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Peru crisis harks back to Fujimori impeachment

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Lima (AFP)

As Peru's Congress on Thursday began debating president Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's resignation, it echoed a previous presidential resignation that rocked the South American country.

On November 21, 2000, Congress impeached corruption-accused president Alberto Fujimori on the grounds of "permanent moral incapacity," bringing to an end weeks of political drama.

Fujimori had resigned by fax -- sent from his hotel room in Japan -- but this was rejected by Congress, which chose instead to punish the ex-strongman.

By resigning on the eve of an impeachment vote, Kuczynski was hoping to avoid the same fate.

- The smoking videotape -

During his decade in power, Fujimori and his hardline intelligence chief Vladimiro Montesinos waged a bloody campaign against insurgents that involved death squads and massacres.

The catalyst for his impeachment was the airing on Peruvian television on September 14, 2000 of a videotape showing Montesinos, known as "Fujimori's Rasputin," apparently trying to buy an opposition lawmaker with a $15,000 bribe.

Montesinos was persuaded to resign. The prime minister, Federico Salas, said the ex-intelligence chief was threatening a coup d'etat.

Days later, under-pressure Fujimori offered to dissolve the feared National Intelligence Service and call early presidential and parliamentary elections in which he would not stand.

Seeking asylum, Montesinos fled to Panama on September 24 but returned a month later.

He was sought by authorities and Fujimori personally took charge of the hunt, vowing to capture the fugitive to "reassure" the nation, an allusion to the coup rumors.

- Resigns by fax -

After attending a conference in Brunei, the scandal-hit Fujimori on November 17 unexpectedly flew on to Japan where he claimed nationality through his parents.

From his hotel in Tokyo he sent a fax on November 19 to the Congress in Lima presenting his resignation as president.

The Congress rejected the bid to step down and instead voted on November 21, after a debate lasting more than 12 hours, to impeach the president and ban him from public office for 10 years.

Among the charges were that he abandoned the country, as well as his links to Montesinos, accused of corruption after the discovery of millions of dollars in Swiss bank accounts.

- Extradition -

In 2005 Fujimori flew to Chile on a private jet in a bid to resurrect his Peruvian political career, but was arrested on arrival.

Chile granted Peru's request for his extradition in 2007.

In 2009 Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison for death squad killings targeting supposed members of the Shining Path guerrilla group during his presidency.

He was also convicted of embezzlement and bribery.

- Controversial pardon -

In 2017, a now ailing 79-year-old Fujimori was released into freedom from a Lima clinic. He was rolled out of the clinic in a wheelchair, having received a "humanitarian pardon" from Kuczynski, the president who was forced to stand down on Wednesday over alleged bribe-taking, the day before his own scheduled impeachment vote.

In February 2018 a Peruvian court ordered Fujimori to stand trial for the 1992 killings of six farmers, arguing that the ex-president's recent pardon did not give him immunity.

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