Keiko Fujimori: Peru Faces Divisive Election Shadowed By The Legacy Of Alberto Fujimori

Keiko Fujimori and Peru face the shadows of Alberto Fujimori today in a tight election for the South American nation’s presidency. Keiko Fujimori faces former finance minister Pedro Pablo Kuczynski for Peru’s top post, the election coming at the end of a week rocked by demonstrations against the Fujimori legacy.

According to reports in Al Jazeera, Keiko Fujimori is running about even with her rival, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski. Occupying the center right in Peru’s political landscape, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is a former Wall Street banker and economist as well as a former minister with political experience.

Keiko Fujimori, daughter of infamous ex-leader Alberto Fujimori, is awakening shadows of the past as Peru faces what observers are calling a tight election for the presidency. Alberto Fujimori, who led Peru as its president from July, 1990, to November, 2000, currently resides in a Peruvian jail, having been convicted of multiple charges that included corruption and ordering murder while in office.

The electorate seems divided on the meaning of Alberto Fujimori’s legacy and what it might mean for a Keiko Fujimori presidency in Peru. Some in Peru seem to be leery of trusting Keiko Fujimori. Others seem to feel that she will be the tough figure needed to take a stand against Peru’s high rate of violent crime.

Peru Protests Keiko Fujimori

As reported by IPS, while Keiko Fujimori has sought to distance herself from the authoritarian aspects of Alberto Fujimori’s rule, her campaign has been dogged by rumors of questionable financing from figures associated with her father’s regime – figures linked with drug trafficking and money laundering.

The months leading up to the election has been rocked by protests and demonstrations against Keiko Fujimori and the entire Alberto Fujimori legacy, culminating in three major demonstrations this past week. Marches and demonstrations have involved tens of thousands of people, including Veronika Mendoza, the leftist former third candidate for the presidency.

Many of the protesters have been women. During his presidency, Alberto Fujimori was accused of approving the mass sterilization of indigenous women — up to 300,000 – a charge that still resonates with many.

Peru: The Alberto Fujimori Legacy

Even as Alberto Fujimori languishes in prison, his legacy is Peru is still under debate. To many of Peru’s people, Alberto Fujimori was the strong figure that was needed to fight the terrorist violence that rocked the nation for two decades from 1980 to 2000. Marxist rebels committed acts of violence against what they saw as an authoritarian regime.

Alberto Fujimori was also known for his radical policies of free market reform that caused a great deal of social unrest. Two years after his election, Alberto Fujimori dissolved Peru’s congress and became its dictator.

Alberto Fujimori’s career ended with a bribery scandal, however, that led his fleeing to Japan, where his parents were born. After five years of exile, Alberto Fujimori flew to Chile with the intention of returning to Peru – and back to power as its president. Instead, he was arrested. After a two year extradition battle, he was finally convicted in 2007 on charges of abusing his power. In 2009, he was found guilty of authorizing death-squad killings and kidnappings.

Despite what progress was made, it was a regime that the Guardian calls a “network of corruption.” The courts ruled that Alberto Fujimori was the direct commander of the violent paramilitary groups who infamously terrorized many of Peru’s citizens while ostensibly hunting down members of the Maoist Shining Path, the country’s most visible terrorist group.

Despite his actions, Alberto Fujimori remained popular among many in Peru for a full decade before the tide of public opinion began to turn. The Guardian quotes figures posed by the late historian Alfonso Quiroz, who estimated that Alberto Fujimori’s corruption cost Peru between $1.5 billion and $4 billion.

Alberto Fujimori was convicted for his role in two separate attacks carried out by the same group of masked paramilitary fighters and sentenced to 25 years in prison.

Rojas Borda, 51, survived what was dubbed the Barrio Altos attack that saw her husband and 8-year-old son gunned down by the paramilitary forces. She has not forgiven Alberto Fujimori or his daughter, Keiko, as she told Guardian reporters.

“Keiko still has her father, her home is whole, her family is united. But in their thirst for power, they have never apologized.”

Keiko Fujimori And Pedro Pablo Kuczynski – A Race Too Close To Call

As reported in the L.A. Times, Keiko Fujimori was enjoying considerable lead in the election race just a week and a half ago.

Keiko Fujimori’s campaign for Peru’s presidency has focused on her youthful age of 41 and a tough talking policy against crime. However, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski has bridged the large gap in the final days leading up to today’s electoral race.

Many believe that the backing of Veronika Mendoza, the leftist member of Peru’s Congress who finished third in the first round of voting, is one of the factors that has helped Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s campaign.

Keiko Fujimori previous ran for Peru’s presidency in 2011, when she was beaten in a similar runoff election. Most observers blame lingering feelings about Alberto Fujimori for her defeat at that time. Today’s election will prove whether Keiko Fujimori can get Peru’s voters to see the Fujimori name in a new light.

[Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images]