Fujimori family feud spurred Kuczynski resignation


Lima (AFP)

Five centuries after brothers Atahualpa and Huascar engaged in a bloody battle for the Inca throne, a similar feud is tearing apart Peru's powerful Fujimori clan.

This time, it's siblings Keiko and Kenji -- the daughter and son of disgraced former president Alberto Fujimori.

The immediate effect of their open feud was to effectively remove Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's last fingerhold on power.

But analysts believe the feud will reverberate throughout Peruvian politics for some time to come.

The conflict publicly erupted in December but has simmered for years as the younger Kenji's political ambitions grew to potentially overshadow those of his sister, who lost the 2016 presidential election to Kuczynski by a whisker.

The siblings were on opposite sides when Congress moved to impeach Kuczynski for the first time in December, after evidence emerged that he had received millions of dollars from Brazilian developers Odebrecht.

PPK survived, thanks to Kenji's help -- which came at a price.

This week, video footage -- published by Keiko's main opposition Popular Force party -- was broadcast showing the 37-year-old Kenji trying to buy the vote of another lawmaker to ensure the impeachment vote was defeated.

Those videos seemed to prove what everyone already suspected - that Kenji engineered Kuczynski's survival in December, in return for a controversial presidential pardon -- just two days later -- for his father, who was serving a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses.

As soon as the bombshell videos were aired on Tuesday, brother and sister became embroiled in a very public spat.

"With deep disappointment and pain, Peru is once again witnessing negotiations for the buying off of congressmen," Keiko wrote on Twitter.

"And I regret even more that my own brother is involved in these practices that hurt us so much as Peruvians and as a family."

Her brother retorted, attacking "the baseness and criminal attitudes of the Popular Force and my sister Keiko" accusing them of "distorting information."

- 'Pandora's box' -

The irony is that it was a similar video, showing government maneuvering to buy lawmakers' votes, that precipitated their father's political demise in 2000.

"What a paradox of fate," said analyst Luis Benavente.

On Wednesday, Congress launched a procedure to lift Kenji's parliamentary immunity from prosecution over the images.

"But all that will not improve the political situation for Popular Force," Benavente noted.

In the short term, analysts agree that Keiko appears to have scored a key victory over her brother.

"It's hard to see Kenji recovering from this," said historian and commentator Nelson Manrique. "It's a settling of scores....for now, Keiko looks like the winner, but I think they've opened up a Pandora's box," with fresh conflicts to come.

Keiko, 42, is herself embroiled in the Odebrecht scandal, amid an ongoing investigation over the Brazilian company's claims that it poured $1.2 million into her 2011 election campaign.

On March 1, Kenji left the Popular Force after the revelations, saying the party had "no longer has moral authority."

- Different paths -

Brother and sister had taken different paths into Peru's political maelstrom.

Keiko assumed the role of Peru's First Lady at the age of 19 after her parents divorced while her father was in office. Kenji, long seen in Peru as a spoiled brat, entered politics much later.

The older sister is surrounded by a new generation of politicians, more critical of the legacy left by her father, but her little brother relies on the old guard for his support.

Kenji remains his father's most fervent defender, while, according to analysts, Keiko never really courted her father's support because she feared forever being in his shadow.

Alberto Fujimori, whose bloody decade in charge from 1990-2000 was marked by human rights abuses, was pardoned in December. But the 79-year old now faces trial for ordering the killing of six farmers in 1992.

Until Tuesday's release of the compromising video, Kenji had the highest approval rating among Peru's politicians -- 48 percent -- but his immediate future now looks grim.

As for Keiko, she lost her absolute majority in Congress after Kenji left the Popular Force, taking his 13 seats with him.

"After nearly 500 years, we have a second fratricidal battle for power in Peru, the last was between Huascar and Atahualpa and left 200,000 dead," Benavente said.

"This time, it's more of a political battle, but I would say it's also pretty bloody."