Fujimori, Alberto

Quote from: Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Compact Disc ROM (CD ROM)

Fujimori, Alberto (1938- ), president of Peru (1990- ), born in Lima and educated in the United States, at the University of Wisconsin in Madison. Trained in mathematics, Fujimori became an agronomist, teaching at the La Molina National Agrarian University before serving as its rector as well as president of the Association of University Rectors.

In 1990 Fujimori entered the race for president of Peru and received about 29 percent of the vote, second to novelist Mario Vargas Llosa, the favorite, who took 34 percent of the vote. Neither candidate had enough votes for an outright victory. In the campaign for the runoff election, Fujimori appealed especially to voters in the rural areas, to Native Americans and mestizos, and to the poor who were suspicious of Vargas Llosa’s ties to the wealthy elite. Both candidates promised to improve Peru’s disastrous economic situation, which had been worsened by attacks by the Sendero Luminoso (Shining Path), an organization of Maoist guerrillas, and the rebel Túpac Amaru Revolutionary Movement. Fujimori won the election with 60 percent of the vote—the largest majority ever attained by a candidate in Peru—making him the first person of Japanese descent to head the country. Immediately after his election, Fujimori established relations with Japan in the hope of gaining some of that nation’s foreign aid. He also instituted tough economic reform measures aimed at reducing high inflation.

In April 1992 Fujimori dissolved the Congress, imposed press censorship, suspended parts of the constitution, and arrested some political foes. He claimed that these actions were needed to modernize Peru, address its economic crisis, and combat the Shining Path, drug traffickers, and corruption. He credited these actions for the successful capture and imprisonment of Abimael Guzmán Reynoso, leader of the Shining Path. A November 13 coup attempt was thwarted, and on November 22 a new unicameral Congress was elected, to replace the bicameral legislature Fujimori had dissolved. Fujimori’s party, New Majority/Change 90, won a majority of seats. The new Congress passed legislation that allowed the president to seek reelection, and prohibited relatives of the incumbent president from running for elected office or criticizing presidential policies. Fujimori supported the latter legislation to silence his wife, Susana Higuchi, an outspoken critic of his government. The unicameral structure of Congress and the election laws were approved by voters and became part of a new constitution. Fujimori signed the approved constitution on December 29, 1993.

Fujimori’s economic policies emphasized free-market reforms, privatizing state enterprises, and encouraging foreign investment. In the mid-1990s they brought Peru renewed economic growth, which exceeded 12 percent in 1994, but the improved economy did little to help Peru’s impoverished millions.

In 1994 Fujimori announced his intention to seek reelection in 1995. He also separated from his wife, and in August 1994 he formally stripped her of her title of first lady. She established her own political party, the Harmony 21st Century political movement, to run against his government. However, the Harmony party was ruled invalid in December 1994 because it failed to acquire the required number of signatures to qualify as a legitimate political party. In April 1995 Fujimori was resoundingly reelected, and his independent party won control of the legislature.

As part of his anti-terrorism efforts, Fujimori granted the military broad powers to arrest suspected terrorists and try them in secret military courts with few legal rights. Guerrilla activity declined from 1992 on, and Fujimori asserted that the campaign had largely eliminated terrorist groups. In his second term, Fujimori declared an amnesty for any members of the Peruvian military or police convicted or accused of human rights abuses between 1980 and 1995. His action was condemned by human rights activists and many other nations.

Although Peru’s new constitution limited a president to two consecutive terms, in 1996 the Congress voted to allow Fujimori to run for reelection in 2000. The Congress, controlled by Fujimori’s party, approved a motion that Fujimori’s first term of office would not be counted because it began under the old constitution.

Fujimori faced a crisis in December 1996 when Túpac Amaru rebels seized the home of the Japanese ambassador in Lima during a party, taking hostage hundreds of diplomats, government officials, and dignitaries. Fujimori’s government negotiated with the revolutionaries but rejected their key demand: the release of jailed Túpac Amaru members. During a standoff that lasted four months, the rebels gradually freed all but 72 hostages. In April 1997 Fujimori ordered government troops to storm the mansion to free the hostages. One hostage, two commandos, and all 14 of the rebels were killed in the raid. The incident enhanced Fujimori’s reputation for toughness and for using force, rather than compromise, to pursue his goals.

Quote from: Microsoft Encarta Encyclopedia Compact Disc ROM (CD ROM)

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