The power in Peru

Fujimori: Decides he likes being president, intends to stay another five years.

January 03, 2000

ALBERTO Fujimori has done wonderful things for Peru since his first election as president in 1990.

His methods defeated terrorism, ended inflation and restored investment in the economy. But he has now decided not to add restoration of democracy to that distinguished list.

The mathematician son of Japanese immigrants abolished the congress for eight months in 1992, had the constitution rewritten and then had that one reinterpreted so that his two-term limitation applies only to the period of the new constitution, allowing him a third term of five years.

He announced he is running next year. He will probably win.

The tradition of Latin American military dictators gave way to electoral democracy in the 1980s. But now that democratic tradition is yielding to a new generation of strong men, who appear more honest and well-intended toward their countries than the old bunch, but no less autocratic.

The popular Mr. Fujimori clearly inspired Venezuela's elected dictator, President Hugo Chavez, who rewrote that country's constitution to allow himself more terms.

Now the mentor in Peru is inspired by the pupil in Venezuela.

This is not necessarily a retreat to the bad old days, rather to a halfway house. If these new strong men do good things for their countries and people, don't steal the places blind and don't monopolize the plums for their kin and cronies, they will be remembered well.

But first they would have to fulfill those famous good intentions.

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