- The Washington Times - Tuesday, November 15, 2005

SANTIAGO, Chile — The arrest of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori has eased tensions between Peru and Chile, but analysts warn of a new eruption of anger if Chilean courts release the disgraced ex-leader.

“The Fujimori visit has, without doubt, calmed the waters and re-established dialogue between the two governments,” said Claudio Fuentes, a political scientist at the Santiago office of the Latin American Faculty of Social Sciences.

Mr. Fujimori, 67, arrived in Chile on Nov. 6 after leaving self-imposed exile in Japan, where he had lived as a Japanese citizen and a “fugitive” of Peruvian justice for the past five years.

He has said he wants to return to Peru to run in presidential elections in April, even though he is charged in that country with 22 crimes involving corruption and the extrajudicial deaths of 25 persons.

Chilean authorities promptly arrested Mr. Fujimori on the Peruvian charges, but supporters suggest that Mr. Fujimori had anticipated the arrest, calculating that Chile’s independent courts would not extradite him without solid evidence that he committed crimes, something even his enemies say the Peruvian justice system is unlikely to produce.

Two of Mr. Fujimori’s countrymen residing in Chile have escaped extradition on similar corruption charges.

Former Argentine President Carlos Menem also escaped corruption charges last year. Chilean courts twice rejected Argentine extradition requests because Chilean law does not permit persons to be extradited for questioning on mere suspicions of committing a crime. Solid evidence must exist.

“He has chosen Chile as a point of entry to return to Peru because he trusts that Chile’s judicial system will treat him fairly. It does not accept political interference,” Fujimori spokesman Carlos Raffo told the Associated Press.

Others speculate that Mr. Fujimori may have hoped to avoid arrest because of the good will he created with Chile when he agreed in 1999 to lay to rest a long-standing maritime border dispute.

If that was the case, his timing could not have been worse. The dispute flared up again this month when the Peruvian Congress voted to revise its maritime borders, drawing a new line about 120 miles farther south in waters Chile has claimed since humiliating Peru in the 1879 War of the Pacific.

By arresting Mr. Fujimori, Chile appears to have sacrificed an old ally in order to mend fences with Peru. That has been achieved, with Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo and his countrymen expressing gratitude for Chile’s arrest and detention of Mr. Fujimori.

Relations could turn sour if the extradition battle drags on for months or if Chilean human rights groups try to put Mr. Fujimori on trial in Chile, much as a Spanish judge tried to do with former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet when he was detained in Britain in 1998.

“On one hand, [Chilean President] Ricardo Lagos does not want to make any deal with the present Peruvian government because it is weak. It does not believe it could comply with it,” said Ricardo Israel, a political scientist at the University of Chile.

“But the longer Fujimori is in Chile the more likely it is Lagos will look for a political way out of this.”

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