alberto Fujimori]: I’ve come to this debate because the independent movement Cambio 90 is convinced that you want to put an end to corruption.
[Carlos]: This is Fujimori at the 1990 presidential debate. In that year’s elections, no one doubted that the president-elect would be Mario Vargas Llosa, who was already a renowned author who counted on support from the right.
[Mario Vargas Llosa]: I’ve left behind my books, my desk, my vocation which I love so much: so I’m asking for your vote. We must privatize the public sector. We must put an end to mercantilism and interventionist and socialist methods that only bring poverty and failure.
[Carlos]: But Fujimori promised a change, a change in the political class, though he didn’t give many details about what measures he would take. All he promised was that they weren’t going to be the same measures as Vargas Llosa’s. And apparently, these promises were enough for the electorate.
At the start of the campaign, no one could have imagined that an unknown like Fujimori would end up defeating Vargas Llosa in the runoff. This is Fujimori reading his inaugural address the day he took office.
[Alberto Fujimori]: It is up to us to face the most profound crisis the country has ever experienced in its history as a republic. A country divided by violence, corruption, terrorism, and drug trafficking. We inherited, well, a disaster.
[Carlos]: I remember that disaster very well. I grew up in Zárate, a growing neighborhood in Lima, and I was 12 when Fujimori won that election. I’ll never forget what those car bombs that the terrorist groups set off all over the city sounded like, thinking from time to time: “That one sounds close; I wonder where it was?” That was the chaos we experienced daily in Peru.
Barely a month after he arrived in the Palacio de Gobierno, Fujimori ended up doing what he had promised he wasn’t going to do. On August 8th, 1990, he announced that the price of fuel, food and other basic products would no longer be controlled by the government, in other words, they would be left to the free market. Fujimori justified abandoning his promise saying it was the only solution the intense crisis that Peru had been in for years. It’s almost impossible to exaggerate the chaos we lived through the next day.
[Journalist]: Long and disorderly lines are forming around the municipality of Ate-Vitarte.
[Woman]: We left our children, sir, to come look for a kilogram of sugar but they won’t serve us.
[Journalist]: There are problems due to the fact that many stores haven’t opened their doors today.
[Woman]: All we ask is that you open the markets so we can buy a little something, anything, to cook today. What are we going to feed our children?
[Woman]: The people are hungry. These scoundrels are selling what they feel like.
[Carlos]: There measures were known as the “Fujishock”: food and other basic products were in short supply and we had to stand in line to get just a little. Work stoppages and strikes with no end in sight were halting the country. The constant rise in the price of gasoline made it so that public buses weren’t running. Peru was a country that seemed to have no horizon.
But Fujimori didn’t turn back: he continued with the adjustment reforms and kept going after the heads of terrorist groups. Two years later, frustrated by the limits imposed on him by reaching agreements with other parties on these issues, Fujimori appeared on national television and announced:
[Alberto Fujimori]: I have decided to take the following far-reaching measures. First, dissolve… temporarily dissolve the Congress of the Republic, until a new organic structure of legislative power is approved by way of national plebiscite. Second, completely reorganize judicial power. The National Council
[Carlos]: Starting that day, Fujimori eliminated the congress and concentrated all power in the executive branch so he could start governing by decree.
[Alberto Fujimori]: I reiterate that as a citizen elected by the vast majority of the nation, I am only motivated by the desire to achieve prosperity and grandeur for the Peruvian nation.
[Carlos]: Fujimori justified dissolving congress as necessary to confronting terrorism by the Shining Path and the MRTA. And, even though it sounds unbelievable, there wasn’t much criticism within the country. A large portion of Peruvian society seemed to accept these authoritarian measures, given the chaos they were experiencing at the time. However, the international community started pressuring the Fujimori government, saying that he had performed a “self-coup,” in that Fujimori was turning the Peruvian democracy into an authoritarian regime. Facing that pressure, toward the end of the year Fujimori called for elections to elect a new congress which would also draft a new constitution.
In September 1992, a few months after Congress was closed..
[Journalist]: We’re in radio communication with the prefecture of Lima where Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, leader of the most violent group in the world, will be presented at a press conference.
[Carlos]: The leader of the Shining Path was captured, and the authorities organized a conference to present him before the global press.
[Journalist]: We’ll go on to present Manuel Rubén Abimael Guzmán, alias Comrade Gonzalo, 57 years.
[Carlos]: It was a very powerful image: Guzmán in a cage, in a black and white striped suit.
[Journalist]: What do you have to say for the 25 thousand deaths?
[Abimael Guzmán]: As children of the people.
[Journalist]: And the killings?
[Abimael Guzmán]: We’re fighting against…
[Carlos]: And as the journalists asked him to answer for his crimes, he responded by shouting Shining Path slogans.
[Abimael Guzmán]: Because we are communists…
[Voice]: Communism is already dead!
