Peru opposition leader Keiko Fujimori is arrested in corruption inquiry

Keiko Fujimori (right), being escorted by police officers in a Judiciary office, in Lima, following her arrest on October 10, 2018, for alleged money laundering involving Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht.

LA PAZ, Bolivia: Keiko Fujimori, a powerful Peruvian politician whose father ruled the country in the 1990s, was arrested in a money-laundering investigation on Wednesday, calling into question the future of the political family and their right-wing populist movement.

The arrest came just days after the country’s Supreme Court ordered her father, former President Alberto Fujimori, back to prison on a human rights abuse conviction, overruling the presidential pardon that had freed him in December.

Keiko Fujimori was detained at the chief prosecutor’s office, where she had been called to testify in her own case, said her lawyer, Giuliana Loza, who called the arrest “arbitrary.”

Prosecutors have been investigating whether Keiko Fujimori, now the opposition leader, accepted illegal campaign contributions during her 2011 and 2016 presidential campaigns.

About 100 of her supporters gathered at the courthouse to protest her arrest.

Fujimori, who is considered a flight risk, will initially be held for at least 10 days while prosecutors consider filing formal charges against her.

In a letter that she posted on Twitter on Wednesday, she denounced her arrest as unfair. “Persecution is disguised as justice in our country,” she wrote.

The arrest orders for Keiko Fujimori and her father are a dramatic turn of events for one of Peru’s most powerful families, which governed Peru in the 1990s with a brand of right-wing populism they were seeking to reestablish in the country.

Alberto Fujimori was elected president in 1990 before he suspended the country’s constitution and ruled as a dictator. Though sent to jail on charges that he had been involved in the murder of at least 25 people during those years, Alberto Fujimori remained deeply popular among many Peruvians as his administration was also credited with improving the economy, investing in infrastructure and defeating left-wing groups that engaged in bloody conflict with the government.

Keiko Fujimori has become one of Peru’s most powerful politicians, commanding the Popular Force party, which controls the largest share of seats in the country’s Congress. Many analysts feared that her rise — which included an attempt to impeach Peru’s previous president, who eventually resigned — would do lasting damage to the country’s democratic institutions.

The recent detentions of Fujimori and her father have now led some to believe that the opposite may be true.

“I think it’s a major point of weakening for Fujimorismo,” said Eduardo Dargent, a political scientist at the Pontifical Catholic University of Peru, referring to the political movement that bears the family name.

Keiko Fujimori has been the subject of a number of corruption investigations in recent years, including inquiries into her campaign financing, accusations of money laundering and questions regarding her ties to the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht, which has admitted paying hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes for construction projects in Latin America.

Public anger turned against both Fujimori and investigators this July, when tapes in which judicial officials could be heard planning unofficial meetings with a “Senora K” were leaked to the press. Critics said that the nickname referred to Keiko Fujimori and that the officials were looking to cut an illicit deal with her. The ensuing scandal resulted in the firing and resignation of many top judiciary officials.

Dargent, the political scientist, said prosecutors were now under increased pressure to show that they are clean of political influence — a possible motivation for Wednesday’s arrest.

There have been other signs of weakness within Fujimori’s party, and within the family, in recent months. In local elections on Sunday, voters shut the party out of most mayoral offices.

Fujimori split with her brother, Kenji Fujimori, a former congressman, over an impeachment attempt against former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who pardoned their father in an attempt to avoid being ousted from office.

Keiko Fujimori led a second push to impeach Kuczynski this March, resulting in his resignation and further estrangement from her brother, who had supported the former president. Their Popular Force party has been split since.

— New York Times News Service


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