Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori got slapped with a 25-year bid for human rights abuses, including murder and kidnapping, last week. When Fujimori became president in 1990 Peru’s right-wing government was barely in control due to guerrilla insurgencies being led by the leftist Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) and the so-called Maoist band of lunatics called The Shining Path. Fujimori brought stability to Peru by squashing the insurgents (and those suspected of supporting them) with secret death squads and torture, while at the same time promoting a neoliberal agenda of privatization and free trade. At the time, he was widely popular, especially among middle and upper class folks, for calming shit down and pulling in mad IMF loans to boost the economy. Even though he was ethnically Japanese, his Peruvian supporters affectionately referred to him as “El Chino” (the Chinaman), which he was cool with.
His authoritarian style (he fired the democratically elected congress and a bunch of judges for disagreeing with his agenda) earned him plenty of enemies, though, and he was eventually toppled over corruption charges in 2000. In voting to oust him, Peru’s congress actually used the term “morally disabled” to describe Fujimori.
Fujimori still has widespread support among many in the upper classes and his daughter actually has a serious chance of being the next president of Peru, so we’ll see if he really stays locked up for that long, but the sheer fact that he was convicted is definitely a victory, in terms of holding (former) high ranking officials accountable for criminal acts committed while in office.
The parallels between Fujimori and George W. Bush are obvious. Most relevantly, they both used the threat of terrorism to authorize massive campaigns of human rights abuses. However, Bush did this on a global scale with an even flimsier pretext. Peru actually was crawling with violent revolutionaries when Fujimori cracked down, where in the US, most of the cases of “terrorism” that have actually been brought to trial so far have been transparently and pathetically bullshit. While there has been a recent move by a Spanish court to charge Bush, Cheney and 3 other cronies from their inner circle with violations of international law, the political (and popular) will to demand justice for the Bush regime’s 8-year crime spree has pretty much evaporated.
There have been a few books and articles in the last few years that have comprehensively built the case against Bush and described in detail how he could be nailed, but Obama and Congress have indicated that they’re not really interested. Most depressingly, Salon’s Glenn Greenwald and a small handful of other journalists have been leading the way in bringing us the shitty news that Obama is defending and actually embracing some of Bush’s worst (and most illegal/unconstitutional) policies, such as holding terrorism suspects with no charges and amnesty for warrantless wiretapping.
It took Peru almost a decade to get a conviction against Fujimori. I understand the arguments that Obama should focus on the cornucopia of crises facing him right now, ranging from our crumbling economy to the two unwinnable wars in the Middle East. Sure, people are sick of Bush and want to forget all about all the atrocities of the past administration and move on. But with Obama beginning to travel down the same unconstitutional and secretive road as Bush, it looks increasingly unlikely that our nation’s government will ever follow the example of Peru in holding a tyrant regime accountable for it’s crimes against humanity.