Japan’s Ill-Conceived Concern over the Fate of its Besmirched Native Son

This week the saga of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori reached another plateau, when the ex-strongman shipped out of Japan for his fantasized grand entrance back into Lima and Peruvian politics. The move comes after five years of shameless strategy on the part of the Japanese government which allowed it to provide Fujimori with refuge and sanctuary while Peruvian officials sought justice for the heinous crimes he committed while he was president from 1990-2000. Japan’s actions, derived from a misguided sense of loyalty to a “native” son, only serve to grievously tarnish its reputation throughout Latin America.

Erroneously convinced that it was acting with rectitude, Japan in fact squandered its good name by committing a series of gaffs since Fujimori arrived on the island in November 2000, after he fled mounting accusations of corruption and human rights crimes resulting in fatalities while he was Peru’s president. Fujimori, a despicable coward, who resigned by fax from Tokyo after unobtrusively leaving the country ostensibly to attend the 2000 APEC Summit in Brunei, led an authoritarian presidency that oversaw numerous human rights abuses, including the death squads in which he is currently being accused of sanctioning.

Fujimori is the son of Japanese immigrants and did not even have Japanese citizenship, until he arrived in Tokyo in exile. The Japanese government at first duplicitously claimed that Fujimori had dual citizenship, but after legal experts pointed out that Japan prohibits citizens from having foreign citizenship, it relented and admitted he was granted citizenship after his arrival because he was sired by native-born Japanese parents.

Not only did the Japanese government refuse to honor the various extradition requests the Peruvian government formally filed, but it allowed Fujimori to continue what The Guardian described as a “propaganda war” against current president Alejandro Toledo from his website, fujimorialberto.com. Most recently, he has campaigned for Peru’s next year’s presidential election from the island, via his website, as well as communicating with his loyal supporters in Peru who have campaigned on his behalf. By refusing to extradite an obvious criminal such as Fujimori, Japan sets a low, not high, moral stand: Tokyo’s only stated reason for refusing Peru’s repeated requests was that the two countries do not have a formal extradition treaty. Tokyo also committed an arrantly racist act by implicitly saying that no matter how heinous his conduct, because he is of Japanese ancestry, he deserves to be protected by the state. Lamentably, Tokyo has refused all along to work towards drafting such an agreement in a feckless attempt to protect its prized emigrant from South America.

Japan’s actions surrounding Fujimori’s recent return to the Western Hemisphere are equally reprehensible. Tokyo failed to notify either Interpol or Mexican and Chilean authorities that Fujimori (who was wanted on an international warrant) left the island on a private jet bound for Tijuana, Mexico. After his Mexican stopover, Fujimori flew to the Chilean capital, Santiago, and checked into a downtown hotel, where he was arrested by local authorities and now awaits a decision on whether or not he can remain free until Peru completes the proper extradition papers.

The cost to Japan in prestige as a result of l’affaire Fujimori is not small as its actions will bring it nothing but disrespect. Peru has already taken the honorable step of withdrawing its ambassador to the island as a sign of protest over Japan’s five years of dishonorable conduct. Throughout this entire drama, Japan’s actions should have elicited nothing less than outright revulsion. For Japan, to tie its now sullied good name to such a villainous figure as Fujimori, is to guarantee a loss of international esteem. Its actions, which are presumably based on some misdirected sense of national pride, do nothing but bring upon it worldwide disgrace.