A Second Fujimori Contends for Peru’s Presidency
KEIKO FUJIMORI’S father, Alberto K. Fujimori, Peru’s former president, sits in
prison here serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses. Her mother,
Susana Higuchi, has shown scars on her neck that Ms. Higuchi said resulted from
torture by Mr. Fujimori’s intelligence agents after Ms. Higuchi accused her husband of tolerating corruption in his midst.
If that were not enough, Mr. Fujimori’s former spymaster, Vladimiro Montesinos, has testified that he illegally used state funds to pay for Ms. Fujimori’s Boston
University tuition in the 1990s. Between semesters there and after graduating, she served as Peru’s first lady, assuming a visible role in her father’s corruption-addled government after her parents divorced.
In some countries, such a complicated family history might be an obstacle for someone seeking election as president. But not in Peru, where Ms. Fujimori, who turned 36 this month, holds a narrow lead in a tight race over Ollanta Humala, a
former military officer who led a rebellion against her father in 2000. The
election is June 5.
The choice between two extreme candidates, after centrists split the vote in the first election round, has shocked many who are familiar with the ambitions of Mr. Humala, who espouses a nationalist ideology of asserting state control over natural resources, and of Ms. Fujimori, who wants her disgraced father released from prison.
“It would be like Tricia Nixon running for president at age 35, if her father had received the jail time he deserved, with a program that consisted of nothing more than pardoning him,” Dennis Jett, a former United States ambassador to Peru, said in an essay in The Miami Herald comparing Ms. Fujimori to the elder
daughter of Richard M. Nixon.
In an interview at her home here, Ms. Fujimori repeatedly insisted that her father, who is still admired by some Peruvians for delivering crushing blows against Maoist insurgents and for stabilizing Peru’s economy, was an innocent man.
Peru’s Supreme Court convicted Mr. Fujimori, 72, in 2009 of various crimes, including his government’s creation of an assassination squad that killed 25 people, one of them an 8-year-old boy. An Aug. 23, 1990, State Department cable
cited a Peruvian intelligence source who said that the squad, called the Colina Group, had “the tacit approval of President Fujimori.”
When asked about her father’s conviction and his decision to move his children from the presidential palace, the target of car bombs in 1990, to the National
Intelligence Service’s bunker where they lived next to the luxurious quarters of
Mr. Montesinos, the shadowy espionage chief, Ms. Fujimori said, “Those were difficult years, not just for us but for all Peruvians.”
MS. FUJIMORI famously said in 2008 that her “hand would not tremble” to sign a pardon for her father if she were elected president, pleasing Mr. Fujimori’s followers who still adoringly call him Chino, in a nod to his Asian ancestry. But she has recently backed away from that stance.
“That was a spontaneous statement as a daughter,” she said. Instead, Ms. Fujimori now says she would prefer to see her father freed through court appeals. That prospect, in a country with fragile judicial institutions still recovering from the disarray of Mr. Fujimori’s 10-year rule, has put judges on edge. Prominent
supporters of Ms. Fujimori and her father, including Martha Chávez, a former legislator, have begun issuing veiled threats against those who ruled against the former president, saying they will have to answer for their actions. Some of the tension surrounding the candidacy of Ms. Fujimori, who took 23.6 percent of the first-round vote against Mr. Humala’s 31.7 percent, seems expected
by the daughter of a man who polarized Peru. In an extraordinary political career, he burst onto the public stage in 1990 as an unknown agronomist and won plaudits for his uncompromising stand against leftist guerrillas before fleeing into exile in Japan in 2000.
Japan always loomed large for Ms. Fujimori, the eldest of four siblings who were born into Peru’s small Japanese-Peruvian community, which numbers about
80,000 in a country of 29 million. Still, when the time came for her to study abroad, she opted for the United States.
First, during the tumult of her father’s government, she studied at Boston University (she rejects accusations that her expenses there were paid out of public funds). Then, after Mr. Fujimori’s resignation, she went to Columbia University’s business school, where she met Mark Villanella, a self-described “Jersey guy”
from Berkeley Heights, N.J. They wed in 2004 and now have two daughters. At their spacious home here, photos of Ms. Fujimori’s parents in happier times were on display. They showed her father, bursting with youthful vigor, before he fell into disgrace and went to prison. Alongside him was Ms. Fujimori’s mother,
Ms. Higuchi, before she accused Mr. Fujimori of allowing his henchmen to torture her.
Ms. Higuchi’s accusations have been corroborated by a former Peruvian intelligence agent who said she witnessed Ms. Higuchi in 1995 naked and cowering in an army intelligence cell. But Ms. Fujimori played down her mother’s claims, saying a court in Chile, which extradited Mr. Fujimori to Peru in 2007, had not moved ahead with an inquiry into the torture claims.
From exile in Japan in 2002, Mr. Fujimori dismissed his ex-wife’s accusations,
saying her scars were the result of moxibustion, a traditional Asian therapy for back pain. Either way, Ms. Fujimori said she and her mother, who rarely appears in public and did not respond to an interview request, now had a “warm”
“What’s more, she said she would vote for me,” Ms. Fujimori said.