[Carlos]: Guzmán’s capture was key since, after his fall, the revolt was toppled by the State. In the following years, the economy started to stabilize, and Fujimori’s popularity started to grow. It seemed like Fujimori’s authoritarian route was becoming legitimized in the eyes of many Peruvians. All this made it possible that in the 1995 elections…
[Journalist]: Attention. Second-time president-elect, winner in the first round, engineer Alberto Fujimori. Cambio 90, the new majority. You heard it: there will be no second round.
[Carlos]: Fujimori is re-elected and has the luxury of beating the former secretary general of the UN, Javier Pérez de Cuéllar, in the first round. And besides that, his party won an absolute majority in congress. Fujimorism was at its peak.
So on the one hand, we had Fujishock and the self-coup. On the other, the capture of Guzmán and the economic recovery. On the balance sheet of the time, for a large majority of Peruvians, Fujimori’s first term had been, to a certain point, a success. But in his second term as president —in the late ‘90s— he starts to lose that balance. The more perverse side of Fuijimorismo became apparent, the crimes he committed against citizens during his presidency came to light.
Two of the most serious human rights violations were the massacres at Barrios Altos and La Cantuta. In the case of Barrios Altos, on November 3rd, 1991, a paramilitary group organized by the government, entered a party in a neighborhood in central Lima believing they were Senderistas and killed 15 innocent people, including a child. In La Cantuta, on July 18th, 1992, that same group kidnapped and killed nine university students and a professor.
Despite crimes like these, and the fact that, in theory, it was unconstitutional to serve as president a third time, in 2000…
(SOUNDBITE OF “EL RITMO DEL CHINO”)
[Voices]: Chino! Chino! Chino! Chino! Chino!
[Carlos]: Fujimori ran for a third term in office.
[Alberto Fujimori]: Democracy is people! Democracy isn’t political power for some!
[Voice]: And you dance like this. And you move like this…
[Carlos]: It was a rather controversial election. Since, from within the government, Fujimori used all the levers at his disposal to try to win the new election. A third consecutive presidential term in Peru is unprecedented.
This time Fujimori wasn’t able to win in the first round, and he went into a runoff against Alejandro Toledo. But the international community agreed that the election wasn’t going to be clean or fair, so Toledo decides to withdraw. The second round concludes with Fujimori as the only candidate.
People started taking to the streets to keep Fujimori from starting his third term.
[Voces]: This democracy is fake democracy! Go to hell, Chino Fujimori! Go to hell, Chino Fujimori!
[Carlos]: But it was impossible to stop it. On July 2000, Fujimori started his third term as president. However, the continuity of his government was unsustainable.
That September, the media got a hold of some videos in which his advisor and head of intelligence Vladimiro Montesinos bribed members of the opposition in congress with stacks of money in cash. It was known as the “Vladivideos” scandal, or the case of the “Congressional Defectors,” because of the way they were paying off these politicians to get them to go join the Fujimorista coalition. Montesinos was a rather dark figure; by that point, he had already been pointed but for his connection to accusations of torture and killing that took place in the basement of the Military Intelligence Service in the ‘90s.
The “Vladivideos” revelation had such a big impact that barely two days later Fujimori made a new announcement on national television.
[Alberto Fujimori]: After much reflection and objective evaluation of the situation, I have decided to first deactivate the National Intelligence System and secondly, to call for general elections as soon as possible.
[Carlos]: But he clarified something.
[Alberto Fujimori]: In this general election, needless to say, I will not be participating.
[Carlos]: Fujimori gave in to the pressure and called for elections the following year.
While he prepared for the transition, Fujimori took advantage of an invitation to an international summit in Brunei —a country south of the Asian continent— to leave the country.
[Journalist]: Fujimori confirmed to the Lima agency on Sunday night from Tokyo that he will offer his formal resignation to the president of Congress, Valentín Paniagua, at the same time leaving open the possibility of continuing his political career as a member of congress.
[Carlos]: He left on November 13th, 2000 and didn’t come back.
[Journalist]: Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, who confirmed his resignation from office with AFP from Tokyo, will leave office within the next 48 hours leaving the worst crisis in decades in his wake.
[Carlos]: From Brunei, he had flown to Tokyo and from there on November 19th, 2000, he resigned from office as the president of Peru via a letter he faxed to the Peruvian Congress.
In Japanese territory, Fujimori was welcomed like the prodigal son. His Japanese ancestry got their attention, and many remembered him because of a terrorist incident in late 1996. Toward the end of that year, members of the MRTA entered the residence of the Japanese ambassador in Lima during a party and took hundreds of hostages, with 72 remaining in the end. The takeover of the residence lasted more than four months, and in the end, Fujimori ordered a military intervention that freed the hostages. All of the Emerretistas (members of the MRTA) died.
That won him the gratitude of a large portion of Japanese society and the Japanese political class because among the hostages that were rescued were around 20 Japanese business leaders and officials from the Japanese embassy in Lima.
