Better the devil you know?: a millennial’s perspective on the Fujimori Legacy

The legacy of Alberto Fujimori is controversial. While he has numerous supporters across Peru and abroad such as our previous interviewee Ella Carkagis, among Peruvians born in the 1980s and 1990s in particular, opposition is common. In this profile, Alexis Castro Robles interviews Carkagis’ eldest daughter, Marianella, who gives us an insight into the ‘other side’ of Fujimori’s regime and also how she perceives Peru’s future now that Alberto Fujimori has received a ‘humanitarian pardon.’

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Alberto, Kenji and Keiko Fujimori (Image courtesy of ‘Peru 21’ newspaper) 

Marianella, although you were in your teenage years during the late 1990s, do you remember what politics was like at that time from your family and school?

At that time, everyone was afraid of everything. Our parents sent us to school with fear, because the terrorists chose targets randomly. I remember that the street lights blew up and that we stayed in the dark. There were always candles in my house. There were soldiers in the streets and curfews quite often. We could not leave the house after 7pm. I remember the terror that we felt walking past a car that looked suspicious in the street, because it could be a ‘coche bomba’ (car bomb). At school they taught us to be prepared at all times. We simulated emergency situations. They also taught us to shout a warning if we heard a very loud sound, because it could be a bomb.

Your mother was supportive of Fujimori’s measures in granting the military extensive powers to challenge ‘terror’ by arresting suspected rebels and trying them in secret military courts with few legal rights. What are your thoughts?

Terrorism was so bad in the 90s that the government had to declare war. We believed that there was a good side (the state) and a bad side (the terrorists) but we were wrong. The country was consumed by a witch hunt. Any man could say that his neighbor was a terrorist and without evidence the military could take him from his house in the early morning and ‘disappear’ him. Villagers were taken from their homes by soldiers and executed. They raped the women. The buses that went to the provinces were dangerous for this reason. We were terrorised both by the terrorists and by the military, who far from protecting us, took advantage of the power granted them to torture, rape and kill.

Do you believe Peruvians recognise the human rights violations committed by Fujimori and the military? If not, what impedes this recognition?

Fujimori was a showman. He went on national television with boots, helmet and carrying cement to every school he built. He appeared to help with everything, while also robbing his people and murdering us. He did many works to keep us quiet. His government was bloodthirsty. We Peruvians are so poor in education that we are not able to understand that “the lesser evil” is not good. “That he who steals but does work” is not good. We are not used to thinking about our neighbor. We think only of ourselves and our hunger. There are many people who know what Fujimori has done and do not care because they were “necessary deaths”. No death is necessary. Homicide is a crime.

What do you think about the mass forced sterilisation that affected around 300 000 Indigenous Peruvian women, many of them without anaesthesia, in the late 1990s?

It was simply inhumane. There are people like my mother who say it was necessary. Machismo did not allow women to make the decision to no longer have children and many thanked the government for having sterilised them. But many women without children and very young were also sterilised, without anaesthetics and without knowing what was being done to them. They were treated like cows. When my mum says it was necessary, I answer: What if it had been your daughter? What if it had been me? She remains silent. Those people who were mistreated could be any of us and we should all repudiate a fact as execrable as that. The solution was and is in education for all. Machismo exists because there is no education.

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Peruvian women march against Keiko Fujimori, drawing attention to women’s rights, Keiko’s political ties with her father and her questionable human rights stance. (Image courtesy of ‘Diario UNO’ newspaper)

Fujimori’s sterilisation of women was highlighted by opponents during the presidential campaign of Alberto Fujimori’s daughter, Keiko. For example 30 000 protesters in Lima expressed their discontent in April 2016. Do you think these protesters feared a possible return to her father’s dynasty? 

Yes indeed. The same people who were with [Alberto] Fujimori, are also on the side of Fujimori’s daughter. Her government would be a terrible blow against democracy.

Do you think the protests were a response of the Peruvian Left? Or just those who supported for the current Peruvian President, Pedro Pablo Kucyznski (‘PPK’)?

‘PPK’ won the elections thanks to Keiko Fujimori. He won because we were against her winning. He did not win on his own merit. The PPK government is another mistake to avoid the greater evil. He is a president who has done nothing for us like so many others. Our streets are infested with criminals.

Lastly, Alberto Fujimori has received the ‘humanitarian pardon’ for his ailing health by Kuczynski in December 2017. What do you think about this decision?

‘PPK’ sold our country when he pardoned Fujimori. He did not care about the hundreds of mothers who still cry for their unborn children. Nor the disappeared parents who could not raise their children. Not even the hundreds of women who were harmed and mistreated by the regime. Kuczynski was on the verge of losing the presidency for a fujimorista coup d’etat. He betrayed every Peruvian by pardoning him.

Alexis Castro Robles

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