Monday, June 10, 2013

Humala Denies Fujimori's Pardon Request

After months of uncertainty, Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has decided to reject imprisoned former leader Alberto Fujimori’s appeal for a pardon on health grounds, citing an absence of terminal illness and apparent lack of remorse for his actions.

On Friday morning, local media reported that a special commission appointed to assess Fujimori’s claims had presented its final report to the Ministry of Justice.  Hours later, Justice Minister Daniel Figallo announced that the President had decided not to grant the pardon, in accordance with the commission’s recommendation.

In a subsequent press conference, Humala said that he had made his decision “after taking into account the concept of regret as it relates to proven corruption and human rights crimes,” as well as Fujimori’s medical status. Humala also assured the ex-president’s family that he “is the inmate living in the best conditions in all of Peru.”

For the past several months, Fujimori’s family has maintained that he suffers from everything from tongue cancer to depression and low blood pressure. In October pictures were leaked of the ex-president lying in bed, looking pale and sickly, seemingly boosting the case for his pardon. However, in January a video emerged showing the imprisoned ex-president in apparent good health, and in March a panel of medical experts determined that Fujimori is not mortally ill.

The Asociacion Pro Derechos Humanos (APRODEH) issued a statement on Friday welcoming Humala’s decision and referring to Fujimori’s request as “fraudulent.” APRODEH has been one of the most vocal opponents of a pardon, and director Gloria Cano expressed her hope that the president’s decision would finally put the matter to rest.

While the move is sure to please human rights groups and members of Humala’s party who have criticized the president for moving to the right on some issues since taking office, it may have a political cost. A May poll showed that 58 percent of Peruvians supported pardoning Fujimori, and -- as the AP points out -- the ex-president’s political party is sure to try to score points by claiming Humala’s decision was politically motivated. El Comercio features an overview of Peru’s political landscape from analysts Victor Andres Ponce, who argues the president’s decision will have a negative impact on his popularity, and Carlos Tapia, who claims that Humala so successfully based his decision on legal grounds that the impact will be minimal.

News Briefs

  • Peru’s IDL-Reporteros notes that Humala mentioned allegations of corruption against Fujimori, in addition to the human rights crimes he is currently serving a 25-year prison sentence for. The news site has used the opportunity to republish a 2011 investigation by Denise Ledgard, which details how Fujimori and his brother-in-law Victor Aritomi allegedly funneled state funds into their personal accounts.
  • In an interview published yesterday in El Mercurio, Chilean former president and current presidential candidate Michele Bachelet defends her calls for a new constitution in the country, claiming that it is viewed by many as “illegitimate and not born in democracy.”
  • Animal Politico features an analysis of the five-year development plan proposed by Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto last month. The plan was geared to reflect the opinions voiced in a series of polls conducted between February and March, and includes proposals to help improve access to quality education and strengthen legal institutions. However, according to Mariana Gonzalez Armijo of the democratic development think tank Fundar, there is little mention in the plan of transparency or freedom of information.  
  • In yet another illustration of insecurity and violence in Mexico’s troubled Guerrero state, El Universal reports that a group of armed men stormed a prison there on Sunday, freeing nine prisoners and killing two guards. The LA Times referred to the incident as the “latest embarrassment for the notoriously porous Mexican prison system.”
  • Amid heightened tensions between indigenous groups and the Brazilian government, the head of Brazilian Indian affairs agency FUNAI resigned on Friday. While Marta Maria do Amaral Azevedo said her resignation was due to health reasons, Reuters notes that the announcement comes after President Dilma Rousseff limited the agency’s power to return land to indigenous tribes.
  • Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has stopped a controversial plan to monitor and ration food purchases in the western state of Zulia, according to El Nacional. The president called the scheme “crazy” and said the solution to the country’s food shortages could only be reached by producing more.  
  • Venezuela’s National Electoral Commission (CNE) has completed its audit of the recent presidential election, which as expected confirms Maduro’s slim victory by 1.5 percent. The opposition still maintains that its requests for a full recount were stifled.  
  • On Friday, Maduro publicly thanked former Brazilian Presdent Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva for working on a resolution to the ongoing diplomatic conflict between Colombia and Venezuela, saying “Lula has made contacts for a possible face-to-face meeting between the president and myself.”
  • Sunday’s Washington Post featured a piece on rape and sexual assault as a fueling factor in Colombia’s armed conflict. While no one knows how many victims there are in the country, investigators from the state-sponsored Historic Memory Center believe paramilitary groups have committed some of the worst gender-based violence, including rape, mutilation and murder of women believed to be rebel sympathizers.
  • Central American analyst Mike Allison has a piece for Al-Jazeera English, looking at the recently-announced truce in Honduras between rival gangs MS-13 and Barrio 18. Allison argues that there is reason for optimism about the truce’s chances of reducing violence, but cautions that it will require a deeper commitment from the government than may be possible.
  • The AP reported on Friday that a Bolivian suspected of raping and murdering a woman in the southern highlands was buried alive by a mob of angry townspeople. While lynchings and “mob justice” are relatively common occurrences in rural Bolivian areas where state presence is limited, local prosecutor Milton Jara told Emol radio that charges had been filed against two men believed to have led the riot.
  • The New York Times profiles Moises Ville, Argentina, a small town in the Santa Fe province which was founded in the late 19th century by Eastern European Jews fleeing pogroms and persecution. Now, only one in ten residents is Jewish, and there is concern that the community has lost its historic identity. 

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