Being held by armed guards at a compound in Chile could not stop former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori from announcing last week that he would seek a place in Japan’s Parliament.
“I have agreed to run in the upper house elections. I ask for your support,” Fujimori said in a formal press conference. The former strongman then responded to questions about his criminal trials with a denial of his own guilt.
Fujimori, just shy of his 69 birthday, is being held at the request of the Peruvian government. Charges are pending against him for war crimes and forgery committed during his presidency from 1990 to 2000.
Deemed the “last samurai” by People’s New Party leader Shizuka Kamei, Fujimori has asked the Japanese government for assistance in gaining his release from Chile in time for the elections at the end of July.
“I am convinced I may contribute to tackle serious problems in Japan,” Fujimori said.
Among these problems is the resignation of Japanese Defense Minister Fumio Kyuma, a trend of violent homicides and ever-rising suicides. In May this year, a prominent Japanese cabinet minister committed suicide pending investigations into his “unexplained expenses.” Japan has one of the highest suicide rates of the industrialized nations: roughly 30,000 people have killed themselves every year for almost a decade.
Fujimori is both a Peruvian and Japanese citizen, and would be allowed to seek office in either country.
Born in Lima, Peru of Japanese immigrants in 1938, Fujimori fled to Japan in May 2000, after being ousted by Peruvian militants who discovered the widespread corruption so rooted in his presidency. From Japan, Fujimori faxed his presidential resignation back to Peru in November 2000 — several months after leaving his country, having to wait to gain his official citizenship papers.
"If such an excellent politician cannot make any contribution in Peru, we would like him to do his best for Japan by making use of his experience and insight,” Kamei said.
“I believe this will also be to the benefit of the Peruvian people,” he said, although it was unclear to which of Fujimori’s past crimes in Peru he was referring, including “the massacre of 15 women, men and children in Barrios Altos, Lima, in 1991 and the forced disappearance and murder of nine students and a lecturer from [a] University in 1992,” according to a paper published by human rights group Amnesty International in December 2005.
“I’m counting on Mr. Fujimori… to put vigor into Japanese society,” Kamei said.
Credited with saving Peru’s economy, Fujimori did privatize most industries after taking office, which led to eventual stability for the agricultural society. During his presidency he also suppressed the rebel group Tupac Amaru, who seized the Japanese embassy in Peru in 1996 and took hundreds of hostages during a dinner ball. The gun battle that followed left the entire rebel group dead, with one hostage killed in the line of fire.
The Japanese government continues to deem Fujimori’s house arrest in Chile as mere “traveling.”
Under Japanese law, any elected official must appear within seven days after they are elected in Parliament. If Fujimori did not appear in that time frame, an ad-hoc committee would launch an investigation into his absence.
The former strongman was seized in Chile in 2005 while on a visit trying to shore up votes in Chile for a campaign there, with a possible return to Peru to follow.
Fujimori said he accepted the People’s New Party’s candidacy because, alas, “we have no presidential elections in Peru soon.”