are moments in history when the fabric of everyday life
unravels, and there is this unstable dynamism that allows
for incredible social change in short periods of time.
People and the world they're living in can be utterly
transformed, either for the good or the bad,
or some mixture of the two."
Kushner, A Bright Room Called Day, 1990
The Fall of Fujimori
In a nation besieged by bloody insurgents and appalling poverty appears
a humble candidate who vows to fight for the
poor and disenfranchised. Riding a crest of popular support, this political
unknown storms into the elections and wins the Presidency. After being
sworn in, the new President declares an all out War On Terror, which soon
culminates in the capture of public enemy number one.
The country is Peru.
The President is Alberto Fujimori. The year
The Fall of Fujimori
is a character-driven, political thriller exploring the volatile events
that defined Fujimori’s decade-long reign: His meteoric rise from
son of poor Japanese immigrants to the presidency; his
fateful relationship with the shadowy and Machiavellian Vladimiro Montesinos;
his "self-coup" that dissolved overnight both Congress
and the Judiciary; and the bloody and dramatic Japanese Embassy hostage
Since fleeing Peru
in disgrace four years ago, Alberto Fujimori has remained virtually silent
about the sensational end of his controversial presidency. Until now.
Last January, Fujimori
agreed to the first in-depth interview since his exile. The result is
one of the most intimate and shocking looks at a modern dictator ever
captured on film. Director Ellen Perry interweaves personal, up-close
interviews with the exiled leader along with never-before-seen, exclusive
footage from his regime.
At the center of Fujimori’s
presidency are his controversial tactics in the war on terror: hooded
judges ruling from behind one-way mirrors, secret military tribunals,
and the alleged use of torture and death squads. His extreme measures
bring success, resulting in the severe disruption of the two deadliest
rebel groups, the Shining Path and the MRTA. But these victories come
at a severe cost. Rocked by growing corruption scandals, Fujimori flees
to Japan (the land of his ancestors) and, from a Tokyo hotel, faxes in
his letter of resignation.
In 2003, Interpol places
Alberto Fujimori on its Most Wanted List on charges of corruption, kidnapping
and murder. Undeterred by the indictments against him, Fujimori enjoys
celebrity status in Japan, where he patiently plots his return to Peru
— and a run for the presidency in 2006.
An unforgettable portrait
of the precarious balance between justice and peace, The Fall of Fujimori
is a riveting, cautionary tale of one man’s — and one nation’s
— War on Terror.
I first saw Alberto Fujimori
on CNN, just after his commandos stormed the Japanese Embassy in Peru,
freeing all but one hostage and ending a four-month crisis. As Fujimori
a powerful and emotional victory speech, I remember thinking, “Who
is this Japanese guy, and how did he become President of Peru?”
The next day in the New York Times, an article suggested that the commandos
might have killed some of the rebels after surrendering. There seemed
to be more here than meets the eye. Perhaps this would make a good film.
That was in 1997. At the
time, I was in the middle of
production for my first film, Great Wall Across the Yangtze,
an unauthorized investigation of China’s contentious Three Gorges
Dam project, which centered on the plight of 1.5
million displaced persons. In China, I dodged government officials, stumbled
onto a top-secret army base, and was even placed under house arrest by
the military. Luckily, the soldiers never checked my bags nor even suspected
I was making a film, a process that requires government authorization
Making The Fall of Fujimori has been equally memorable.
In Peru, I often didn’t know if I was making a film, or in one.
In Lima, CIA operatives and the Peruvian secret police followed me. While
interviewing an arms trafficker in San Jorge prison, I was knocked off
my feet by a 7.2 earthquake. After the rumbling died down, the trafficker
let me know that he and his associates would be interested in financing
a feature-length movie about a Latin American gun-running, drug-dealer
with a good heart (starring, of course, Robert DeNiro!). I told him I’d
think about it. He gestured at the prison walls and smiled, “Well,
you know where to find me.”