So, settled in Tokyo, Fujimori began a new life far from the country he had governed: he gave talks and conferences about his struggle against terrorism and took advantage of the curiosity stirred by his trajectory. In one of these talks, he met someone who would become his girlfriend. Satomi Kataoka, a Japanese businesswoman connected to the right in that country. Fujimori made a rather comfortable life for himself in Japan, while Peru attempted to rebuild their democracy.
By then, in Peru, the president of the Congress has assumed control of the interim government and call for new elections. The new government broadened the Attorney General’s Office’s anti-corruption mandate to investigate the alleged crimes committed by Fujimori and his allies. Besides the cases in Barrios Altos and La Cantuta which we already mentioned, they were investigating other human rights violations committed during his term as president, like torture in the basement of the Intelligence Service. The were also investigating cases of corruption, like the congressional defectors, buying editorial lines in media outlets, illegally wiretapping members of the opposition, and others.
In 2004, Antonio Maldonado was appointed anti-corruption prosecutor and one of his tasks was to carry out Fujimori’s extradition from Japan. He wasn’t the first prosecutor who had been given this task, his predecessors had already run into the political protection Japan provided Fujimori. This is Maldonado.
[Antonio Maldonado]: There were a few requests for extradition which Japan, in the most the criollo way, the most arrogant way, with the most disrespect to the people and the State of Peru, didn’t even dignify with a response.
[Carlos]: According to Maldonado, the Japanese government just sent questions and more questions and asked for innocuous clarifications. In other words, they strung along, delayed, and frustrated the Peruvian lawyers.
[Antonio]: So, Japan really was mocking the Peruvian State. Japan was openly protecting Fujimori.
[Carlos]: Maldonado clearly remembers a meeting with a minister from the Japanese Embassy who told him:
[Antonio]: That we were wasting time. That the State of Peru —a poor country— was using its money poorly and should use its money on something better.
[Carlos]: And he also threatened them.
[Antonio]: That if we proceeded with the suit before the International Court of Justice, we would see a wi… a withdrawal of international cooperation from Japan. He said: “In concrete terms, we’re thinking of aiding in the reconstruction or improvement of the facilities at Machu Picchu.”
[Carlos]: But the State of Peru wasn’t ready to give up on extradition. So, in 2005, they considered bringing the State of Japan before the International Court of Justice at the Hague.
[Antonio]: For what? For violation of the International Convention Against Torture. In other words, the universal obligation to pursue and punish a person charged with perpetrating systematic torture. In short, under the language of the UN convention on torture.
[Carlos]: While the Peruvian State was doing everything possible to try to bring Fujimori to Peru and put him on trial, in the middle of September of that same year, 2005, Fujimori visited the Peruvian consulate in Tokyo to renew his passport.
[Journalist]: Professor, how do you feel? Your passport.
[Alberto Fujimori]: Well, this is visible proof that I am 100% Peruvian and that I am in a position to prepare myself for the coming year. Thank you very much. Goodbye.
[Carlos]: It’s hard to hear but Fujimori says: “I’m in a position to prepare myself for the coming year.” The coming year, in other words, the 2006 presidential election. An announcement like that, almost off the cuff, sounded absurd, honestly. I mean, Fujimori running for president of Peru? No one took it the possibility of him leaving Japan seriously. Since, even though there was the threat of a trial at the Hague, the protection of the Japanese political class seemed quite solid.
So, there are two theories of why Fujimori decided to leave Japan. The first —which is popular among diplomats— is that the accusations from the Peruvian foreign ministry managed to put pressure on the Japanese government and that forced Japan to abandon their offer of political protection and shelter for Fujimori.
But the other hypothesis is that Fujimori got tired of the land of his ancestors, that he wanted to continue being active in politics. This is Fujimori in a US documentary that came out in 2005.
[Alberto Fujimori]: I have, I must admit, I have the skills to be president. I like the job of being president.
[Carlos]: And it seems he couldn’t be more explicit about his intentions.
[Alberto Fujimori]: I think for me it’s a duty to return, to lead the people of Peru again.
[Carlos]: With the prospect of new elections in Peru in 2006, everything indicates that he couldn’t resist, and he started planning his return.
In any case, going back to Peru wasn’t going to be easy. As we already said, if Fujimori went directly to Peruvian territory, he would be arrested immediately to be tried for the open cases against him.
The hypothesis that many have is that the plan was to go to a third country with the intention of going through an extradition process. I’ll explain: the justice system in this third country would evaluate the cases Fujimori would stand trial for in Peru. If they found them worthy of extradition, they would hand him over to Peruvian authorities, but if that third country rejected the request for extradition, Fujimori would go free, all of the charges against him would be dropped and he would be able to return to Peru and even participate in the upcoming elections.
