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HBO Latin America airs ‘The Fall of Fujimori’ documentary

On Wednesday, March 28, 0:45 a.m. Peruvian time, HBO Latin America will air the award winning documentary “The Fall of Fujimori” by Ellen Perry. The film won the 2005 Grand Jury Prize for documentaries at the Boston Independent Film Festival and was also nominated the same year at the Sundance Film Festival and Writers Guild of America.

The 85 minute film has created some controversial responses throughout Peru, Latin America and viewers in the United States and opinions on its quality and accuracy are divided. While some Peruvians think that the last thing this country needed was a foreign director “telling our history”, others feel that Ellen Perry gave an equal opportunity to both sides of the story, and, unlike most journalists, did not attempt to tell viewers how they should feel about Fujimori, she gave unbiased information and left the decision to the viewer, and she has told a very important story in a very disturbing and exciting way.

The documentary was filmed before the extraordinary tale of fugitive former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori took a strange twist in November 2005 when he arrived unexpectedly in Chile. Apparently he was planning a political comeback and tried to run in the upcoming Peruvian presidential elections in April 2006.

However, he was immediately arrested upon hi arrival at Santiago de Chile’s international airport. Peruvian authorities rejected his bid for the elections and filed an extradition request with Chile, based on several charges of corruption and human rights abuses. After sitting in jail for a few months, Chilean justice officials later granted his conditional release while the investigation and judicial procedure continued to drag. Put under the condition not to leave the country and not meddling into Peruvian affairs, Fujimori moved into a house in an upscale Santiago neighborhood.

A ruling by the Chilean Supreme Court is expected by April which will be followed by an appeals process.

HBO Latin America air times (Peruvian time):

Wed., 28/3/2007, 00:45 a.m.
Mon., 02/4/2007, 12:45 p.m.
Fri., 06/4/2007, 11:45 a.m.
Wed., 11/4/2007, 03:00 p.m.
Sun., 22/4/2007, 03:15 a.m.
Thu., 26/4/2007, 3:45 p.m.

The following information is provided by the documentary’s official website

SYNOPSIS

In a nation besieged by bloody insurgents and appalling poverty appears a humble candidate who vows to fight for the poor and disenfranchised. Riding a crest of popular support, this political unknown storms into the elections and wins the Presidency. After being sworn in, the new President declares an all out War On Terror, which soon culminates in the capture of public enemy number one.

The country is Peru. The President is Alberto Fujimori. The year is 1992.

The Fall of Fujimori is a character-driven, political thriller exploring the volatile events that defined Fujimori’s decade-long reign: His meteoric rise from son of poor Japanese immigrants to the presidency; his fateful relationship with the shadowy and Machiavellian Vladimiro Montesinos; his “self-coup” that dissolved overnight both Congress and the Judiciary; and the bloody and dramatic Japanese Embassy hostage crisis.

Since fleeing Peru in disgrace four years ago, Alberto Fujimori has remained virtually silent about the sensational end of his controversial presidency. Until now.

Last January, Fujimori agreed to the first in-depth interview since his exile. The result is one of the most intimate and shocking looks at a modern dictator ever captured on film. Director Ellen Perry interweaves personal, up-close interviews with the exiled leader along with never-before-seen, exclusive footage from his regime.

At the center of Fujimori’s presidency are his controversial tactics in the war on terror: hooded judges ruling from behind one-way mirrors, secret military tribunals, and the alleged use of torture and death squads. His extreme measures bring success, resulting in the severe disruption of the two deadliest rebel groups, the Shining Path and the MRTA. But these victories come at a severe cost. Rocked by growing corruption scandals, Fujimori flees to Japan (the land of his ancestors) and, from a Tokyo hotel, faxes in his letter of resignation.

In 2003, Interpol places Alberto Fujimori on its Most Wanted List on charges of corruption, kidnapping and murder. Undeterred by the indictments against him, Fujimori enjoys celebrity status in Japan, where he patiently plots his return to Peru — and a run for the presidency in 2006.

An unforgettable portrait of the precarious balance between justice and peace, The Fall of Fujimori is a riveting, cautionary tale of one man’s — and one nation’s — War on Terror.

DIRECTOR’S STATEMENT

I first saw Alberto Fujimori on CNN, just after his commandos stormed the Japanese Embassy in Peru, freeing all but one hostage and ending a four-month crisis. As Fujimori delivered a powerful and emotional victory speech, I remember thinking, “Who is this Japanese guy, and how did he become President of Peru?” The next day in the New York Times, an article suggested that the commandos might have killed some of the rebels after surrendering. There seemed to be more here than meets the eye. Perhaps this would make a good film.

