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The Fall Of Fujimori (2005-2006) NR 83min

October 5th, 2007 by Maxim · No Comments · 4,375 Views

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Alberto Fujimori was President of Peru from 1990 to 2000. This documentary by Ellen Perry tells story of his presidency, his popularity and his downfall from president of Peru to an international fugitive, wanted by Interpol for corruption, kidnapping and murder.

According to this documentary, the situation in late 80s and up to 1990 in Peru was this:
Hyperinflation of 7,600%. Poverty. $1B in cocaine exports. Terrorism responsible for 35,000 deaths. Government was indecisive. Maoist revolutionaries of ”Shining Path” were close to taking power over. Their message was true: “the schools are rundown, you are poor. What has government done for you? Nothing.”

In 1990 Fujimori ran for president on a popular platform of fighting terrorism, poverty and corruption, building roads and schools. His policies were mostly defined by his choice of his chief intelligence officer, Vladimiro Montesinos: death squads, executions of “suspected terrorists”. On April 5, 1992 in a self-coup Fujimori dissolved Congress,  “reorganized” judicial branch and passed strict anti-terrorism laws. Reminds you of anyone?

Fujimori: “When judges are being threatened… we had no alternative but creating military tribunals”.

The massive terrorist attack on July 16,1992 in Tarata suburb of Lima was the breaking point. People were angry: “screw human rights, kill the bastards”. Crackdown on suspected terrorists followed, largest in history of Peru. In this situation it was easy for Fujimori to convince people that some of their individual rights will have to be revoked. Without system of checks and balances, very many innocent people were caught. Prisons were full, while conditions in prisons were horrible. At the same time prisons had become schools of terrorism because “Shining Path” people were in them together with the rest of the  population. Abimael Guzman, leader of Shining Path was captured, and Fujimori thought he beheaded “Shining Path”.

By 1995 economy is booming, foreign investors want to get in. But the pressure on Alberto Fujimori to democratise was growing. He was also shocked that his wife wanted a divorce and to run against him as the new presidential candidate, accusing him of corruption. But Alberto won the election by a landslide because despite the coup and past oppression Peruvians were ready to forgive him everything in favor of economic growth. “It’s the economy, stupid!”. The first 8 years were good overall: economic growth, crackdown on revolutionaries, the war on drugs was very successful. Economic growth, some say, was mostly thanks to huge IMF subsidies and to privatization many state-owned enterprises, which turned out to be bad for the country in the long term. He is credited with stopping hyperinflation, reducing the size of government, while privatization allowed for many services, such as telephone and internet, to be available to people very quickly. By the end of Fujimori’s second term there was nothing left to privitize and economy was in pretty bad shape once again, with the gap between reach and poor even bigger. The high GDP growth was also attributed in large part to exploration and export of non-renewable natural resources. That wasn’t mentioned in the film.

But then “stories” started to bubble up about Montesinos: his unlimited power, killings, torture, corruption, bribery. In the interview Fujimori denied any knowledge of it, but we were told that Fujumori was a micro-manager and knew and approved everything Montesinos did. Indeed, Fujimori is presumed to be associated with those killings, but it has not been entirely proven and is subject of study by Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. The final report of the Peruvian Truth and Reconciliation Commission, published on 28 August 2003, revealed that while the majority of the atrocities committed between 1980 and 1995 were the work of Shining Path, the Peruvian armed forces were also guilty of having destroyed villages and having murdered campesinos whom they suspected of supporting insurgents. According to the report, the great percentage of deaths caused by the armed forces occurred during the Belaunde and Garcia governments, not Fujimori. During the Fujimori period the numbers decreased, with a shift in tactics away from general butchery and toward isolating support for the insurgents, with Army engineers building rural roads and schools. But the film implies that there were no killings before Fujimori’s “brutal dictatorship”.

Fujimori re-entered presidential campaign in 2000, which put him in a legal limbo: according to the new constitution, president could not be re-elected more then once, but technically it was his first bid for re-election since new constitution has been ratified. He wanted to stay in power at any cost.