That’s why he had to choose the third country wisely. Chile’s proximity to Peru was one of the factors that influenced his decision, but according to Maldonado, the anti-corruption prosecutor, another very important factor was…
[Antonio]: Chile’s tradition of denying extraditions in similar cases, beginning with the Nazi criminal Rauff, of course.
[Carlos]: In the previous decade, Chile had denied all requests for extradition. There were even historic rejections. For example, they didn’t even extradite Walter Rauff, who Maldonado mentioned, who was a Nazi officer who was responsible for the deaths of a quarter-million people in Auschwitz. Chile seemed like the most obvious choice.
Almost two months after renewing his Peruvian passport, Fujimori was on that private plane flying from Tokyo to Santiago, recording the video we heard at the start.
[Alberto Fujimori]: We’re twenty kilometers from Lima, ten kilometers from Callao (laughs). Finally, we made it!
[Carlos]: And we already told you what happens: Fujimori arrives in Chile, goes through immigration, they stamp his passport as a tourist, and he goes out to the streets of Santiago.
[Antonio]: The State of Peru was left in a state of absolute shock, but our reaction was immediate.
[Carlos]: Through contacts they had in Chile, representatives of the Peruvian government found out about of Fujimori’s arrival even before the Chilean officials themselves. For their part, the Chilean investigative police checked all the hotels in the city until they located him at the Marriott Hotel. And they learned that Fujimori was planning on giving a press conference.
Those very rumors made it to Constanza Santa María, the journalist we heard at the start.
[Constanza]: So I went to the Marriot right away trying to look for and find Fujimori. All the media outlets were there. We all arrived together because we were trying to get the first image.
[Carlos]: The exclusive. But the press conference wasn’t starting, and Fujimori was nowhere to be found.
[Constanza]: I remember keeping watch. They threw us out five times that night. I stayed at the Marriott all night. I managed to get in the Marriott because obviously, the cameras were outside, but I wanted to go in even if it was to see, to get… At that time, I think I… I must not have had a cell phone but to see him and ask him some things. I had a microphone hidden on me somewhere.
[Carlos]: Constanza looked on every floor until she got to one where you needed a special card to enter. She couldn’t keep going, so she went back to the first floor and sat at the bar, to wait.
That same Sunday, the president of Peru had assembled a team of prosecutors from the Ministry of Justice and the team from the foreign ministry to direct Fujimori’s extradition, no longer from Japan, but from Chile.
[Antonio]: In a few hours, the team from the foreign ministry activates the extradition treaty with Chile, which was an old treaty. And the Peruvian state issues a preliminary request for arrest for Fujimori in Chile. And at 8:30 p.m. in Peru, 10:30 p.m. in Santiago, Chile, Fujimori is arrested at the Marriott Hotel as is recorded for history.
[Constanza]: And finally the moment he comes out is when the police arrive, they come to arrest him, and they take him, but they take him through the parking lot.
[Carlos]: He left in a car, without Constanza or any other media being able to speak to him. They only got his picture.
Fujimori’s arrival and subsequent arrest in Chile took his lawyer, César Nakazaki, by surprise as well. At the time, he was in Lima and he learned about it from the media. Nakazaki flew to Santiago right away, and then after a few procedural steps with the first lawyer Fujimori had hired in Chile, he managed to see him. Fujimori was being held at the School of Gendarmerie. When Nakazaki went in to see him…
[César Nakazaki]: He acted in a Japanese way, you know? Like we had spoke, very little. I only spoke with him a few seconds because, beside, the gendarmerie — even though they were treating him with respect, with dignity — it was Chile, right? So, they treated him sternly. We couldn’t talk much. The gendarmerie was tough.
[Carlos]: The judge had denied him bail. Fujimori was just then realizing the mistake he had made.
[César Nakazaki]: Then, the president expressed, well, all of his feelings about being in prison, you know? It was a difficult moment.
[Carlos]: Fujimori, the engineer, had miscalculated and now he was in jail in Chile.
During his presidency, Fujimori had been friendly with Chile. He had done things like praise and replicate some of the public policies in that country or invite Chilean business people to invest in Peru, so he thought he had good friends and defenders in that country.
But Fujimori, it seemed, didn’t consider the fact that at the time there were presidential elections in Chile, and the favorite to win, the socialist Michelle Bachelet, had experienced firsthand the horror of the Augusto Pinochet dictatorship. Her father was tortured and died at the hands of his guards in those years, and she herself survived torture at the hands of soldiers that Pinochet led. For Bachelet, the crimes that Fujimori was accused of reminded her of the horrors committed by the Chilean dictator’s government.
As a candidate, Bachelet was the first to demand that Fujimori be punished. This is Bachelet after Fujimori arrived in Chile.
[Michelle Bachelet]: He has not been invited. He came here and I think all us Chileans are wondering, why did he come?
[Carlos]: Fujimori’s plan was for the Chilean justice system —which he considered to be neutral and independent of political biases— to examine all or most of the accusations against him. His grave error was believing that he would find in Chile the protective covering that he counted on in Japan.
