Senior Peruvian officials travelled to Santiago on Monday to press Chile to extradite Alberto Fujimori, the exiled former president of Peru who turned up unexpectedly in Chile on Sunday, vowing to return to Peru and run again for the presidency.
Peru sent Romulo Pizarro, the minister of interior, and Antonio Maldonado, the anti-corruption prosecutor, to its southern neighbour after Chilean authorities arrested Mr Fujimori in the early hours of Monday morning.
A Fujimori aide in Lima said he had spoken to the former president after his detention. “He knew this was going to happen,” said the aide. “This is part of his strategy. It’s like a chess game – this is one of his moves. He’s comfortable, calm and confident that the Chileans won’t extradite him.”
Mr Fujimori, president from 1990 to 2000, when he famously resigned by fax, is wanted in Peru on 21 charges, including sanctioning the 1991 massacre of 15 people in Barrios Altos, a poor neighbourhood of Lima, and the abduction and murder of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta university in 1992.
Peru has long sought his extradition from Japan, where the former president has been living since his government collapsed amid evidence of corruption. Mr Fujimori, whose parents were Japanese, was granted citizenship by Japan, which refused to extradite him because it has no extradition treaty with Peru.
He has for some time been threatening to return to Peru, where he remains popular among the poor majority, many of whom remember him nostalgically as a strongman who tamed hyperinflation and defeated the Maoist Shining Path guerrilla movement, which waged a vicious campaign against the state in the 1980s and 1990s.
Before his arrest, the former president apparently left Tokyo on a Delta Airlines flight to Atlanta, from where he boarded a private jet to Santiago. He entered Chile on a tourist visa and checked into the city’s Marriot hotel. He issued a short statement to the press, saying he would stay temporarily “as part of the process of returning to Peru” to run for the presidency next April.
Mr Fujimori is not currently eligible to be a candidate: aside from the charges against him, Congress has banned him from running until 2011.
However, the former president appears to be calculating that his enduring support will persuade political and legal authorities to allow him to stand.
Martha Chavez, the leader of Nueva Mayoría, a pro-Fujimori party, told the FT that the legal obstacles to Mr Fujimori’s candidacy would be quickly overcome “because that’s what most of the Peruvian people want”.
Last month the former president’s legal team secured the dismissal of a charge of illegal arms dealing, the first case against Mr Fujimori to be dropped. They are hoping that the ruling sets a precedent.
Fujimori advisers said they were confident that the extradition would be denied. “Chile has a very institutionalised judicial system,” said an aide. “Unlike Peru, it’s transparent and it works. This is also a very good time for Fujimori to come back, since the election campaign hasn’t really got going yet.”
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