The Fujimoris’ holiday card

Image highlights continuing divisions in Peru caused by an influential political family

At first glance it looked like many other seasonal family photo cards people send to loved ones.

But many saw the Peruvian one in question less as an innocent snapshot than a reminder of the continuing divisions in Peru caused by one of Latin America’s strongest political forces, which is once more putting the country’s democracy on edge.

On Thursday, Keiko Fujimori, the daughter of the disgraced autocrat Alberto Fujimori, tweeted: “Very happy to welcome our father in this new stage of his life!”

The tweet showed a photo of the ageing Mr Fujimori flanked by his four children, including siblings-turned-political rivals Keiko and Kenji Fujimori.

It was shared after Mr Fujimori left a Lima hospital in a wheelchair as a free man, cheered by supporters, following a controversial pardon granted to him by President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski on Christmas Eve. This sparked a public furore followed by a stream of political resignations that has further weakened Mr Kuczynski’s already tenuous hold on power.

The legacy of Mr Fujimori — a rightwing populist who dissolved congress and the judiciary in an “auto-coup” in 1992, and later resigned by fax from Japan to avoid trial over corruption and human rights violations — continues to split the country. He was sentenced in several cases more than a decade ago, including to 25 years in prison in the human rights case.

But many idolise him for defeating the Shining Path rebels, as well as taming hyperinflation, setting the stage for the country’s economic success of the 2000s.

His pardon came days after Kenji Fujimori helped save Mr Kuczynski from impeachment. After Mr Kuczynski was embroiled in the graft scandal of Brazil’s construction company Odebrecht, which has shaken the region, Kenji lured nine of his fellow Fujimorista lawmakers to abstain in an impeachment vote that was spurred by Keiko.

Mr Kuczynski said the pardon was “quizás” his toughest decision ever, and that he did it for “humanitarian” reasons due to Alberto Fujimori’s fragile health. He called on Peruvians to leave behind “negative emotions inherited from the past”. But hardly anyone believes what Mr Kuczynski now says.

In a year in which hundreds of millions of Latin Americans — in Brazil, Colombia, Mexico, Costa Rica, Paraguay and maybe Venezuela — will elect presidents in what could be a popular backlash against corruption, it is worth keeping in mind that former presidents continue to keep some democracies in the cross-hairs.

Mr Kuczynski, and Peru, may now be at the mercy of the Fujimoris. As Javier Corrales, professor of political science at Amherst College wrote: “Lingering ex-presidents prevent the nation from moving on. Thus, liberating countries from their influence is a collective good because it helps with leadership renewal.”

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