[Daniel]: He was wrong. After the break, Fujimori faces justice in Chile.
We’ll be right back.
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[Daniel]: We’re back with Radio Ambulante. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Before the break, we heard how the ex-president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, found himself arrested in Chile after having unexpectedly left Japan. Fujimori had managed to get a tourist visa to the country, thus evading immediate expulsion, but now he was facing the extradition process.
Carlos Meléndez continues the story.
[Carlos]: In the extradition agreement between Peru and Chile it was established that the Peruvian government had to present the case against Fujimori in two months. This was to decide to extradite him or not. If they didn’t make that deadline, Fujimori would go free.
For Antonio Maldonado, the anti-corruption prosecutor, and his team, those were the two most intense months of work in their lives, but they did it.
Three days before the deadline, they had completed 12 notebooks detailing the 12 accusations against Fujimori. Maldonado arranged to travel to Chile to deliver the notebooks personally. For security reasons, they traveled in a plane belonging to the Peruvian Air Force, not on a commercial flight.
[Antonio]: This happens in the first few days of January in 2006. A flight leaving very early from the air base in Lima direct to the Jorge Chávez airport.
[Carlos]: Three people went on the plane, plus the crew. And the rest of the space was filled with boxes and boxes of papers.
[Antonio]: It was 12 notebooks, but each notebook had thousands of pages. Thousands of… I mean, the whole plane was filled with that… with that cargo. Our luggage was very small.
At one point, the crew, while we were passing over I think it was the Andean Mountain Range, moving into the Chilean Andes. The plane… the temperature in the plane was… colder, and the crew opens a little box, take out some sandwiches they had prepared, and gave them to us. Anyway.
And soon smoke starts coming out of Ciurlizza seat.
[Carlos]: Javier Ciurlizza, an advisor from the Foreign Ministry, who was also on the plane.
[Antonio]: But it was a significant smoke. So, we were all alarmed, of course. Javier stood up. “What’s going on?” The cabin crew came and calmed us down. Calmed us down, you know? They told us: “No, look this is, eh, a thermostat has overheated. Don’t… don’t… don’t… don’t worry.” They were used to it, you know?
[Carlos]: The crew wasn’t worried in the slightest, but all Maldonado could think was:
[Antonio]: Imagine if this flight had… crashed into the mountains.
[Carlos]: They would lose their shot at extraditing Fujimori. Well, that and they would all die.
The boxes of notebooks and everyone who was traveling on the plane made it safely to Santiago. And while Chilean authorities were evaluating the Peruvian suit, Fujimori was still in detention. But there he was visited by his closest political collaborators who told him what was happening in the 2006 Peruvian electoral campaign. His daughter —Keiko Fujimori— was the head of the Fujimorista congressional ticket. From his cell in Chile, Fujimori continued politicking in Peru. And he even married Satomi Kataoka, the Japanese businesswoman who he had started a relationship with while he was in Japan. She announced their marriage at a rally in Lima.
[Man]: And it is my great pleasure to announce that Satomi is now married to Alberto!
[Carlos]: Satomi spoke publicly about her unconditional support for her husband.
[Satomi Kataoka]: Putting my whole life at stake to fight for Alberto Fujimori.
[Carlos]: And on several occasions, she went to Fujimorista campaign events, where she also asked for support.
[Man]: Satomi wants to ask the Peruvian people to please save Chino.
[Carlos]: Her wishes were granted since, after six months in confinement, in May 2006, the Chilean justice system accepted Fujimori’s defense team’s insistent request for provisional release while the evidence in the case was being examined. This is Fujimori when he was released from the School of Gendarmerie.
[Alberto Fujimori]: I am leaving just as I came here, through my patience and through my trust in Chilean authorities.
[Journalist]: Do you… do you trust the Chilean Ministry of Justice?
[Alberto Fujimori]: Ah, yes and because I consider myself…
[Journalist]: Do you have a message for Peru?
[Carlos]: The Chilean Ministry of Justice had set him free. Fujimori could live as one more among the Peruvian residents of Santiago, though unlike his immigrant compatriots —most of whom were informal workers— Fujimori moved into a mansion in one of the most comfortable neighborhoods in Santiago, and he was free to travel across Chile, touring its beaches and lakes, engaging in one of his favorite hobbies: fishing.
He became the most famous Peruvian immigrant in the country, and the press was watching his every move. Every journalist wanted an exclusive with him.
[Constanza]: I was permanently on the lookout for him. I looked for him for two years.
[Carlos]: Again, this is journalist Constanza Santa María. She was still working at Canal 13 during the summer of 2007 when she was presented with another opportunity to get that exclusive.
[Constanza]: I knew he had been invited to a ceremony which was the weirdest kind there was. I mean, it was a launch party for a biology book, by a doctor, ultimately, who was the doctor who was his friend Pedro Vidal.