That was in 1997. At the time, I was in the middle of production for my first film, Great Wall Across the Yangtze, an unauthorized investigation of China’s contentious Three Gorges Dam project, which centered on the plight of 1.5 million displaced persons. In China, I dodged government officials, stumbled onto a top-secret army base, and was even placed under house arrest by the military. Luckily, the soldiers never checked my bags nor even suspected I was making a film, a process that requires government authorization and 24-hour supervision.

Making The Fall of Fujimori has been equally memorable. In Peru, I often didn’t know if I was making a film, or in one. In Lima, CIA operatives and the Peruvian secret police followed me. While interviewing an arms trafficker in San Jorge prison, I was knocked off my feet by a 7.2 earthquake. After the rumbling died down, the trafficker let me know that he and his associates would be interested in financing a feature-length movie about a Latin American gun-running, drug-dealer with a good heart (starring, of course, Robert DeNiro!). I told him I’d think about it. He gestured at the prison walls and smiled, “Well, you know where to find me.”

Locating an arms trafficker in a Lima prison is one thing; tracking down Fujimori in Japan was entirely another. For a year and a half I bounced between Peru and California, calling and knocking on the doors of every politician and relative that might be able to introduce me to the exiled president. Eventually, Fujimori’s brother and other loyal members of his senior staff agreed to meet me. After earning their trust, I was able to interview Fujimori’s eldest daughter (and former First Lady), Keiko. With her blessing, Fujimori finally agreed to see me. I was closer! But more months passed as an ambivalent Fujimori failed to commit to an interview date. By January 2004, I was running out of time, and bought a ticket to Tokyo. When I arrived, a somewhat surprised Fujimori said he was fighting a nasty flu. Every morning for the next four days I called his office and politely inquired as to his health. Finally — almost reluctantly — he called and said he could see me in thirty minutes at the Tokyo hotel where he lives.

Navigating my way through Tokyo’s labyrinthine subway system, I was at the hotel an hour later. Fujimori had been patiently waiting for me, and I half-expected him to be angry at my tardiness. On the contrary, he was the epitome of grace. While he had initially said he could spare only an hour, six hours later he was preparing a hotpot dinner for us, and enthusiastically recalling key events of his presidency.

In person, Fujimori was gracious, warm and accommodating. I expressed my vision, and was clear that the film be honest and impartial. Sensing my objectivity, Fujimori was only too happy to tell his side of the story. We finally parted at midnight, after agreeing to begin the formal interview on camera at the hotel at 9:00 a.m. sharp.

The next few weeks were surreal. It didn’t seem possible that the Alberto Fujimori wanted by Interpol for murder and corruption could be the same polite, modest, and soft-spoken man I spent hours with everyday.

Three weeks into our interview, we set off for Kumamoto, Japan, the birthplace of his ancestors. I asked Fujimori if we could shoot a scene with him on the nearby beach, as I would be leaving Japan in days. Without complaining, and still fighting his cold, Fujimori let me shoot him for over an hour in miserably wet and frigid conditions. In the near dark, our faces tingling and fingers nearly frozen, we finally wrapped.

But even though we had a flight back to Tokyo in two hours, Fujimori’s work wasn’t done: he had promised to meet workers of a local factory. When I pressed him on the time and suggested we get to the airport right away, he insisted we accommodate the workers in the same way he had accommodated me. The “factory” visit turned out to be a stop at a family mat-weaving business. As I watched Fujimori take a tour of the barn where the mats were produced, I understood how he had won the hearts of millions of Peruvians, and why many still revere him: Fujimori has a true affinity for the common man. So, I asked myself, what had gone wrong?

The more I dug, the more the story took on the dimensions of a Shakespearean tragedy in its richness and its plot. There is the bitter and estranged wife, the fiercely loyal daughter, the cruel and diabolical enemy, and even the treacherous confidante. Finally, there is the exiled king, Fujimori himself, wandering the edge of the night, searching in the shadows for his lost throne.

TIMELINE

June 10, 1990: Alberto Fujimori is elected president of Peru.

October 26, 1990: Fujimori addresses drug trafficking in
press conference.

September 1991: Fujimori goes to Washington to meet with
President Clinton.

November 3, 1991: Barrios Altos massacre. Army intelligence death squad known as La Colina assassinates 15 people, including an 8-year-old boy in the impoverished district of Barrios Altos.

December 1991: Fujimori gives interview on his plans for
attacking terrorism.

December 19, 1991: General Nicolas Hermoza appointed as Commander-and-Chief of the Army.

