On December 24, protestors took to the streets of Lima, the capital of Peru, denouncing a pardon of a former President, Alberto Fujimori, by the incumbent President, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

A statement from the President’s office said that Fujimori suffers from “a progressive, degenerative, and incurable disease,” making a pardon the humane thing to do.

Fujimori, who is of Japanese descent, fled to Japan in 2000 in the face of an ongoing investigation of his tenure by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), an OAS organ. Fujimori then faxed a resignation letter back to Peru from Japan. He had important friends in Japan, and was in no danger of extradition from there. But in 2005 he was arrested while traveling in Chile, and was extradited to Peru.

The incumbent president, Pedro Pablo Kuczynski of the new Peruanos Por el Kambio party, has been the target of impeachment efforts himself in recent days, and on the critical vote on Thursday, December 21, the effort to remove him from office failed. It failed by a close vote, and only because nine members of the majority party, the Fuerza Popular party (still largely controlled by Fujimori’s family) abstained.

On Saturday, December 23, Fujimori was transferred from prison to a Lima hospital exhibiting a sudden drop in blood pressure and cardiac arrhythmia. The pardon, complaints of a corrupt exchange of abstentions for said pardon, and protests: all followed quickly.

Left Wing View

On December 14, a British journalist in Peru, Simeon Tegel, wrote a piece for U.S. News about reports that the President was “considering”  a pardon for Fujimori.  He said that Kuczynski had fostered an image an “an honest technocrat” who sought to uphold the rule of law. A campaign pledge not to extend such a pardon helped him cement that image. Breaking that pledge would amount to “an indelible stain on Kuczynski’s legacy” and that it would harm efforts to tackle human rights abuses.

After the pardon became a fact, Tegel tweeted that his earlier comment “feels like an understatement.” Those who were just days before defending this president against impeachment are now “accusing him of undermining democracy.”

Speaking broadly, Kuczynski’s party is centrist, but until now it has largely allied itself with the left against the right as represented by the Fuerza Popular. These developments indicate that the scorecard is changing, the centrist players are switching teams, and a cabinet level shake-up may be in the works to reflect that.

Right Wing View

Fujimori’s supporters, unsurprisingly, believe the pardon is overdue.  On twitter, CXCR3 complains that the CNN’s report on the demonstration is “fake news as always, I’m Peruvian and his sentence was for killing terrorists, all under the pressure of my country’s left.”

Those who remember the Fujimori’s administration fondly praise not only his defeat of the Maoist “Shining Path,” but his macroeconomic policies. They say that he brought an end to a preceding period of ruinous inflation, attracted foreign investment, and in general created a climate for growth.

Kenji Fujimori, Alberto’s son, wrote a column for a Peruvian newspaper this summer that called for an end to extreme political partisanship in Peru and encouraged Peruvians to show some solidarity across the aisle. The younger Fujimori (a congressman) illustrated this point by reference to his father’s warm relations (in prison) with another former President of the country, a leftist, Ollanta Humala. It is a bad sign for a country when its presidents, from both sides of the aisle, keep ending up in prison, but perhaps somewhat of a mitigation that they can be friendly when they find each other there.

Other commenters argued with CXCR3, but a twitter denizen named “Vegeta” came to his side, saying that, yes, Fujimori “fought terrorism, that’s a fact.” CNN’s reporting seems especially unsatisfactory to Fujimori’s admirers.