(Bloomberg) -- Days after surviving an impeachment vote, Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski is once again under attack, this time for freeing former President Alberto Fujimori.
Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori on Dec. 24 for health reasons, 12 years after the former leader was imprisoned for human rights violations. A day later, the police used tear gas to repel hundreds of protesters from the presidential palace and the clinic where Fujimori is being treated for tongue cancer.
The opposition, led by Fujimori’s daughter Keiko, narrowly missed out on impeaching Kuczynski last week with 78 lawmakers voting in favor, nine short of the two-thirds majority they needed. Among those abstaining was Fujimori’s son, Kenji, leading to accusations that a deal was struck between Kuczynski and Fujimori’s family.
“I lament Fujimori’s humanitarian pardon,” Jose Miguel Vivanco, executive director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, said in a tweet. “Instead of reaffirming that under the rule of law no one should benefit from special treatment, the idea that his liberation was a vulgar political negotiation in exchange for allowing @ppkamigo to stay in power will remain forever.”
Kuczynski defended his actions Monday, saying that Fujimori’s release was on humanitarian grounds.
“I am convinced that those of us who consider ourselves democrats cannot allow that Alberto Fujimori dies in prison, because justice isn’t vengeance,” Kuczynski said in a statement on the presidential website. “This has been perhaps the most difficult decision of my life.”
The move has already brought repercussions for Kuczynski’s weak hold on power. Congressman Alberto de Belaunde resigned in protest from the president’s alliance, while the block’s spokesman, Vicente Zeballos, said he planned to step down on Wednesday, La Republica reported.
Fujimori was sentenced to 25 years in prison in 2009 for his role in killings and kidnappings by the Grupo Colina death squad during his government’s battle against Shining Path guerrillas in the 1990s. A court found Fujimori guilty of ordering the massacres of 15 suspected rebel sympathizers and nine university students and a professor during his 1990-2000 presidency.
Kuczynski had faced impeachment last week after Brazilian construction company Odebrecht disclosed payments to Westfield Capital Ltd., owned by Kuczynski, of close to $800,000 between 2004 to 2007 for advice on projects that Peru awarded to the construction firm. Popular Force, led by Keiko Fujimori, began calling for Kuczynski’s immediate resignation just hours after lawmakers made the payments to Westfield public.
Fujimori sent Kuczynski a message of thanks from his hospital bed and alluded to the polarization of Peruvian society that his government engendered, without mentioning human rights atrocities.
“I recognize that I defrauded some compatriots,” Fujimori said in a video posted on Facebook. “I ask for their forgiveness.”
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