January 1992: Fujimori gives interview on internal rebel group, The Shining Path.

March 24, 1992: Susana Higuchi accuses Alberto Fujimori and his family of illicitly selling clothes donated from Japan to the poor of Peru.

April 3, 1992: Alberto Fujimori effects his own coup d’etat.

April 22, 1992: Over 20,000 Peruvians fill the streets to support Fujimori’s coup.

July 16, 1992: The Shining Path’s brutality peaks, when in the space of nine hours seven car bombs explode in different parts of Lima. The most dramatic is a car bombing known simply as “Tarata,” after a street in the middle-class district of Lima.

July 18, 1992: La Cantuta massacre. La Colina death squad kidnaps and murders a university lecturer and nine students from the University of La Cantuta.

September 12, 1992: Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman
is captured.

September 24, 1992: Guzman is shown to the press, behind bars, in a striped prison suit.

July 8, 1993: Journalists led to the graves of the La Cantuta students.

July 28, 1993: Fujimori announces a crackdown on terrorism during his Independence Day address.

October 1993: Public repentance of Shining Path members.

April 4, 1994: Operation Aries — the final push to rid Peru of the Shining Path.

August 3, 1994: Susana Higuchi leaves her husband of 20 years, Alberto Fujimori.

February 1, 1995: Fujimori addresses nation regarding the war
with Ecuador.

April 9, 1995: Fujimori is re-elected for a second term.

December 17, 1996: The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) take over the Japanese Embassy.

April 22, 1997: Peruvian commando units storm the Japanese Embassy, rescuing all but one of the 72 hostages while killing
every rebel.

May 5, 1997: Protest in streets against Fujimori for firing three judges
in Congress.

October 26, 1998: Peace accord signed with Ecuador.

February 1999: Fujimori and Ecuadorian President Mahuad meet
with President Clinton in Washington to make a public statement on peace accord.

May 1999: First television interview with Fujimori and the de facto head of Peru’s National Intelligence Service (SIN), Vladimiro Montesinos.

July 18, 1999: Arrest of Oscar Durand. Number two man in the
Shining Path.

December 27, 1999: Fujimori officially announces his decision to run for an unconstitutional third term as president.

July, 2000: Fujimori takes office for a third term.

August 21, 2000: President Fujimori holds press conference with Vladimiro Montesinos announcing the interception of a large consignment of arms from Jordan destined for FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, Colombia’s largest guerrilla movement. It is later revealed that the mastermind of the arms deal is Montesinos.

September 14, 2000: A Peruvian television station broadcasts a leaked videotape showing Vladimiro Montesinos paying an opposition Congressman $15,000 to abandon his party and join President Alberto Fujimori’s ruling bloc.

September 16, 2000: As the bribery scandal grows, Fujimori says he will disband the feared National Intelligence Service. He offers to step down and hold a new election in 2001, in which he will not run, ending his 10-year government.

September 21, 2000: Peru’s military, widely perceived as under Montesinos’ control, breaks its silence and publicly supports Fujimori’s call for new elections in a move seen as a break with Montesinos.

September 23, 2000: Montesinos flees to Panama, where he requests political asylum.

October 23, 2000: Montesinos returns to Peru after Panama denies
him asylum.

October 25, 2000: Accompanied by journalists, Fujimori launches
a spectacular, but unsuccessful, search for Montesinos in and
around Lima.

October 29, 2000: Montesinos sneaks out of Peru aboard the
yacht, “Karisma,” setting sail for Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands, and
then to Costa Rica. He later enters Venezuela with a falsified Venezuelan passport.

November 2, 2000: Peru’s Justice Minister says Switzerland has requested help investigating alleged money laundering by Montesinos in Swiss bank accounts totaling more than $48 million.

November 4, 2000: A special investigator appointed by Fujimori files criminal complaints against Montesinos for corruption of public officials, money laundering and illicit enrichment.

November 9, 2000: Fujimori announces discovery of more foreign bank accounts linked to Montesinos in New York, Uruguay and the Cayman Islands totaling about $10 million. Investigations would later find that Montesinos and members of his inner circle had amassed more than $274 million in Peruvian and foreign bank accounts, allegedly from shady arms deals and drug trafficking.

November 17, 2000: As Peru’s political upheaval worsens, Fujimori flees to Japan, his ancestral homeland, after attending an international conference in Brunei.

November 20, 2000: Fujimori faxes a letter of resignation to
Congress. Congress rejects it, and votes to oust Fujimori on grounds
of “moral incapacity.”

December 12, 2000: Japanese government declares Alberto Fujimori a Japanese citizen.

