Peru’s ailing former leader, Mr. Alberto Fujimori, is begging the people for forgiveness, two days after receiving a presidential pardon that sparked street protests.
“I am aware that the results of my government were well received on one side, but I admit that I have let down other compatriots, and I ask them to forgive me with all my heart,” Fujimori said in a Facebook video filmed from his hospital bed.
The 79-year-old had been serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights abuses committed during his time in office from 1990 to 2000.
He was transferred from prison to a hospital on Saturday after suffering from low blood pressure and an irregular heartbeat, the latest in a string of hospitalizations.
In the video, Fujimori lay propped up on a hospital bed wearing a white gown, with a blood pressure cuff on his right arm and another monitor clasped to his left index finger. He talked over the constant background beeping of a monitoring device.
Gray-haired and with bags under his eyes, he spoke clearly, looking directly into the camera but also glancing down as if checking a prepared text that was out of the camera’s view.
President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski ordered the pardon of Fujimori and seven other prisoners Sunday on humanitarian grounds, placing himself in the middle of a political crisis just days after he avoided impeachment.
The move set off street protests in Lima, and police fired tear gas and clashed with demonstrators who were marching Monday against the pardon and demanding that Kuczynski step down.
The president defended his decision in a televised message to the nation.
“I am convinced that those of us who feel democratic should not allow Alberto Fujimori to die in prison, because justice is not revenge,” Kuczynski said in his address Monday night.
“It is about the health and chances of life of a former president of Peru who, having committed excesses and grave errors, was sentenced and has already completed 12 years” in prison, he said.
Anti-riot police deployed to prevent demonstrators from heading to the clinic where Fujimori is hospitalized, firing tear gas canisters and erecting barricades to disperse them.
A strong force of anti-riot police moved through the streets of Lima with the protesters and sought to prevent them from heading to the clinic where Fujimori is hospitalized, firing tear gas cannisters and erecting barricades to disperse the crowds
“Out, out PPK! Out, out PPK!” demonstrators chanted in reference to the current president, who had promised during his electoral campaign last year that he would not free Fujimori.
“Fujimori, murderer and thief. No to the pardon!” read a sign held by the protesters, some of whom also carried a giant Peruvian flag.
Relatives of victims of Fujimori’s brutal rule took part in the march.
“We are here as relatives to reject this illegal pardon, because it does not correspond to the gravity of the crimes,” Gisella Ortiz, from a group of victims’ families, told reporters.
The pardon from Kuczynski came after Fujimori’s son Kenji drained votes away from a parliamentary bid Thursday to impeach Kuczynski on suspicion of corruption, sparking speculation the pardon was political.