Family ties and a presidential pardon — it's a 'Greek tragedy' playing out in Peru

The World
three people inside car, man driving, woman in passenger seat smiling and waving, one more person in back

Keiko, Sachi and Hiro Fujimori, daughters and son of former President Alberto Fujimori arrive to visit their father at Centenario hospital in Lima, Peru, on Dec. 24, 2017. Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned him; he was serving a 25-year prison sentence.

Guadalupe Pardo/Reuters

Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski pardoned former autocrat Alberto Fujimori Sunday night. Fujimori was serving a 25-year prison sentence for corruption and human rights abuses.

Days earlier, Kuczynski himself narrowly defeated a bid by Congress to get him impeached.

And behind it all could be the Fujimori children, who are also politicians.

“So what people are now speculating — it’s the obvious theory — is that there was some kind of deal or quid pro quo [between] Kuczynski and the Fujimorista members of Congress,” says reporter Simeon Tegel in Lima.

One of Alberto Fujimori’s daughters, Keiko Fujimori, leads the opposition party Popular Force. She is behind the drive to impeach Kuczynski over a corruption scandal. She was widely thought to have the votes for impeachment, but at the last minute, her brother Kenji Fujimori led 10 representatives to abstain, blocking the bid.

Then a few days later, Kuczynski pardoned their father.

“Keiko has barely visited her father in jail recently. But of course, Keiko Fujimori last night, when the announcement that her father was getting pardoned,  came out publicly to say that she was happy," says Tegel. "You get the sense though that it was through gritted teeth.”

While Kenji Fujimori has been campaigning for years for his father’s pardon, his sister, Keiko Fujimori, seems to be estranged from her dad.

Still, she has the backing of her father’s former supporters. “There’s a strong current of pro-Fujimorista sentiment in Peru that remembers Alberto Fujimori fondly,” says Tegel. “It’s perhaps 30 percent of the electorate. And Keiko Fujimori was drawing on that support.”

But if her father is released, many speculate that it would threaten her control of the party and could undermine her chances of winning the presidency in 2021. Keiko Fujimori made an unsuccessful bid for the presidency in 2016, which Tegel reported on for PRI.

“It’s a bit like a Greek tragedy with the Fujimori family right now,” says Tegel.