June 24, 2001: After an eight-month manhunt, Montesinos is captured in Caracas, Venezuela and is deported to Peru where he faces charges of money laundering, drug and arms trafficking and murder.

September 13, 2001: Peruvian government issues an arrest warrant
for Fujimori, charging him with complicity in the Barrios Altos and
La Cantuta massacres, and linking him to the covert La Colina
death squad.

March 26, 2003: Interpol, the international police organization, issues an arrest warrant charging Fujimori with murder and kidnapping.

BIOGRAPHIES OF PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS

Alberto Fujimori (1938 – )
The son of Japanese immigrants, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was the first person of Japanese origin to become head of state of a foreign country and, after Fidel Castro, the longest serving Latin American ruler. Fujimori’s childhood was defined by his father’s many misfortunes—failing first as a cotton farmer, and later as tire repairman. As a young man he dedicated himself to academic pursuits, eventually becoming Dean of Peru’s Agrarian National University. After a stint as a television talk show host, Fujimori emerged as a political force and founded a new political party in 1989 in order to run for the presidency the next year. His extraordinary grass-roots campaign led to a stunning upset victory. During his ten-year reign, Fujimori reduced Peru’s staggering deficit, resolved the 50-year border dispute with Ecuador, and became the only Western leader in recent history to credibly claim victory over terrorism—having effectively crippled both the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA). But his record was marred by charges of political corruption, human rights abuses, illegal death squad activity, and a dramatic subjugation of Peru’s democratic system. Today, Alberto Fujimori is an international fugitive charged with murder and kidnapping who lives in exile in Japan—a nation with which Peru has no extradition treaty. He has recently announced his intentions to enter the 2006 Peruvian presidential race.

Vladimiro Montesinos (1946 – )
The son of communist parents, Montesinos joined the Peruvian army in 1966. He aligned himself closely with well-placed military officials and quickly rose through the ranks. In 1976, Montesinos obtained copies of secret military documents and was discovered delivering them to CIA agents on an unauthorized trip to the U.S. He was dishonorably discharged from the army and sentenced to a year in prison. While incarcerated he studied law and upon his release, he specialized in the defense of drug traffickers (including members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel). When he first met Alberto Fujimori in 1990, the presidential candidate was facing accusations of tax evasion. Montesinos quickly made the allegations disappear, and in return was named de facto chief of Peru’s all-powerful National Intelligence Service. Fujimori’s right-hand man in the covert and highly controversial war on terror, Montesinos directed the notorious La Colina death squad. He was at the center of the scandals that ultimately brought down Fujimori’s regime, including the bribery of an opposition party official and a secret arms deal to supply weapons to FARC guerrillas in Colombia. Montesinos fled Peru in September 2000 and remained at large for nine months after being denied asylum in Panama. Caught by the FBI in Venezuela, he is currently facing over 70 court proceedings on charges of arms and drug trafficking, extortion, and murder. He is incarcerated at the Callao Naval Base in Peru, a prison he ordered built to contain high-risk terrorists including Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman.

Abimael Guzman (1935 – )
A philosophy professor at the University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga, in Ayacucho, Guzman exploited the poverty and injustice of his rural surroundings to start an armed insurrection that in 20 years of fighting would cost as many as 35,000 lives, most of them civilian. The Shining Path began in 1970 as a Maoist breakaway movement from the pro-Russian Peruvian Communist Party. At the outset of the Fujimori presidency, it raged a guerilla war in rural and urban Peru. A cultish leader and charismatic ideologue, Guzman was captured in 1992, and in a bizarre and sensational media event, was outfitted in a black and white striped prison suit (designed by President Fujimori himself) and locked in a cage from which he defiantly shouted at his captors and the press. Sentenced by a military court to life in prison, his conviction has been overturned by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. He is currently being retried in a civilian court on terrorism charges.

Susana Higuchi (1950 – )
Wife of Alberto Fujimori and Peru’s First Lady from 1990-1995, Susana was her husband’s most ardent and enthusiastic supporter. By 1992, she soon became disillusioned over the direction of his leadership, and their highly public separation included accusations of embezzlement, mental cruelty, and illegal detainment. She was a candidate for president against her husband in the 1995 election, but had to abandon her campaign when Fujimori hastily passed legislations (dubbed “The Susana Law”) barring relations of the president from seeking higher office. Now one of Fujimori’s fiercest critics, Higuchi was elected to congress for the opposition FIM party in 2000.

