Peruvians Set to Protest Against Possible Pardon for Jailed Fujimori

Peruvians prepared for protests on Friday to pressure President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski against pardoning the country’s former leader Alberto Fujimori, who is serving a 25-year prison sentence for human rights violations.

Kuczynski’s promise not to pardon Fujimori during last year’s presidential election helped him scrape together a narrow victory against Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko Fujimori.

But last month Kuczynski proposed a potential pardon for Fujimori, 78, for health reasons as his finance minister was ousted by Congress, which is dominated by Fujimori’s supporters.

“It would be a betrayal. A betrayal of his word and his promise to the families of the victims of the dictatorship,” said protest organizer Jorge Rodriguez. Protests are scheduled for cities across Peru and in foreign countries on Friday.

Fujimori has been convicted of leading groups that massacred civilians and kidnapped journalists during his years in office from 1990-2000. Despite his autocratic style, Fujimori still has a solid following among Peruvians who credit him with fixing an economy in crisis and quashing a bloody leftist insurgency.

A May Ipsos poll found that 59 percent of Peruvians back a humanitarian pardon for Fujimori.

In an interview with local broadcaster RPP on Friday, Kuczynski said his decision would be based strictly on a medical review that should be completed by the end of year.

“I’ll follow the medical recommendation,” Kuczynski said.

But the proposed evaluation, which was not requested by Fujimori, is widely seen as a political gesture.

While pardoning Fujimori might help Kuczynski ease tensions with Congress, it would anger the leftist groups that helped elect him and could define his presidency.

Kuczynski, who took office nearly a year ago to cap a distinguished career in finance and public administration, has vowed to transform Peru into a modern country and is leading regional efforts to pressure Venezuela to enact democratic reforms.

Human Rights Watch said any pardon or politically motivated release of Fujimori would be a setback for the rule of law.

In 2013, former President Ollanta Humala rejected Fujimori’s request for a humanitarian pardon after a medical review concluded he was not suffering from a terminal illness.

Fujimori’s doctor, Alejandro Aguinaga, said Friday that Kuczynski’s committee for presidential pardons has not received any new information about Fujimori’s health.

But Aguinaga said Fujimori suffers from various ailments that merit a pardon, including a recurrent growth on his tongue, a hernia in his back and a recent episode of an abnormally fast heart beat.

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