The president of Peru has cleared the country’s former leader Alberto Fujimori of convictions for corruption and human rights crimes amid graft allegations against his own administration, prompting two-days of heated protests across nation’s capital, Lima.
On Christmas even, Peru’s President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski reportedly pardoned the 79-year-old Fujimori 12 years into a 25-year jail sentence.
Despite the protests, Kuczynski justified clemency for the “ailing” Fujimori on Monday “whose authoritarian government in the 1990s helped the country progress after Peruvians protested for a second day,” reported Reuters.
Meanwhile, Fujimori, considered a divisive figure across the country, thanked his benefactor for commuting his prison sentence.
Confined to a hospital bed with tubes hooked up to his body, Fujimori reportedly asked for forgiveness.
“The news of the humanitarian pardon granted by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski surprised me at this intensive care unit,” said Fujimori said in a video posted on his Facebook page, noted CNN.
“I am aware that the results during my government on one side were well received, but I recognize that I have also disappointed others, and I ask them to forgive me with all my heart.”
The country’s president, who finds himself in the middle of a corruption scandal himself, urged Peruvians to “turn the page” and accept his decision.
The pardon has pitched Kuczynski’s center-right government into a fresh political crisis less than a week after Congress nearly removed him from office in the wake of a graft scandal.
Earlier on Monday, police fired tear gas to disperse crowds in downtown Lima in a second day of unrest, while a third lawmaker announced he was abandoning Kuczynski’s political party. Fujimori, who like Kuczynski is 79, is a deeply divisive figure in Peru. While many consider him a corrupt dictator, others credit him with ending a severe economic crisis and quashing a leftist rebellion during his decade in power.
Kuczynski, a former Wall Street banker, stressed that his pardon stemmed from fears that Fujimori might die in captivity while also defending Fujimori’s decade as president.
“It’s clear his government, which inherited a country submerged in a violent and chaotic crisis at the start of the 1990s, incurred in significant legal transgressions regarding democracy and human rights. But I also think his government contributed to national progress,” reportedly declared the Peruvian president in a televised address.
President Kuczynski’s comments sparked outrage among Fujimori’s enemies.
“You’ve got to be pretty stingy, President Kuczynski, to not say a word of solidarity for the victims and their loved ones,” noted Gisela Ortiz, a Peruvian human rights activist, on Twitter following his speech, pointed out Reuters.
The news outlet revealed that while Fujimori’s detractors helped Kuczynski take office, it was a rebel faction among supporters of the former president which saved the new leader from being removed.
At least three lawmakers from Kuczynski ruling party lawmakers have announced their resignation in response to the pardon.