Prior to the 1995 elections Fujimori’s opponents attempted to undercut his popularity by challenging his human rights record. Despite those challenges, Fujimori’s accomplishments overwhelmed his critics at the polls, where he won the presidential elections outright, gaining more than 60 percent of the vote.
Fujimori declared a blanket amnesty in 1995 for all human rights abuses that may have been committed by members of the Peruvian military or police forces between 1980 and 1995. He pushed the measure through the Peruvian congress without a debate, outraging human rights activists and many Peruvian citizens, and provoking condemnation from governments around the world.
The law absolved military personnel or civilians who had already been convicted, who were under investigation, or who were in the process of being tried for alleged crimes.
In November 1995 Peruvian authorities arrested 23 people, including a U.S. citizen, and alleged that they were members of the Tupac Amarú Revolutionary Movement and that they had been planning a terrorist attack on the Peruvian Congress. Tupac Amarú was never as powerful as the Shining Path, but it had been responsible for numerous guerrilla attacks in Peru in the 1980s and 1990s. The trials were conducted in secret, and the accused were unable to cross-examine witnesses, challenge government evidence, or call witnesses on their behalf.
All 23 defendants were convicted and many of them were given life sentences. International human rights groups and the U.S. government condemned the trials, saying that they illustrated a lack of justice and due process in Peru’s legal system.
In December 1996 Tupac Amarú rebels seized the residence of the Japanese ambassador in Lima, taking hundreds of hostages, including foreign diplomats and Peruvian government officials. The rebels demanded the release of imprisoned comrades, and freed all but 72 of their hostages while negotiating with the government. After a four-month-long standoff, Fujimori ordered a military raid on the mansion to free the hostages. Commandos killed all of the rebels, and one hostage and two soldiers died in the attack. A series of government scandals damaged the public’s perception of Fujimori’s government during mid-1997. In May Fujimori replaced three Constitutional Court justices who ruled that the congress acted unconstitutionally when it declared him eligible to run for a third consecutive presidential term despite a constitutional prohibition. Evidence also emerged that the government authorized telephone wire-tapping of prominent political opponents and paid Fujimori’s unofficial head of the intelligence service a salary of $600,000.
Fujimori’s public image was further damaged after a television station released information showing that the intelligence service had tortured two female intelligence agents who leaked information to the press about a government campaign to harass journalists. Fujimori’s approval rating dropped to 20 percent as a result of the scandals and the controversy surrounding the replacement of the justices on the Constitutional Court.
A particularly fierce El Niño struck Peru in late 1997. El Niño, which occurs periodically, caused severe rain and flooding that killed more than 200 Peruvians and caused extensive damage in many regions of the nation. Fujimori’s public image improved after he became personally involved in the crisis, making whirlwind tours to areas of the country that had been ravaged by storms and personally directing measures to control damage. The conflict between the government and the Shining Path continued into 1998, with Shining Path guerrillas engaging in sporadic acts of urban terrorism and attempting to establish or strengthen their bases in rural areas. In March 1998 police in Lima arrested four important leaders in the Shining Path organization. In his bid for a third term in 2000, Fujimori drew international criticism for alleged campaign abuses and faced a surprisingly strong challenge from Alejandro Toledo, a business school professor.
In the April elections neither of the two front-running candidates won 50 percent of the vote, and a runoff was scheduled for May. However, Toledo boycotted the race because of concerns about election fraud, and Fujimori was reelected. In the legislative elections Fujimori’s coalition, Peru 2000, won the most congressional seats but fell short of a majority.
Fujimori’s presidency began to unravel in September 2000 after his intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, was linked to a corruption scandal. After firing Montesinos, Fujimori called an early presidential election for April 2001 and promised not to run in it. By mid-November Fujimori faced a groundswell of political opposition as new charges of corruption and fraud continued to surface. While Fujimori was abroad for a trade summit of Pacific Rim nations, opposition parties took control of congress and elected a centrist legislator, Valentín Paniagua, as the leader of congress. Fujimori announced from Japan that he would resign as president, and Paniagua was chosen to lead an interim government pending new presidential and legislative elections. In a public rebuke of Fujimori, the legislature rejected the former president’s resignation and voted to remove him from office for being morally unfit. "Peru" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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