Fujimori Urges Peruvians to Set Aside ‘Grudges’ After His Release

It was unclear if Mr. Fujimori’s remarks were a hint that he planned to play a more active role in Peruvian politics. But the message rippled across Peru, where Mr. Fujimori is a deeply divisive figure.

Though respected by some, he has been vilified for leading an administration that led a violent crackdown in the 1990s on the Maoist Shining Path insurgency, which had all but brought normal life in Peru to a standstill with bombing attacks and killings.

In 2009, Mr. Fujimori was sentenced for his role in two massacres that killed dozens of Peruvians in its effort to quash the Shining Path.

Fujimori Urges Peruvians to Set Aside ‘Grudges’ After His Release
Fujimori Urges Peruvians to Set Aside ‘Grudges’ After His Release

Peru, a country with an authoritarian past, had returned to democracy only 17 years ago. And critics denounced Mr. Kuczynski’s pardon as a blow to the fight against impunity and efforts to heal national wounds after Mr. Fujimori’s presidency.

The Nobel laureate Mario Vargas Llosa and 238 other writers signed an open letter saying the decision covered the nation “in infamy and shame.” The letter said the pardon was not an act of compassion, as the government insisted, but “the most crude and cynical political calculus.”

Mr. Kuczynski, 79, a former Wall Street banker who took office in July 2016, has been hanging on to power, having narrowly survived a motion in Congress last month to impeach him.

He had been accused of lying during an inquiry about possible ties to the Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which was engulfed in a graft scandal. It was later revealed that a financial services company Mr. Kuczynski owned had received $782,000 from Odebrecht, a disclosure that sparked the impeachment effort.

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Mr. Kuczynski had called the claims against him “weak” and said the impeachment proceedings were being used for political gain.

Many had expected the vote to result in his removal, with the chamber dominated by the opposition Popular Force, a right-wing party founded by the daughter of Mr. Fujimori, Keiko, who supported the effort to impeach Mr. Kuczynski.

But at the last minute, a faction of the Popular Force led by Mr. Fujimori’s younger son, Kenji, challenged his sister and swung the vote in Mr. Kuczynski’s favor.

Some lawmakers said that Mr. Fujimori had asked them to follow his son’s lead, and the pardon was widely seen as a quid pro quo with Mr. Kuczynski, charges the administration has denied.

In signs of a split in Popular Force, Kenji Fujimori has accused his sister of “conspiring” to keep his father imprisoned. He has asked that his father be named an aide to the family-run party.

“On the one hand, there’s Keiko and her bloc that directly opposes the government,” said Gilbert Violeta, a congressman who is president of Mr. Kuczynski’s party, Peruvians for Change. “On the other hand, there’s Kenji and the bloc that supports Alberto Fujimori.”

“We will only know the real effects of that confrontation in the following days, when Congress is back in session,” Mr. Violeta added.

Lawyers say there is no legal obstacle preventing Mr. Fujimori from seeking public office now that he has regained his freedom.

Before he was wheeled from the hospital, he asked for Peruvians’ forgiveness “with all my heart” in a Facebook video.

Since then, he has spent his days inside a rented house in a quiet suburb of the Peruvian capital, Lima, where his doctors say he is recovering from a heart condition.

Yonette Joseph contributed reporting from London.

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