[Carlos]: The doctor was a plastic surgeon who had a reality show on public access television.
[Pedro Vidal]: Hello, I’m Dr. Pedro Vidal and I’d like to welcome you to a new episode of “Surgery for Body and Soul.”
[Carlos]: And on June 11th, 2007, he was presenting the book he had written on Chilean insects.
[Constanza]: I mean, imagine it. It’s the least relevant event in terms of the audience. I mean, no journalists went to see the book launch.
[Carlos]: So, yes, it’s bizarre that Constanza, after searching for him for two years, managed to speak to him at the launch party for a book about insects written by a TV doctor. And just days before, something else happened which would make this meeting more important: a judge had revoked Fujimori’s bail and put out an order for him to go into house arrest.
[Journalist]: Alberto Fujimori was just spotted leaving a social event at the Universidad Católica de Chile, by a Canal 13 camera.
[Carlos]: Constanza and her team tried to record Fujimori’s reaction to this news.
[Constanza]: Mister Fujimori, Constanza Santa María, Canal 13. We can wait. Just to… to ask you general questions at… at the exit. But it’s short. Just a quick question.
[Alberto Fujimori]: Another time.
[Constanza]: But two… just two words for Canal 13. Do you regret having come to Chile?
[Alberto Fujimori]: But, gosh, I’ve come to Chile so many times. One… one more, no.
[Constanza]: But, you don’t… don’t regret it after seeing what happened… what has already happened with the Attorney General?
[Alberto Fujimori]: No, I don’t regret it.
[Constanza]: And if you’re extradited, would you regret it?
[Alberto Fujimori]: No, no. Well, we have to wait to see what happens.
[Carlos]: Now under arrest, this time in his home and with the threat of a ruling against him, Fujimori played one last card: using his Japanese citizenship, he ran for the senate in Japan, from Chile, hoping for the immunity that position would afford him.
[Alberto Fujimori]: Well, in the first place, I had this invitation a few weeks ago. I’ve been thinking about it. And this small party in Japan, The People’s New Party, has had a very high opinion of how I ran my government.
[Carlos]: On June 27th, Fujimori officially declared his candidacy and called himself “The Last Samurai.” Since he couldn’t leave Chilean territory while he was waiting for the ruling on extradition, the only way he could communicate with his Japanese electorate was through videos recorded under house arrest.
[Alberto Fujimori]: アルベルトフジモリです.
[Carlos]: This is an ad for his campaign.
[Alberto Fujimori]: ペルー大統領にとうしての経験を生かし日本の国民の皆さんに摘みのことを約束します。.
[Carlos]: On screen, Fujimori appears in a garden and he promises to apply all of the experience he acquired as president of Peru to the benefit of the people of Japan. Fujimori, of course, was born and grew up in Peru. And though he’s fluent in his parents’ language, he has an accent. A thick accent. You can tell he’s a foreigner.
[Carlos]: From Tokyo, his wife Satomi could run the campaign. She took to the streets. In a video, she appears on top of a “samurai-mobile” in a gigantic box on top of a car with Fujimori’s photo and several megaphones.
[Satomi Sataoka]: で、フジモリさんはずっと移民で行って、そのずーっと特権階級が牛耳ってきた政治を、彼は革命的にやっぱり変えて、文盲の人達に文字を教えて、ずっと植民地政策で苦しんできた人達を助けたわけなんですよ。やっぱり今の日本にはそういうリーダーが必要だと思って、ぜひやって欲しいということで、で最終的には彼はやっぱりペルーのことをとても（…）。」.
That’s Satomi in an interview, saying that as president of Peru, Fujimori “made a revolutionary change in politics and taught the illiterate to read and write.” Even with all these efforts, Fujimori only got around 50 thousand votes and came in fourth in his race. His last card had been taken off the table.
Against all predictions, in July of 2007, the first ruling in Chile was in Fujimori’s favor. They rejected his extradition in the first instance. But it was a short lived victory since the State of Peru immediately appealed to the Supreme Court of Chile, which would have the last word.
Months earlier something had happened that changed the outlook of Fujimori’s case: on December 10th, 2006, the former dictator of Chile Augusto Pinochet died at 91 years old, in the Santiago Military Hospital. For Antonio Maldonado, the ex-prosecutor for the Peruvian State…
[Antonio]: This fact transforms the judicial situation in Chile in Peru’s favor.
[Carlos]: Here we need to explain the relationship between Fujimori and Pinochet. It had started in the ‘90s when Fujimori came to power and put in place the market reforms in Peru that we talked about at the start of the episode. National and international media outlets started comparing it to what Pinochet had done in Chile. To many people at the time, Pinochet was a heavy-handed leader who had established order in a chaotic country.
And that’s how in the mid-’90s, after the initial success of Fujimori’s measures, a new nickname for him emerged: he became “Chinochet.” And at first, he liked that nickname, he was even flattered. But ten years later, when crimes of the Pinochet dictatorship had been revealed, Chinochet became synonymous with an affront to democracy and human rights in Chile and in Peru.
