As I write this blog post, pro-democracy protesters are taking to the streets in Peru amid a political crisis. Today, November 15th, Manuel Merino the interim president has stepped down. Peruvians have been protesting the impeachment of President Martín Vizcarra by the Congress. In news coverage of this political crisis that threatens Peruvian democracy, it is common to hear references to Fujimori’s autogolpe. The memories of such period are very much in the minds of protestors taking to the streets today.
This week’s readings on the dirty wars in Latin America was uncomfortable not only because of the sheer amount of violence and loss, but also because the boundaries between good and evil are completely blurred. Both Sendero Luminoso and Alberto Fujimori perpetrated violence in the name of their political ideologies and their vision of what Peruvian society should be like. In addition, reading about the genre of testimonios reminded me of the failed discussions I have tried to have with my grandfather about the dictatorship in Brazil. While I don’t believe that a dictatorship can be defended or be seen as something positive, my grandfather has said that in his own experience living during that time period, the dictatorship was good because he felt safer and there was no corruption. This myth of no corruption has been debunked by scholars who study the “economic miracle” of that period which completely collapsed as soon as the dictatorship ended.
By comparing Fujimori’s 1992 declaration of the autogolpe with the testimony of Carolina Huamán Oyague during Fujimori’s trial, we confronted with the official narrative and the behind the scenes of what it was like during that period. I personally find it hard to think of Fujimori as a charismatic leader, especially given that he was imprisioned for a number of crimes, from corruption to human rights violation. More so than being a charismatic leader himself, I believe that Fujimori’s speech appealed to the fear of terrorism and the inability of the Peruvian institutions do deal with it. Toward the end of the speech, Fujimori tells the Peruvian people not to be wary of his autogolpe:
“It is essential that the nation understand that the temporary and partial suspension of the present legal system does not constitute the negation of true democracy. On the contrary, this action constitutes the beginning of a search for a genuine transformation that will guarantee a legitimate and effective democracy and that will allow all Peruvians to become the builders of a Peru that is more just, more developed, and better respected within the family of nations.”
Personally, I find it crazy that Fujimori bluntly lies or deceives the population of what the autogolpe really was, a dictatorship.
The testimony provided by Carolina Huamán Oyague regarding her sister who was a victim of La Cantuta Massacre is very emotional given that she is directly confronting the person responsible for her sister’s death, “seated in this court room, I see the person who was principally responsible for the kidnapping, torture and murder of my sister.” As I looked up some videos of Fujimori speaking, I had the same impression as Carolina, that he was acting as a clown and there was no possible way that he actually believed what he was saying. I think that when she says “the visualization of Alberto Kenya Fujimori and all that he represents converts everything in a whirlpool of emotions, images, memories, affronts without a mea culpa or even a simple apology”, she speaks to how a lot of Peruvians felt. To this day when Latin Americans remember the periods of dictatorship a mixture of feelings invade them, including rage, anger, sadness, pain, trauma and to some nostalgia.
Thinking about Fujimori’s trial and the national truth commissions that have taken place in certain Latin American countries to investigated human rights violation during the dictatorships, how important do you think these processes are? What do they represent?
As I mentioned before, there are people, both young and old, who consider these dictatorships to have been positive. How should we engage in discussions with people who think like that?
Please make sure to read and follow up on what is happening in Peru!