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In the Eye of the Storm

After the initial elation of hearing that Peru’s ex-President, Alberto Fujimori, was finally being extradited from Chile to Peru to face human rights and corruption charges,

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it was shocking but not surprising to see the old thuggish tactics of Fujimori’s supporters at work again: “El Ojo Que Llora” (The Eye That Cries), a memorial in Lima to the 70,000 people killed in Peru’s war with Shining Path, was defaced with orange paint (the color of Fujimori’s party) by a group of vandals. In recent years the memorial had become a gathering place to further peace and reconciliation, where the annual commemoration of the delivery of Peru’s Truth & Reconciliation Commission Final Report (on August 29, 2003) is held. El Ojo Que Llora, created by artist Lika Mutal, is in the network of the International Coalition of Historic Sites of Conscience, in recognition of its profound significance as a bastion of the collective memory of a nation emerging from mass atrocities. See it in this video:


Of course the Fujimoristas felt threatened by the serene power of this memorial, it’s 70,000 stones laid out in a labyrinth a constant reminder of the reign of terror and corruption that Peru lived during Fujimori’s regime, as exemplified by politician Martha Chavez, one of Fujimori’s staunchest supporters and allies, who declared that “With pleasure, I would have destroyed the memorial myself.”

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We sent the following letter to the Editor of The New York Times to critique their coverage of Fujimori’s extradition to Peru and the historical narrative he successfully spun during his time in power and that persists to this day. Although the NY Times didn’t publish it, we shared the letter with Mirko Lauer, one of Peru’s foremost opinion makers, who did publish it in his column:

“To the Editor:
It’s a shame that in his article (Chile Returns Fujimori to Peru to Face Charges – 9/23/07) Simon Romero reinforces the historical narrative promoted by Alberto Fujimori that he was responsible for crushing the Shining Path movement in Peru. This is a distortion of the facts. In fact, as the Peruvian Truth & Reconciliation Commission concluded in its Final Report, the biggest blow to terrorism in Peru was the capture of Shining Path leader Abimael Guzmn, a capture that was executed without firing a shot after a 5-year police investigation that had started before Mr. Fujimori took power, led by Detective Benedicto Jimenez and his small counter-terrorism team, known as the GEIN (Special Intelligence Group). Mr. Fujimori preferred a military approach to terrorism which led to an increase in the Shining Path insurgency with car bombs exploding in Lima almost daily. Mr. Jimenez treated terrorism as a criminal problem that had to be solved through old fashioned detective work, and was disdained and underfunded by Mr. Fujimori. When the capture of Mr. Guzmán occurred on a Saturday night, Mr. Fujimori was on a weekend fishing trip, completely unaware of the operation, and raced back to Lima when he heard the news. Not wanting to be upstaged by Mr. Jimenez, Mr. Fujimori promptly dismissed him.

Paco de Onís, Pamela Yates, Peter Kinoy”

As we showed in our film State of Fear, Fujimori was a master manipulator of the media, and nothing makes it clearer than this video clip we edited showing footage shot with a hidden camera set up by Fujimori’s spy chief and master of corruption, Vladimiro Montesinos. We call it “Latin America’s First Media Dictator” – see for yourself:

Paco de Onís
paco@skylight.is

Paco is the Executive Director at Skylight.