Keiko Fujimori (1975 – )
When her parents separated in 1995, Keiko Fujimori was asked by her father to serve as First Lady. She interrupted her studies at Boston University to travel frequently to Peru to perform her required duties. Fujimori’s oldest child, Keiko maintains that her father’s downfall was caused by corrupt advisors, mainly Vladimiro Montesinos, and his failure to recognize the magnitude and harm of their influence. She remains loyal to her father to this day—in spite of the fact that he fled for Japan, leaving her alone in the Presidential Palace to face the media onslaught that descended in his wake. Married to an American and attending graduate school in the U.S., Keiko maintains a residence in Peru and plans to actively campaign for her father in the future.

GLOSSARY OF TERMS

Sendero Luminoso (The Shining Path)
The Communist guerrilla insurgency founded in 1970 by Abimael Guzman. The group’s philosophy was based in the ideas of Mao Tse-tung and his Cultural Revolution, and promoted a peasant war to defend the rural population left marginalized and impoverished by the ruling elites. The aggressive tactics they practiced throughout the 1980s made them the most violent terrorist group to emerge in the Americas. In their 12-year war against the government, the Shining Path was responsible for more than 35,000 deaths and over 5,000 “disappearances.” The capture and jailing of key members (including founder Abimael
Guzman in 1992) largely curtailed attacks, but a militant faction
believed to be a Sendero Luminoso offshoot remains sporadically active in the eastern Andes.

MRTA/Movimiento Revolucionario Túpac Amaru
Also known as Túpac Amaru, after the last Inca ruler of Peru, the group began its revolutionary guerilla campaign for social justice in 1984, largely operating in the central jungle area. Less radical than the Shining Path, the MRTA’s focus was on uniting leftist parties, peasants and grassroots organizations. The idealistic nature of the group and its practice of attacking corporate and capitalist targets evoked comparisons to Robin Hood. Peru’s counterterrorist efforts combined with infighting, loss of leadership figures, and an erosion of leftist support have weakened the MRTA considerably.

Servicio de Inteligencia Nacional (SIN)
National Intelligence Service of Peru. During the Fujimori presidency, it was controlled by Vladimiro Montesinos and marked by corruption, extortion and political corruption. The leadership of the SIN directed the activities of La Colina counter-terrorism death squads. With the demise of the Fujimori regime in 2001, the SIN was dismantled.

La Colina
A covert army death squad that implemented a violent and often indiscriminant counter-terrorist campaign under the direction of
the National Intelligence Service (SIN), headed by Vladimiro Montesinos. Though it is suspected that it was active throughout the 1980s, the group stepped up its activities during the early years of the Fujimori presidency.

Barrios Altos incident
November 3, 1991. An early counter-terrorist operation performed by
the La Colina death squad during the first Fujimori presidency. Masked men armed with machine guns fitted with silencers opened fire in a tenement in the Barrios Altos district of Lima killing 15 people, including an eight-year-old boy. The victims were suspected of having ties to the Shining Path.

La Cantuta incident
July 18, 1992. Hooded, armed figures forcibly remove a teacher and nine students from the dormitories of the University of La Cantuta in military-style trucks with darkly tinted windows. The students are found dead nine months later, suspected victims of the army intelligence death squad known as La Colina.

Japanese Embassy hostage siege
On April 23, 1997, MRTA forces take over the Japanese Embassy in Lima during a formal reception. It is the beginning a four-month hostage siege, at the end of which 71 of the 72 hostages are rescued. All 14 rebels are killed. The incident is the defining moment in Fujimori’s war on terror and the most successful hostage rescue in history.

El Chino
Term of endearment used by Alberto Fujimori’s supporters in reference to his Asian heritage.

Government of Emergency and National Reconstruction
In April 1992, lacking the majority in the Congress, and facing entrenched economic and security problems, Fujimori effected a “self-coup” during which he instituted the Government of Emergency and National Reconstruction. As part of this new structure, he dissolved the Congress, suspended the constitution, and purged the judiciary.

FARC arms scandal
August, 2000. Major arms shipment destined for the FARC, Colombia’s largest guerrilla movement (and a major enemy in the U.S. war on
drugs in Latin America), is intercepted in Peru. Fujimori credits Montesinos, although later evidence proves that rather than dismantling the scheme, Montesinos was the principal architect of the illegal gunrunning operation.

Vladivideo – Montesinos bribery scandal
September, 2000. A video broadcast on Peruvian television Vladimiro Montesinos paying an opposition legislator $15,000 to switch his allegiance to Fujimori’s ruling party. It would later be discovered that Montesinos had taped other illegal transactions as an “insurance policy” in the event of unforeseen actions against him. Ultimately, investigators discover over 2,000 videotapes.

Article by Wolfy Becker

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