Among other charges, Fujimori, who was extradited to Lima by Chilean authorities, will be tried in relation to two civilian massacres at the hands of a military death squad active during his regime. His political organizationmostly a collection of relatives and croniesis using its 13 members of Congress to pressure the government and the magistrates to set him free.
Some Peruvians rationalize the human rights violations and the corruption of the Fujimori years with the argument that the country was at war with the Maoist terrorist organization known as Shining Path and that his government spurred the economic recovery of the last decade.
The greatest challenge in the upcoming trials will not be political pressure on judges or the publicity of a highly charged case at a time when global financial institutions are on the verge of granting Peru an investment grade, the highest economic rating. The greatest challenge will be testing the Peruvian peoples capacity to decouple in their minds their personal views of Fujimoris government from the moral and legal implications of the crimes for which he will be tried.
The capacity or incapacity to make that distinction will tell us whether Peru has gone from being a society that puts institutions and moral principles at the mercy of political necessitythe mark of underdevelopmentto a society that embraces the principle that the law is an impersonal set of rules over and above personal preference, political convenience or sheer passion.
Because many Peruvians were not ready to make that distinction in the 1990s, Fujimoris government was able to concentrate colossal amounts of power with popular supporthence the crimes and the corruption for which dozens of his former collaborators have gone to jail. There was a time, shortly after Fujimori fled to Japan and resigned his post by fax in 2000, when many Peruvians, shocked by spectacular revelations of high-level corruption, seemed ready to understand that accountability, limits on government, and the separation of powers are extremely important. However, with the passing of time a substantial number of people have started to forget the tragic events of the recent past. Even if they distance themselves from Fujimori personally, they seem to advocate, for instance with regard to law and order issues or the uncomfortable presence of NGO activists in parts of the country, some of the dictatorial tactics that made human rights violations and corruption systematic in the 1990s.
The mental transition from the idea that strongmen are the solution to a nations problems to the idea that impersonal institutions should be more powerful than those who rule is crucial. Much of the progress that has taken place in the world in recent centuries stems precisely from that transition. The countries that have not shaken off the tradition of strongman rule need to learn not to subject basic human rights to the whims of politicians acting on a wave of popular fear.
Peru is undergoing Asian-style growth rates and its entrepreneurial class is rapidly adopting new technologies and becoming competitive. But the other part of the development equationdecoupling the institutions from the political process in order to protect individual rights permanentlyis not yet fully in place. That is an age-old cultural trait that will need to be overcome through leadership and reform.
One way to start is to show the population that Fujimoris trials are not part of any political revenge and that he will be treated more fairly than he treated his enemies. But Perus still precarious judiciary will also need to show that it is ready to do its job impartially, no matter how much political pressure Fujimoris supporters bring to bear.
Ernest C. Pasour is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor Emeritus of Agricultural and Resource Economics at North Carolina State University, and author of Plowshares & Pork Barrels: The Political Economy of Agriculture (with Randy Rucker) and Agriculture and the State from the Independent Institute.
Randal R. Rucker is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of Agricultural Economics and Economics at Montana State University, and co-author (with E.C. Pasour, Jr.) of Plowshares & Pork Barrels: The Political Economy of Agriculture.
Charles V. Peña is Senior Fellow at the Independent Institute as well as a senior fellow with the Coalition for a Realistic Foreign Policy, senior fellow with the George Washington University Homeland Security Policy Institute, and an adviser on the Straus Military Reform Project.
William Ratliff is Adjunct Fellow at the Independent Institute, Research Fellow at Stanford University's Hoover Institution, and a frequent writer on Chinese and Cuban foreign policies.
Ivan Eland is Director of the Center on Peace & Liberty at The Independent Institute and Assistant Editor of The Independent Review. Dr. Eland is a graduate of Iowa State University and received an M.B.A. in applied economics and Ph.D. in national security policy from George Washington University. He has been Director of Defense Policy Studies at the Cato Institute, Principal Defense Analyst at the Congressional Budget Office, Evaluator-in-Charge (national security and intelligence) for the U.S. General Accounting Office, and Investigator for the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Full Biography and Recent Publications
Jonathan J. Bean is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute, Professor of History at Southern Illinois University, and editor of the forthcoming book, Race and Liberty: The Classical Liberal Tradition of Civil Rights.
Gregory is a Research Analyst at The Independent Institute. He earned
his bachelor's degree in American history from the University of California
at Berkeley and gave the undergraduate history commencement speech in
2003. In addition to his work with the Independent Institute, he regularly
writes for numerous news and commentary web sites, including LewRockwell.com,
Future of Freedom Foundation, and the Rational Review.
Dominick T. Armentano is professor emeritus in economics at the University of Hartford (Connecticut) and a research fellow at The Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif. He is author of Antitrust & Monopoly (Independent Institute, 1998).
Alvaro Vargas Llosa is director of The Center on Global Prosperity at The Independent Institute. He is a native of Peru and received his B.S.C. in international history from the London School of Economics. He is widely published and has lectured on world economic and political issues including at the Mont Pelerin Society, Naumann Foundation (Germany), FAES Foundation (Spain), Brazilian Institute of Business Studies, Fundación Libertad (Argentina), CEDICE Foundation (Venezuela), Florida International University, and the Ecuadorian Chamber of Commerce. He is the author of the Independent Institute books The Che Guevara Myth and Liberty for Latin America. Full biography and recent publications.
Gabriel Roth is a transport and privatization consultant and a research fellow at the Independent Institute, where he is editing a book on private-sector roles in the provision of roads, Street Smart: Competition, Entrepreneurship, and the Future of Roads.
Higgs is Senior Fellow in Political Economy at The Independent Institute,
author of Against Leviathan and Crisis and Leviathan, and editor of the
scholarly quarterly journal, The Independent Review. Click
here for a bio on Dr. Higgs, the noted economist and historian.
William Marina is Research Fellow at the Independent Institute in Oakland, Calif., and Professor Emeritus of History at Florida Atlantic University.
T. Beito is a Research Fellow at The Independent Institute, Associate
Professor of History at the University of Alabama, and co-editor of
the book, The
Voluntary City: Choice, Community and Civil Society.
For further information, see the Independent Institutes book on wasteful farm programs, Agriculture and the State: Market Processes and Bureaucracy, by Ernest C. Pasour, Jr.