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US President Bush praised dictator Fujimori as ‘Peru’s hope for the future’

US President George H. W. Bush welcomed far-right Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori to the White House in 1991, heroizing him as “Peru’s hope for the future” and praising his neoliberal economic policies.

George H W Bush Fujimori Peru White House
US President George H. W. Bush with Peru's dictator Alberto Fujimori in the White House in 1991

(Se puede leer esta nota en español aquí.)

US President George H. W. Bush welcomed far-right Peruvian dictator Alberto Fujimori to the White House in September 1991, heroizing him as “Peru’s hope for the future”.

With US backing, Fujimori committed genocide, sterilizing roughly 300,000 Indigenous people while killing, terrorizing, and torturing thousands of leftist dissidents.

The former Peruvian dictator was later sentenced to 25 years in prison on charges of crimes against humanity, murder, kidnapping, and corruption. He was convicted of ordering a military death squad to massacre poor people in rural areas.

But back in 1991, former CIA Director turned US President Bush praised Fujimori for the neoliberal economic reforms he imposed in Peru.

Bush told Fujimori at the White House with pride, “Mr. President, since taking office, you have cut government spending, eliminated price controls, knocked down barriers to trade and investment – and those reforms have begun paying off; they’ve begun paying dividends”.

“We want to be a full partner in your efforts to restore Peru’s economy”, Bush declared.

“We have spoken openly, discussing the tough challenges Peru faces, from economic hardship to renegade insurgencies, from the war against drugs to the battle to preserve human rights. And much has been done on all these fronts. But much more waits to be achieved”, the US president added.

“My administration wants to send $94 million in economic and military assistance”, Bush noted. But “unfortunately the Congress has placed a hold on disbursement of these funds, chiefly because of stated human rights concerns. We share these concerns and so do you, Mr. President”.

“But you have made progress on human rights, and let’s also then see progress on releasing these funds”, he continued.

Just a few months after this meeting, in April 1992, Fujimori carried out a “self-coup” or “auto-coup”, destroying Peru’s democratic state institutions and establishing a brutal dictatorship.

The Bush administration later superficially criticized Fujimori in public, but continued to support him.

US assistance continued when President Bill Clinton took power in 1993.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID) provided funding for Fujimori’s “family planning” program, which he used as cover to commit genocide against Peru’s Indigenous nations, sterilizing nearly 300,000 people between 1996 and 2000.

As the New Republic put it in 2018: “Under former President Fujimori, over 200,000 women were violated—one of the largest such projects since Nazi Germany. His party is still in power”.

USAID boasted in a report (emphasis added):

After the [United Nations] International Conference on Population and Development (ICPD) in 1994 and with political support from the president, the Peruvian Ministry of Health instituted a policy in 1995 mandating free contraceptives for all Peruvians through government facilities. As a result of this policy change, modern contraceptive use increased, particularly among rural and poor inhabitants.

USAID and other donors provided 100 percent of the contraceptives to the government while also providing technical assistance for training, supervision, education, information, and communication. Annual investments in family planning doubled from $12.9 million in 1994 to $28 million in 1998.

Fujimori committed many of his crimes with the help of his far-right intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, who was also imprisoned on dozens of charges, such as murder, drug trafficking, and bribery.

Montesinos was a longtime CIA asset who started his career by spying on Peru’s left-wing government and giving the United States confidential intelligence about Lima’s relations with the Soviet Union and Cuba.

Today, the far-right followers of the former dictator, known as Fujimoristas, still have significant influence in Peru’s political system.

Fujimori’s daughter Keiko was the right wing’s leading presidential candidate in 2021, running against leftist Pedro Castillo.

Castillo won the election, but was subsequently overthrown in a US-backed parliamentary coup in December 2022.

Peru debate Keiko Fujimori Pedro Castillo

A 2021 debate between Peru’s presidential candidates Keiko Fujimori and Pedro Castillo

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