Thousands of people in Peru protest Alberto pardon in Lima

Thousands of people in Peru have taken to the streets of the capital, Lima, in the largest protest rally yet since the Christmas Eve pardon of former authoritarian president Alberto Fujimori by the current president.
Angry protesters rallied in Lima on Thursday, carrying signs that read “Justice cannot be negotiated,” and chanting “Enlightened people do not pardon criminals.”
They also demanded the ouster of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who had pledged not to pardon Fujimori during his 2016 election campaign but went on to do so on Sunday anyway.
The growing protests over Fujimori’s pardon may cause more headache for President Kuczynski, who is reshuffling his cabinet and is seeking new allies in Congress.
Earlier protest rallies across Peru against the pardon had led to clashes with police forces.
Kuczynski cited medical reasons for the pardon of the 79-year-old Fujimori, who was less than halfway into a 25-year prison sentence for graft and human rights abuses. That pardon reportedly also shielded the former dictator from a pending trial.
Protesters march during a rally against the pardon of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori in Lima, on December 28, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
Moreover, the timing of the controversial pardon — three days after Fujimori’s loyalists in Congress unexpectedly saved Kuczynski from impeachment — triggered speculation among his critics that it was part of a negotiated political deal.
Kuczynski survived last week’s impeachment bid by opposition lawmakers over his alleged links to a corruption scandal. Yet, he reiterated on Thursday that the pardon was not the result of a political pact, claiming that it was fundamentally about forgiveness.
“The country can’t remain divided by political struggles that only hold the country back from continuing to make progress,” Peru’s presidential office said in a statement.
Meanwhile, United Nations human rights experts also described the pardon as a major setback for the rule of law in Peru and a “slap in the face” of the victims of Fujimori’s brutal rule.
Fujimori apologized to the Peruvians following the pardon on Tuesday in a video message from a hospital bed, thanking Kuczynski for the move and pledging to support the president’s call for national reconciliation.
However, Fujimori’s opponents insisted that it was too little, too late.
“We suffered from his murders... he still hasn’t acknowledged his crimes,” said Norma Mendez, the mother of a journalist killed in 1991 in what Peru’s truth commission cited as an extrajudicial attack by former government agents.
Fujimori, who ruled over Peru as a US-backed president from 1990 to 2000, is remembered for stabilizing the economy but is also blamed for massive human rights abuses. He has been hospitalized for heart arrhythmia.