When Fujimori arrived in Chile, Pinochet was still alive; he was in Santiago and he was also in the middle of a trial. But he died without being sentenced for this government’s crimes. This is César Nakazaki, again, Fujimori’s lawyer.
[César Nakazaki]: So it was clear to us that since Pinochet couldn’t be the spoils of war, it was going to be Chinochet.
[Carlos]: The spoils of war for Michelle Bachelet, who was already president of Chile. Bachelet had committed herself to advancing human rights as a policy of the state, as part of the Chilean identity. And putting Fujimori on trial was a unique opportunity to put that to the test.
[César Nakazaki]: Obviously, we always considered that scenario, we always… At least I always considered it.
[Carlos]: According to Nakazaki, the justice that Pinochet had never met was coming for Fujimori. Even though, to him, they were completely different cases.
[César Nakazaki]: Fujimori and Peru were up against the largest terrorist organization that has ever existed in the Americas. Pinochet, on the other hand, was up against communists and socialists. There’s a big difference. You can’t compare them.
[Carlos]: Maldonado agrees that Pinochet’s death had an effect on Fujimori’s case, but to him, what had changed was that now the Supreme Court didn’t have to worry about how what they decided would affect Pinochet’s fate, which was a case that had Chilean society deeply split. So, Pinochet’s death is a determining factor because it allowed…
[Antonio]: The Second Penal Chamber of the Supreme court to not only, let’s say, accept in large part or the strongest part of the charges in the request for extradition by the State of Peru, but to also accept the theory of perpetration by means.
[Carlos]: Under the theory of perpetration by means, they don’t need to prove that Fujimori gave the direct order, for example, in the case of La Cantuta, to kill those students and that professor, in order to find him guilty. It was enough to prove that the paramilitary group that performed the killings was organized by the government, and as the chief executive, Fujimori was responsible. If Pinochet had been alive, this theory would have opened the door to his incrimination.
So in September of 2007…
[Journalist]: Well, 22 months have passed between Fujimori’s arrival in Chile and the approval of his extradition.
[Carlos]: Two of the cases presented —Barrios Altos-La Cantuta and the Congressional defectors, better known as the Vladivideos— were sanctioned by unanimous vote by the justices. The Court also accepted, by majority vote, five other cases. Seven in total.
[Journalist]: As soon as the Supreme Court put an end to the hold, President Michelle Bachelet picked up the phone and called her Peruvian counterpart Alan García to inform him directly of the decision.
[Journalist]: The head of state denied that… outright having put any pressure on the ruling.
[Carlos]: This is Bachelet.
[Michelle Bachelet]: The justice system took the time it needed to give the ruling it needed and thus there’s no form of maneuvering here.
[Carlos]: Constanza Santa María never stopped trying to get that interview, the one she had been trying to get when Fujimori landed in Santiago two years earlier. And now, with the issue of extradition settled, she tried one last time.
[Constanza]: I started working, uhm… as if on a jewelry project to get an interview saying: “Before you would leave, how about you give an interview?”
[Carlos]: Like on a jewelry project, in other words, meticulously, insistently. Which consisted of trying to convince Fujimori’s advisors and lawyers and the ex-president himself to agree to the interview.
And she did it. On Fujimori’s last day, in his final hours in Chile, she got one of the lawyers to let her go into the residence where Fujimori was serving his house arrest.
[Constanza]: So I got in the… in a car. I think it was the channel’s car, but I got in hiding… hiding. The cameraman and I went in hiding. I went in hiding, covered, covered below with some things.
[Carlos]: They didn’t want the journalists who were constantly outside of the condo where Fujimori was staying to see them.
[Constanza]: And they took us to… to the house where all of his bags were ready for him to leave.
[Carlos]: Constanza had Fujimori face to face one more time. It was still winter, but they decided to do the interview in the house’s garden. Constanza knew that Fujimori liked gardening and grew flowers; she wanted him to feel comfortable.
[Constanza]: So I wanted to do something between a walk and a conversation and that also… to say to him: “I know you like flowers.” So he’d show me, I don’t know, what he did for those two years.
[Carlos]: Fujimori hadn’t lost his forced, affected optimism throughout his time in Chile, and he tried to convince Constanza that…
[Constanza]: All the same, he had triumphed because, in the end, they extradited him, but not for all of the accusations against… against him in Peru. So he had achieved his goal which was creating a kind of filter in Chile and to filer… and that he wasn’t extradited on all the charges.
[Carlos]: Even in his last moments of freedom, or perhaps precisely because of it, the ex-president didn’t miss a chance to show off his charm.
[Constanza]: And he tells me he has this hobby —which I knew— but he tells me about the plants and he invites me to go see this rose garden he had. And he was… was… we say in Chile canchero [lit. ‘skillful’] with women.
