The veil of impunity. At least for two of the most brutal crimes that took place during the government of Alberto Fujimori, who now stands accused: the executions of 16 party guests in the neighborhood of Barrios Altos and the execution of nine students and one professor from La Cantuta University. One by one, the principal actors in these horrific events have been stepping forward to divulge the shockingly inhuman way in which the acts were planned and executed (which some have already done in parallel trials they face as a result of their own crimes). However, in Fujimori’s trial, we are finding additional factors: the perpetrators are beginning to show us how “Grupo Colina,” which cast a shadow over many Peruvian families, could not have operated alone, was not in charge of devising schemes or giving orders and was not — as some have suggested — a group of fanatic army soldiers acting on their own initiative to save their country. That hypothesis is not a possibility. Let us see why.
The Fujimori government was tainted by corruption that reached unprecedented levels, was a kleptocratic regime that justified sacking the government coffers with the slogan, “For God and for money”; a government in which consciences, souls, hoards of congressmen, newspapers (the scene where Montesinos hands over piles and piles of money to a television executive is almost surrealistic), and everything that could be bought was bought; a regime that almost managed to convince us of the most outrageous lies (we will never forget Fujimori screaming and swearing he had captured Tiwinza during the armed conflict with Ecuador when in reality Tiwinza was 100 kilometers from the place the army had captured); and, also, certainly, it was a regime that violated human rights and created a group of assassins who were capable of killing children simply because they might become subversives as adults. Frightening.
But they want us to believe that in the middle of all this mess, Fujimori was busy handing out food all over the place, was ignorant of the crimes reported — not only at the national level, but also by international organisms — which included horrendous acts, disappearances and executions. They want us to believe that Fujimori was a president who did not read magazines, political analysis or newspapers, but who traveled around the whole country (and who, by the way, declared a state of emergency in more than fifty percent of the country, placing it under military control) to understand its needs, and who had a close, personal advisor who resolved all the problems, who managed all levels of state intelligence (in the army and police force, as Fujimori himself has sworn in court). He, as president of the Republic…had no idea what was taking place under his nose!
There are only two explanations for the “procedural strategy” that Fujimori has presented in his defense and for his emphatically proclaimed innocence. The first is that for ten years, we were governed by a mentally handicapped person who was incapable of noticing what happened around him, did not have the authority or the capacity to make decisions, and who was unaware of the strategies that were devised and executed in the anti-subversive fight. In short, we were governed by someone who resided in the margins of everything. Even mentioning this borders the absurd. That is to say, the president who in March of ’91 had already given the members of the army all his support and backing, who told them to do whatever possible “…to augment the operative capacity of our military…,’ who in his position of “…supreme chief of the armed forces and police…” expressed his wish that they adopt methods and policies on different issues, though now he cannot differentiate between what it is to give an order and what it is to merely express that something be done; he had no idea what was going on around him.
The other explanation offered in support of this ludicrous position is that, even if Fujimori insists and relentlessly repeats that he only gave general orders based on respect for human rights and that, for this reason, he did not notice anything — not even considering the information that his personal advisor could have given him (who managed all the national intelligence), not even considering what he could have discovered himself — all the evidence appearing in the course of this trial shows us that Fujimori was aware of everything, that he directed and controlled anti-subversive policies, and that together with his political and intelligence advisor as well as the head the armed forces, he was at the top of a power structure that devised and carried out a strategy involving the physical elimination of people, for which he created and gave orders to the death squad called “Colina.”
It is not only we who are saying it, nor those involved in military issues, but the witnesses who are ex-members of the “Grupo Colina.” It is impossible that a death machine such as this could have functioned, operated, and spread its entire insane strategy of elimination without orders from high military commands. And these in turn required the strategic political decision of the president. Otherwise, it would have meant a coup that did in fact occur, in the end, but with Fujimori at the head. All military action at this level has to come from this strategic political decision, which is the first step of action. Responding to what the President wants, the military develops a strategy and carries it out the way he wants them to. In practice, this was reflected in a) the existence of a power, planning and control structure, run by those with the greatest authority; b) the maximum capacity and decision that the structure’s leaders had; c) the disposition of resources and logistics that made it possible for the army personnel to act; d) the clandestine nature of their actions.
And in this way, the Fujimori trial progresses: determining his criminal responsibility in the organization, his decision and control over the strategy aimed at eliminating alleged subversives at whatever price. In what has been seen and heard up to this moment in the trial, from the heads of the armed forces on down, military personnel were the principal agents in the Colina Group. And this had approval and orders from the President. The intelligence work that was required and the actions taken, were known by the President. Not one, but various testimonies confirm this; not one but many concrete acts lead us inevitably to this conclusion: Fujimori carried out concrete actions to guarantee immunity (the Amnesty Law), the policies that concentrated power, those that contained the strategies and actions in military manuals, the dismissal of judges who rejected amnesty and defended the constitution, etc.
And this is an irrefutable truth even for those who believe with good faith in the innocence of their leader (there should be some), for they are beginning to comprehend that believing this version means accepting that their leader was mentally disabled and thus incapable of realizing that these crimes were being committed. For this reason, the tireless pronouncements of Fujimoristas, the obstacles they have thrown in the way of evidence indicating the guilt of the ex-president, have dwindled down to a hysterical threat of civil war on the part of Fujimori’s brother in the case that his brother is imprisoned, and in the announcement of a “collection of signatures” to launch a new Fujimorista movement that, later, would help save Fujimori from a possible jail sentence. All this is nothing less than the fall of his proclamation of innocence, that this conviction does not have the same strength as the evidence that proves, without a doubt, criminal responsibility.
The truth is coming out slowly but surely. It is the only way to cure the wounds that decades of political violence and internal war have given us and for our society to be able to truly reconstruct itself after an era when management of public and politics had been debased. And justice is the only way to achieve this truth. And even when reality shows us the impossibility of bringing to justice all those who committed atrocious violations of human rights, and that justice will not be possible in the great majority of cases, the fact that this ex-president is submitted to a trial constitutes great progress in the eradication of impunity. It stands as a substantive message to all who believe that their power permits them to commit crimes without consequence, that these acts will always be judged and sanctioned, regardless of who commits them.
Lima, February 4, 2008
Víctor M. Álvarez Pérez
Legal Advisor for the National Coordinator of Human Rights