“La pelicula comica”: when multiple videos of Montesinos bribing members of Congress were shown on television, it was the end. Either Fujimori was really out of touch with reality and a puppet of Montesinos, or he pleaded ignorance, declaring that he will find Montesinos and deal with him.

Fujimori escaped to Japan. Everyone thought he was a traitor: a president of Peru went to get help from his motherland… But even now his approval rating is 35-40%. Alberto Fujimori announced in 2004 he’ll run for president of Peru again in 2006. He tried to come back to Peru to run, but was intercepted in Chile and now waits extradition. His daughter may run though.

After an international manhunt Montesinos was captured in Venezuela and extradited to Peru. He was convicted and ordered to serve 9 years, where he ironically shared the cell with Abimael Guzman. Later Guzman’s conviction by military tribunal was found illegal and he is being re-tried now. Fujimori is accused of human right violations, and his alleged association with Barrios Altos massacre was primary reason for Peruvian demand for his extradition from Japan in 2003. There’s also a rumor that security forces executed at least three of the remaining eight surviving hostage takers that Perry praised Fujimori for dealing with during Japanese embassy hostage crisis. Verious charges are standing against Fujimori, including murder, kidnapping, crimes against humanity, forced sterilization of women, supposed airdrop of Kalashinkov rifles to Colombian guerilla (Fujimori denies any knowledge in the interview and blames Montesino), corruption (he and his buddies pocketed roughly $2B), yet most of this money is related to Montesino’s corruption. Again, these are charges not proven in court. There’s no direct evidence compromising Fujimori.

The family, according to director, approved the film as very objective. I think Ellen Perry may have tried to make a balanced movie, but failed miserably. The entire movie felt like an attempt of a college student to write an essay about history and historic figure of another country in which [s]he never lived and even never visited. She obviously done some research and found interesting people to interview, including Fujimori himself, but it felt like she formed her point of view before even beginning to interview him and others. Her fascination with Fujimori is like fascination of school-girls with David Backham and is quite pitiful actually. The movie for the most part is narration over archive footage, again, edited to support director’s point of view, with Fujimori commenting on the footage. But his comments are so often disconnected from the images that one begins to think that either, as Perry said in the interview, “dictators are weird”, or he is out of touch with reality, or he thought that if he explained himself, this film will actually be helpful in his presidential campaign because it’d show what he had to deal with and how victorious he came out of a very complex situation, namely struggle against “Shining Path” and poor conditions in which the country was left by the previous president (who is now again the president of Peru. Go figure…). Fujimori did not even mind the “Fall” part of the movie’s title. On the other hand, there was no mention whatsoever about CIA’s involvement with Fujimori as well as United States foreign policy of many decades of supporting friendly (as in U.S. business-friendly) dictatorships all over the world. One of the interviewees merely mentioned that US liked Montesinos while he was useful, but when he became a nuisance they could not wait to get rid of him.

There are some parallels in this movie with other countries. His self-coup reminded me of Boris Yeltsin’s orders to deploy tanks against Russian parliament during legal stand-off between him and Communist-dominated Duma, where Yeltsin was attempting a power-grab by modifying constitution via his presidential decrees without approval of parliament. Just like recently in Ukraine where president dissolved parliament because of legal dead-lock, Yeltsin and Fujimori did the same. And people loved them for that. How about recent firings of Attorneys here in United States. History keeps repeating itself. First time as a tragedy, second time as a farce.

Music by Mark Adler. Nothing in particular, just appropriate for a TV documentary to fill silence or background.
Edited by Kim Roberts.
Executive Producer Stephen Moffitt.

Film features interviews with family members and U.S. ambassador to Peru.

DVD contains special features:
- director’s commentary
- interview with director.
- a short film about suppression of press
- info on FARC Arms Deal

Anyone can use archive footage and narate it with dramatic voice and music, but this documentary feels like a college-grad’s essay. Worth watching but don’t expect much.

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Tags: Biographical · DVD · Documentary

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