[Carlos]: Canchero, in other words, he was being charming.
[Constanza]: So, while we’re recording the interview, he goes to cut a flower to give it to me.
[Carlos]: Fujimori went for one of the roses he had grown himself and when he got close to cut the flower, he tripped.
[Constanza]: And he falls to the ground. He falls, he falls flat on his face.
[Carlos]: With a flower in his hand. One of Fujimori’s assistants came to help him up.
[Constanza]: He… like trying to recover with this coat, which was like stiff. So it was hard for him to get up with the flower in his hand. I got the flower after that. Imagine it: he had fallen trying to… to pick a flower.
[Carlos]: They tried to continue the interview, but…
[Constanza]: From then on he was like disheveled in the interview because obviously something that was quite terrible for his image had happened. And, well, everything fell apart, and the advisor ultimately asked us to please not publish, uhm that image. Asked us not to show that image which was… which was an accident and that showed him in a very poor light. And somehow, he ultimately threw in my face the fact that he was giving me this interview and it was the only interview he was going to do. So the condition was that we not publish that part.
[Carlos]: And yes, Constanza agreed and they aired the interview without the fall.
When they were done, Fujimori took his things and went directly into a police helicopter, which was waiting for him in the condo’s golf course to take him to the airport where he had arrived in Chile.
[Constanza]: They loaded his bags. They arrived… the police were there. They close the door. He says goodbye. There were people, everything… Neighbors went to say goodbye to him, crying they hugged him emotionally. I mean, as if their dear grandfather was leaving… was leaving the country. As if… and they cried. They said goodbye to him and everything. Yes, it was very… yes very… very intimate, like… A lot of people were upset that he was leaving.
And I’d say that up… up from the… the helicopter he makes a kind of farewell gesture. And I left when the helicopter had already taken off.
[Carlos]: Constanza had witnessed Fujimori’s fall, his final act on Chilean soil. Fujimori was returning to Peru —which for so many years he had longed for— but not in the way he had expected.
[Daniel]: Fujimori arrived in Lima on September 21st, 2007, and after a trial, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for human rights violations and crimes related to corruption.
On December 24th, 2017 the then-president of Peru, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned Alberto Fujimori, who by that point had been in prison for more than 10 years, and set him free. This presidential favor resulted in a political crisis like never before in Peruvian history, to such an extent that Kuczynski had to resign as president. In October 2018, the Supreme Court of Peru revoked the presidential pardon, and Fujimori had to return to prison, where he remains today.
Speaking with Carlos, one of the things that caught our attention is that both of the lawyers —César Nakazaki, Fuijimori’s Peruvian lawyer, as well as Antonio Maldonado, the prosecutor for the Peruvian State— despite being on opposing sides of the battlefield, looked at Fujimori’s case and came to the same conclusion. Here’s Nakazaki:
[César Nakazaki]: Fujimori was the subject of several trials. The legal trial, a media trial, a political trial, and a historical trial. The only one to bring him justice will be the historical trail.
[Daniel]: And here’s Maldonado.
[Antonio Maldonado]: I think in the end, he… he was buried by his… his ambition. But, I could say a lot, but the facts have to speak for themselves. And, in the end, that is that trial that I think it’s important to highlight, isn’t it? The trial of history.
[Daniel]: Carlos Meléndez is a Peruvian political scientist. He lives in Santiago, Chile. He co-produced this story with Victoria Estrada, editorial assistant at Radio Ambulante. Victoria lives in Xalapa, Veracruz.
Carlos published a version of this story in the book El Informe Chinochet. Historia Secreta de Alberto Fujimori en Chile in 2018.
This story was edited by Camila Segura, Luis Fernando Vargas, and me. The sound design is by Andrés Azpiri, with music from Rémy Lozano. Andrea López Cruzado did the fact-checking.
The rest of the Radio Ambulante team includes Lisette Arévalo, Gabriela Brenes, Jorge Caraballo, Miranda Mazariegos, Patrick Moseley, Laura Rojas Aponte, Barbara Sawhill, Luis Trelles, David Trujillo, Elsa Liliana Ulloa, and Joseph Zárate. Carolina Guerrero is the CEO.
Radio Ambulante is produced and mixed on Hindenburg PRO.
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Radio Ambulante tells the stories of Latin America. I’m Daniel Alarcón. Thanks for listening.
On the next episode of Radio Ambulante: on July of last summer, a private chat of the governor of Puerto Rico was leaked.
[Omaya Sosa]: It was a thing… a bomb. It was as if we lit up a… a match and suddenly everything exploded, uh, at once.
[Daniel]: And started a popular uprising that no one expected.
[Ivette]: If he announces that he’s not going to resign, the people are going to be very angry. And anything that happens here after that announcement is his fault. It’s not the people’s fault.
[Daniel]: Next week: the fall of Ricardo Roselló, from the streets of Old San Juan.