November 7, 2005
Former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was arrested in Chile, only one day after he arrived on a flight via Mexico from Japan, where he had been living in exile for the past five years. After some initial confusion on the part of Chilean authorities about Peru's request for extradition, a judge issued the necessary arrest warrant. Fujimori issued a statement that he intends to return to Peru to run for president in the election to be held next April, notwithstanding the fact that Peru's Congress passed a measure preventing him from holding public office until 2011. The fact that Fujimori's arrival in Chile coincides with the recent increase in tensions over the ancient territorial disputes makes one wonder who might be seeking to exploit the international tensions. The abysmally unpopular president Alejandro Toledo would be a logical suspect if he were running for reelection, but the initiative for Peru's redefinition of the border seems to have originated from within the legislative branch. See CNN.com. (NOTE: There are two factual inaccuracies in that article: Fujimori did not exactly "flee" Peru in 2000, but rather took refuge in Japan while attending an international conference. Second, he was not granted Japanese citizenship until several months later.)
Though often referred to as a "dictator" in Peru, and by some foreign journalists, Fujimori never ruled with an iron fist, and there was substantial, vocal opposition to his policies throughout the ten years he served as president. He remained very popular until 2000, when evidence of rigged elections and systematic bribery of opponents and journalists destroyed his credibility. Most of those dirty tricks were probably concocted by his "security adviser," Vladimiro Montesinos, but Fujimori was responsible. Though tainted by favoritism, the economic policy reforms he pushed through saved Peru from financial ruin, paving the way for an amazing economic recovery that remains the envy of the rest of Latin America. (That fact is hardly ever reported in the mainstream media.) If Fujimori had not let success go to his head and coerced the constitutional court into approving his second reelection on bogus legal grounds, but instead stepped down from power after his second term was over, he would almost certainly have been regarded as the most successful president in Peruvian history.
The Fourth Summit of the Americas ended without reaching any major policy agreements. President Bush's pitch for a hemispheric free trade area fell on largely deaf ears. Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Venezuela issued a statement that concluded, "The conditions do not exist to attain a hemispheric free trade accord that is balanced and fair with access to markets that is free of subsidies and distorting practices." See CNN.com. The first four of those countries belong to MERCOSUR, a trade union that exists in part for strategic balance-of-power reasons. Paraguay was recently visited by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and was believed to be cooperating with U.S. objectives. Mexico's President Fox was put in an awkward position when Hugo Chavez accused him of bending to U.S. pressure; Fox denied he was coerced in any way, which is ironic because he has taken a high-profile stance against major elements of U.S. foreign policy in recent years, precisely to placate nationalist and leftist critics. For his part, Chavez will no doubt trumpet his successful obstructionism back home in Venezuela.
On the way back north, Bush stopped in Brasilia, where he urged Brazilians to choose the alternative of hope in a more democratic future, coupled with free trade, and to reject the fear-mongering and finger-pointing of the past. It was a nice gesture, but President Da Silva does not believe in capitalism or free trade, merely making tactical accommodations to market realities for the sake of expediency. Bush wrapped up his South American sojourn with a stop in Panama, which recently elected a left-leaning populist president, Martin Torrijos, but is nonetheless regarded as one of the bright spots in the region. Bush then headed home to Washington, making a brief campaign stop in Richmond, Virginia.