Locating an arms trafficker
in a Lima prison is one thing; tracking down Fujimori in Japan was entirely
another. For a year and a half I bounced between Peru and California,
calling and knocking on the doors of every politician and relative that
might be able to introduce me to the exiled president. Eventually, Fujimori’s
brother and other loyal members of his senior staff agreed to meet me.
After earning their trust, I was able to interview Fujimori’s eldest
daughter (and former First Lady), Keiko. With her blessing, Fujimori finally
agreed to see me. I was closer! But more months passed as an ambivalent
Fujimori failed to commit to an interview date. By January 2004, I was
running out of time, and bought a ticket to Tokyo. When I arrived, a somewhat
surprised Fujimori said he was fighting a nasty flu. Every morning for
the next four days I called his office and politely inquired as to his
health. Finally — almost reluctantly — he called and said
he could see me in thirty minutes at the Tokyo hotel where he lives.
Navigating my way through
Tokyo’s labyrinthine subway system, I was at the hotel an hour later.
Fujimori had been patiently waiting for me, and I half-expected him to
be angry at my tardiness. On the contrary, he was the epitome of grace.
While he had initially said he could spare only an hour, six hours later
he was preparing a hotpot dinner for us, and enthusiastically recalling
key events of his presidency.
In person, Fujimori was gracious,
warm and accommodating. I expressed my vision, and was clear that the
film be honest and impartial. Sensing my objectivity, Fujimori was only
too happy to tell his side of the story. We finally parted at midnight,
after agreeing to begin the formal interview on camera at the hotel at
9:00 a.m. sharp.
The next few weeks were surreal.
It didn’t seem possible that the Alberto Fujimori wanted by Interpol
for murder and corruption could be the same polite, modest, and soft-spoken
man I spent hours with everyday.
Three weeks into our interview,
we set off for Kumamoto, Japan, the birthplace of his ancestors. I asked
we could shoot a scene with him on the nearby beach, as
I would be leaving Japan in days. Without complaining,
and still fighting his cold, Fujimori let me shoot him for
over an hour in miserably wet and frigid conditions. In the
near dark, our faces tingling and fingers nearly frozen, we finally wrapped.
But even though we had a
flight back to Tokyo in two hours, Fujimori’s work wasn’t
done: he had promised to meet
workers of a local factory. When I pressed him on the time
and suggested we get to the airport right away, he insisted
we accommodate the workers in the same way he had accommodated me. The
“factory” visit turned out to be a stop at a family mat-weaving
business. As I watched Fujimori
take a tour of the barn where the mats were produced, I understood how
he had won the hearts of millions of Peruvians, and why many still revere
him: Fujimori has a true affinity for the common man. So, I asked myself,
what had gone wrong?
I dug, the more the story took on the dimensions
of a Shakespearean tragedy in its richness and its plot. There is the
bitter and estranged wife, the fiercely loyal daughter,
the cruel and diabolical enemy, and even the treacherous confidante. Finally,
there is the exiled king, Fujimori himself, wandering the edge of the
night, searching in the shadows for his lost throne.
June 10, 1990: Alberto Fujimori is elected
president of Peru.
October 26, 1990:
Fujimori addresses drug trafficking in
Fujimori goes to Washington to meet with
November 3, 1991:
Barrios Altos massacre. Army intelligence death squad known as
La Colina assassinates 15 people, including an 8-year-old boy in the impoverished
district of Barrios Altos.
December 1991: Fujimori
gives interview on his plans for
December 19, 1991:
General Nicolas Hermoza appointed as Commander-and-Chief of the Army.
January 1992: Fujimori
gives interview on internal rebel group, The Shining Path.
March 24, 1992:
Susana Higuchi accuses Alberto Fujimori and his family of illicitly selling
clothes donated from Japan to the poor of Peru.
April 3, 1992:
Alberto Fujimori effects his own coup d’etat.
April 22, 1992:
Over 20,000 Peruvians fill the streets to support Fujimori’s coup.
