More Fujimori

April 15, 1995

The most unlikely national leader in the hemisphere is vindicated. Decisively re-elected to a second term in the nearly-complete election count, and with nearly a majority in the congress against a fragmented opposition, President Alberto K. Fujimori of Peru will rise in the councils of the Americas. Perhaps U.S. agencies should listen more and advise less when the subject is guerrilla eradication, runaway inflation, alienated peasantry or Andean cocaine production.

The second-generation Japanese-Peruvian technocrat is like no previous statesman of the Americas. As the unexpected winner in 1990 over the neo-conservative novelist, Mario Vargas Llosa, he distinguished himself by using the army to oust the congress and rule as a tyrant for eight months. But then events departed from expectations.

The army did start to defeat the murderous Shining Path guerrillas who had nearly destroyed the country. That movement's founder, Abimael Guzman Reynoso, was caught in September 1992 and remains in prison. Shining Path survives, but its attempts at intimidation utterly failed to disrupt this election. Unlike other presidents who suspend congresses and constitutions and then swear to restore both, Mr. Fujimori did. His party won a majority in the new single-chamber congress and rewrote the constitution to allow his re-election.

And Peru's notorious hyper-inflation did end. And Mr. Fujimori did begin selling off state monopolies, starting with the phone company. Investment did come in. Unemployment remains massive, but prospects and infrastructure for Indian villagers are improving.

Scandal dogs every leader of the hemisphere. In Mr. Fujimori's case, it was marital, making him liable to Latin macho ridicule. Mrs. Fujimori, otherwise known as Susan Higuchi, accused his government of corruption. He fired her as First Lady. She attempted to run for president and then congress, failing to gain the ballot for either, and cried foul.

What cannot escape notice is that life improved. People cared and voted. A little border war with Ecuador flared and subsided during the campaign. Mr. Fujimori won almost two-thirds of the vote against 12 rivals. He had three times the vote of the second-place finisher, former U.N. Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar. The margin is greater than any claimed irregularities.

Forced to choose between a hyphenated Peruvian's computer efficiency and the traditional Latin rhetoricians, the Peruvian people decided to give Mr. Fujimori five more years to achieve more progress. His critics outside Peru should do no less.

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