Fujimori political dynasty heiress wants to make history

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For the third time, Keiko Fujimori is one step away from following his disgraced father to ascend to the highest political office in Peru and become the country’s first female president.

The right-wing populist has already been beaten twice in the second round, but this time the polls are neck and neck with socialist Pedro Castillo.

Losing again could be the least of his problems, as Fujimori is accused of taking money from scandal-tainted Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht to fund his previous presidential candidacies in 2011 and 2016.

Prosecutors said they would seek a 30-year sentence and 10 months in prison for Fujimori, 46.

She denies any wrongdoing but spent a total of 16 months in pre-trial detention and was released a second time in May 2020.

If she wins the presidency, charges would be stayed until the end of her term under Peruvian law, which exempts sitting presidents from prosecution.

Service time is nothing new to the Fujimori family.

His father Alberto Fujimori, of Japanese origin, is currently serving a 25-year sentence for crimes against humanity and corruption.

Now 82, he was convicted of ordering two killings by death squads in 1991 and 1992 while he was president (1990-2000).

He is also currently under investigation for the forced sterilization of hundreds of thousands of poor, mostly indigenous women, during his last four years in office.

Keiko Fujimori, however, has always supported her father and recently told AFP that she would forgive him if elected.

“After more than 13 years in prison and having been in prison myself, and seeking my father’s freedom by legal means and not having obtained justice, I will do it,” she said.

She had already pledged to do so in 2011 when she narrowly lost the presidential election in a second round to center-left Ollanta Humala, a former army officer.

She also sided with her father when her mother Susana Higuchi accused her men of torturing her and divorced in 1994.

Keiko Fujimori took over as first lady at the age of just 19 and then severed ties with her brother Kenji in a fight for their father’s political mantle.

But the siblings both appeared at a campaign closing event on Thursday, where the younger brother said he was “proud” of his older sister, the two even dancing together.

– Reputation blow –

Despite his deeply tarnished reputation, many Peruvians still remember Alberto Fujimori for the way he handled the twin woes of hyperinflation and terror.

He eradicated Shining Path, a Communist guerrilla group that carried out attacks and kidnappings, but it was in doing so that he was convicted of both massacres.

Keiko Fujimori, however, has relied on her successes in an attempt to woo voters at a time of renewed suffering caused by the coronavirus pandemic and its effects on the economy.

“The health and economic tragedy reminds me of years of terrorism and economic crisis,” Keiko Fujimori told AFP.

“It is a very dramatic situation and Fujimorism has shown that it has the capacity to move our country forward through such difficult times.”

Fujimori heads the Popular Force, a party that combines socially conservative populism and neoliberal capitalism. She was the official opposition from 2016 to 2020, when she suffered a crushing defeat in the legislative elections.

Formerly one of Peru’s most popular politicians, his reputation and that of his party have been shaken by the corruption scandal.

She is accused of accepting $ 1.2 million in illicit funding from parties from Odebrecht, now known as Novonor, for her 2011 presidential campaign.

After losing that race, she was beaten in another second round in 2016 to center-right economist Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.

– Hard anti-abortion position –

Fujimori, whose first name means “blessed girl” in Japanese, has spent half of her life in politics, initially against her will, she said.

Peruvians call her simply “Keiko” or affectionately, though incorrectly, “la Chinoise” – “China”.

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The mother-of-two is also taking a tough stance on abortion and same-sex marriage in a country that already has some of the region’s toughest anti-abortion laws.

Keiko Fujimori was educated in the United States. Her American husband Mark Villanella has gone on a hunger strike outside his wife’s prison to demand her release.