OTHERS here who said they would vote for Ms. Fujimori are prepared to do so either out of fears of her rival, Mr. Humala, or admiration for her jailed father. “He gave peace to this country,” said Óscar Arrunategui, 37, a businessman. “He gave poor people water, electricity and sewage; this country is how it is thanks to Fujimori.”
When confronted with less shining assessments of her father, who was also convicted of overseeing the kidnappings of Samuel Dyer, a businessman, and Gustavo Gorriti, a prominent journalist, Ms. Fujimori has learned to pause and take a moment to straighten her spine. (Like her rival, Mr. Humala, she is making an effort to hew to more moderate ideas.) Then she smiles broadly and delivers a well-rehearsed response.
“I’m aware that big mistakes were made,” she said, while insisting her father was innocent of any crimes. In Ms. Fujimori’s view, the blame for such transgressions
lies elsewhere. “I reject and lament the errors and crimes that were committed by officials in my father’s government,” she said.
It is a delicate political dance. She embraces her father’s legacy while disowning his government’s authoritarian excesses and burnishes her own law-and-order
credentials by hiring Rudolph W. Giuliani, the former New York City mayor, as an adviser.
In a race that is evoking old political ghosts, little seems to faze many Peruvians, including the revelation this month that Mr. Fujimori himself was helping to
manage his daughter’s campaign from his spacious prison cell.
In fact, her strategy of paying homage to her disgraced father may just work to deliver her the presidency of a country where deep dissatisfaction persists with the political status quo, side by side with fond memories, among some, of Mr. Fujimori’s rule. Those loyal to Ms. Fujimori’s cause sum up their visceral feelings, more for her father than his daughter, in a few words.
“I’m Fujimorista,” said Rómulo Rojas, 68, a retired shoe repairman. “So I chose Keiko a long time ago.”
Nuclear Watchdog Says Japan Underestimated Tsunami Danger
TOKYO — Japan underestimated the danger of tsunamis and failed to prepare adequate back-up systems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, a team of inspectors from an international nuclear watchdog said on Wednesday in a preliminary report on the nuclear crisis. But the report also praised the response of Japan, and particularly its plant workers, once the disaster struck. The report, by the team from the Vienna-based International Atomic Energy
Agency, also called for stronger regulatory oversight, saying that steps should be taken to ensure that “regulatory independence and clarity of roles are preserved in all circumstances.” This seemed to echo a widely held criticism in Japan that collusive ties between regulators and industry led to weak oversight and a failure to ensure adequate safety levels at the plant.
The report followed a weeklong inspection by the multinational team, led by Britain’s top nuclear safety official, Mike Weightman. Most the problems that it cited have already been well documented in the soul-searching here that has followed the nuclear accident, the world’s worst since Chernobyl in 1986.
The team said it visited three nuclear plants damaged by the March 11 earthquake
and tsunami, including the radiation-spewing Fukushima Daiichi plant. The team
said it released the three-page preliminary report to provide quick feedback to the Japanese government as well as lessons to the global nuclear industry. It said it will release a longer version ahead of a nuclear safety conference that starts June 20 in Vienna.
Goshi Hosono, an adviser to Prime Minister Naoto Kan who serves as Japan’s point man on nuclear issues, said Tokyo accepted the team’s findings. He also said Japan would review its nuclear regulatory framework.
Wednesday’s report mixed praise with criticism. It spoke highly of Japan’s response to the crisis once it happened, calling the efforts of workers to regain control of the crippled reactors “exemplary.” It said their efforts had produced “the best approach to securing safety given the exceptional circumstances.”
The report also praised Tokyo’s steps to protect the population from radiation, calling its evacuations of surrounding areas “impressive and extremely well organized.”
The report’s strongest criticism was aimed at the failure to build adequate protections against large waves for the plant, which sits on Japan’s tsunami-prone northeastern coastline. While the plant was designed to withstand waves about 19 feet high, the tsunami was as high as 46 feet, the report said. “The tsunami reached areas deep within the units causing the loss of all power
sources except one emergency diesel generator,” the report said, adding that a blackout of the commercial power grid left the plant with “little hope of outside assistance.”
The report also said the disaster exposed the lack of varied and redundant backup systems at the plant. The huge tsunami, which struck 46 minutes after the magnitude-9.0 earthquake, destroyed the emergency diesel generators at four of the plant’s six reactors. This left them with no other power source beyond
batteries that lasted only a few hours.
Once power was lost, critical functions such as the cooling system shut down, as did the instruments that told workers what was happening inside the reactors. Three of the reactors quickly overheated, causing meltdowns that eventually led to explosions, which hurled large amounts of radioactive material into the air. The single surviving diesel generator allowed workers to maintain the cooling systems for reactors No. 5 and 6, which did not melt down. The No. 4 reactor was
already safely shut down when the earthquake hit, but its cooling pool was damaged by the tsunami.
“The operators were faced with a catastrophic, unprecedented emergency scenario with no power, reactor control or instrumentation,” the report said. The
tsunami also “severely affected communications systems both within and external to the site.”
“They had to work in darkness with almost no instrumentation and control systems,” the report said of plant workers.
The report called for better preparations against multiple disasters, including the construction of “hardened” emergency response shelters.