Peru's Fujimori Declares Innocence, May Run Again

Reuters -- 26 November 2000

by Kazunori Takada

TOKYO - Peru's disgraced ex-president, Alberto Fujimori, protesting his innocence, said Sunday the Samurai spirit of his ancestors gives him the strength to fight on, possibly even to contest a general election next April.

Last week, Fujimori submitted his resignation to Peru's Congress in a fax from his posh Tokyo hotel but was instead declared ``morally unfit'' and sacked amid allegations of corruption.

``There are many allegations but they are all incorrect...,'' Fujimori told the Asahi Shimbun newspaper in an interview carried out Saturday at the country home of Japanese novelist Ayako Sono, in Miura in Kanagawa prefecture near Tokyo.

``I hope they will investigate this case because I am innocent.''

Sunday, Fujimori told TV Asahi that he could return home within weeks, but said the timing would depend on the situation at home. He did not elaborate.

``I have the Samurai spirit in me and I am always thinking about Peru,'' Fujimori told the Asahi. ``I may not be understood but my fight for Peru will continue.''

He told the media he had not abandoned an earlier plan to take part in general elections scheduled for next April.

``I will have to reconsider whether to run in the next general elections but I will not rule out the possibility,'' he told the Nihon Keizai Shimbun financial daily.

He congratulated Peru's new government which took office under new prime minister, Javier Perez de Cuellar, Saturday. ``I wish my best to them,'' he told TBS television.

``With my resignation, I think there will be more political stability in Peru, and of course more economic stability.''

Fujimori went to ground last Wednesday, taking refuge at the home of a friend after slipping out of the posh Tokyo hotel where he had been holed up for five days since his arrival, apparently en route home from a meeting of Asia Pacific leaders in Brunei.

Nationality A Question For Japan

However, he said he had no immediate plans to return to Peru.

``I don't plan to return to Peru in the near future,'' the Mainichi Shimbun quoted him as saying.

Asked about the delicate issue of his nationality, Fujimori said this decision lay with the Japanese authorities.

``It is true that my parents registered (my birth) with the Japanese consulate but that does not mean I have Japanese nationality. It is not up to me to decide.''

Justice Ministry officials have said that as long as Fujimori can prove that his parents were Japanese, he is eligible to stay. In addition, he cannot be extradited.

An official in the small southwestern Japanese town where his parents were born told Reuters that Fujimori's name had been entered into the ancestral koseki, after his parents emigrated to Peru in the early 1930s, giving him Japanese nationality.

Fujimori used the media interviews to defend his 10 years at the helm of one of Latin America's most chaotic nations when he is credited with taming rampant hyperinflation, ending a simmering, decades-old, border dispute with Ecuador, defeating rebels and dealing blows to drug lords.

Trusted Montesinos Too Much

These successes had created enemies who had forced him into exile, he hinted. ``I had been fighting against drugs and terrorism therefore my life was in danger,'' he told the Mainichi.

Last Tuesday, Fujimori gave a news conference in which he apologized to his people.

Many Peruvians believe Fujimori is staying in Japan to avoid being targeted in corruption probes involving his former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos, his right-hand man for 10 years.

Montesinos -- one of the most powerful people in Peru -- is being investigated for allegedly amassing over $58 million from money laundering.

No formal charges have been lodged against Fujimori.

``One of the problems was that I trusted Montesinos too much,'' Fujimori told the Mainichi.

Peru's interim President Valentin Paniagua swore in a new cabinet Saturday, including a respected economist as his new economy minister, part of a new cabinet led by former United Nations secretary-general Javier Perez de Cuellar.