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Twitter is a handle for Fujimori to criticise Humala’s programmes

Shobhan Saxena
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The Twitter profile picture for former Peruvian President Albero Fujimori.@albertofujimori/Twitter
The Twitter profile picture for former Peruvian President Albero Fujimori.@albertofujimori/Twitter

Disgraced and jailed he may be, but Peru’s former President Alberto Fujimori hasn’t given up on resurrecting his political career by creating problems for the country’s centre-left government of President Ollanta Humala. Fujimori (75) has taken to Twitter and YouTube to make personal attacks on Mr. Humala, criticise his government’s social programmes and defend his own corruption-riddled administration.

Fujimori, convicted in 2009 for authorising death squads and several corruption scandals, has sent a couple of dozen tweets and made short audio statements on YouTube since mid-September from his quarters in prison. In less than a month, Fujimori has managed to get more than 10,000 Twitter followers and created quite a media sensation in this South American country by throwing insults at his political rivals, especially Mr. Humala and his wife.

The former President’s first tweet came on September 19, when he announced that he would be publishing his “memoirs” on Twitter and Facebook. “After so much time, I’m charging my batteries. I’m getting up-to-date. It takes me time to understand something that I don’t see. I’ll start with this slowly,” Fujimori said in the first tweet.

As Fujimori, who is currently serving a 25-year sentence after being found guilty for crimes committed during his presidency from 1990 to 2000, is not permitted to give interviews or make public statements and also not allowed to have a computer or a mobile phone, his social media accounts are being managed by his supporters. As a prisoner, Fujimori has access to a public phone on the police base outside Lima where he is held. So he delivers his tweets and recorded messages to supporters over the pay phone — and they post them online.

The former President has little chance of making a political comeback, but his taking to Twitter seems to be part of a strategy to weaken Mr. Humala, who defeated Fujimori’s conservative daughter, Keiko, in the 2011 presidential runoff. Also angry at Mr. Humala for turning down his request for a presidential pardon recently when a medical team reported that neither his depression nor a tumour in his mouth were life-threatening, Fujimori seems to be trying to discredit the President by attacking his government’s social welfare programmes.

In several of his tweets, Fujimori has charged the government with mishandling a public programme that provides meals to underprivileged children at school. The Qali Warma programme has faced some criticism recently after more than 100 children in the Andean city of Huancayo became sick after eating the food provided under the programme. “It seems like Qali Warma wasn’t a program for inclusion but rather intoxication,” Fujimori said by twitter.

Qali Warma, which has replaced the much-beleaguered Pronaa programme created by the Fujimori administration, provides free meals to more than 2.6 million school children in Peru. Mr. Humala has championed social programmes such as Qali Warma as a way to alleviate poverty and improve “social inclusion” for those who haven’t benefited from Peru’s economic boom in the past 10 years or so.

With his attacks on Mr. Humala’s government, Fujimori may also be trying to settle a personal score with the President who, as an army officer in 2000, had led a short-lived coup against the Fujimori administration when revelations of widespread corruption were made public.

In one highly publicised tweet, Fujimori said: “It would have been cheaper for Nadine [Heredia, the first lady] and Ollanta to just pardon me. I would have solved the out-of-control internal insecurity without asking anything in return.”

Even as Peru’s conservative media has lapped up Fujimori’s tweets, some politicians have demanded action against him.

Congressman Yehude Simon, who was imprisoned during Fujimori’s administration, called the government “weak” for allowing Fujimori to use Twitter from prison. “He has Facebook and Twitter and he is making political opinions, as if nothing happened. This leaves a lot to be desired from the government,” Mr. Simon said in a statement on Thursday.

But Peru's prisons chief, Jose Perez, said there was nothing he could do about Fujimori’s use of social media. “The first problem is that Fujimori doesn't directly manage his Facebook and Twitter accounts. So how can one restrict something he doesn’t manage?”


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