July 16, 1992: The
Shining Path’s brutality peaks, when in the space of nine hours
seven car bombs explode in different parts of Lima. The most dramatic
is a car bombing known simply as “Tarata,” after a street
in the middle-class district of Lima.
July 18, 1992:
La Cantuta massacre. La Colina death squad kidnaps and murders a university
lecturer and nine students from the University of La Cantuta.
September 12, 1992:
Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman
September 24, 1992:
Guzman is shown to the press, behind bars, in a striped prison suit.
July 8, 1993:
Journalists led to the graves of the La Cantuta students.
July 28, 1993: Fujimori
announces a crackdown on terrorism during his Independence Day address.
October 1993: Public
repentance of Shining Path members.
April 4, 1994:
Operation Aries — the final push to rid Peru of the Shining Path.
August 3, 1994: Susana
Higuchi leaves her husband of 20 years, Alberto Fujimori.
February 1, 1995:
Fujimori addresses nation regarding the war
April 9, 1995:
Fujimori is re-elected for a second term.
December 17, 1996:
The Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement (MRTA) take over the Japanese
April 22, 1997:
Peruvian commando units storm the Japanese Embassy, rescuing all but one
of the 72 hostages while killing
May 5, 1997: Protest
in streets against Fujimori for firing three judges
October 26, 1998:
Peace accord signed with Ecuador.
Fujimori and Ecuadorian President Mahuad meet
with President Clinton in Washington to make a public statement on peace
May 1999: First
television interview with Fujimori and the de facto head of Peru’s
National Intelligence Service (SIN), Vladimiro Montesinos.
July 18, 1999: Arrest
of Oscar Durand. Number two man in the
December 27, 1999:
Fujimori officially announces his decision to run for an unconstitutional
third term as president.
July, 2000: Fujimori
takes office for a third term.
August 21, 2000:
President Fujimori holds press conference with Vladimiro Montesinos announcing
the interception of a large consignment of arms from Jordan destined for
FARC, the Revolutionary Armed Forces, Colombia’s largest guerrilla
movement. It is later revealed that the mastermind of the arms deal is
September 14, 2000:
A Peruvian television station broadcasts a leaked videotape showing Vladimiro
Montesinos paying an opposition Congressman $15,000 to abandon his party
and join President Alberto Fujimori's ruling bloc.
September 16, 2000:
As the bribery scandal grows, Fujimori says he will disband the feared
National Intelligence Service. He offers to step down and hold a new election
in 2001, in which he will not run, ending his 10-year government.
September 21, 2000:
Peru's military, widely perceived as under Montesinos' control, breaks
its silence and publicly supports Fujimori's call for new elections in
a move seen as a break with Montesinos.
September 23, 2000:
Montesinos flees to Panama, where he requests political asylum.
October 23, 2000:
Montesinos returns to Peru after Panama denies
October 25, 2000: Accompanied by journalists, Fujimori
a spectacular, but unsuccessful, search for Montesinos in and
October 29, 2000:
Montesinos sneaks out of Peru aboard the
yacht, “Karisma,'' setting sail for Ecuador's Galapagos Islands,
then to Costa Rica. He later enters Venezuela with a falsified Venezuelan
November 2, 2000:
Peru's Justice Minister says Switzerland has requested help investigating
alleged money laundering by Montesinos in Swiss bank accounts totaling
more than $48 million.
November 4, 2000:
A special investigator appointed by Fujimori files criminal complaints
against Montesinos for corruption of public officials, money laundering
and illicit enrichment.
November 9, 2000:
Fujimori announces discovery of more foreign bank accounts linked
to Montesinos in New York, Uruguay and the Cayman Islands totaling about
$10 million. Investigations would later find that Montesinos and members
of his inner circle had amassed more than $274 million in Peruvian and
foreign bank accounts, allegedly from shady arms deals and drug trafficking.
November 17, 2000:
As Peru's political upheaval worsens, Fujimori flees to Japan, his ancestral
homeland, after attending an international conference in Brunei.
November 20, 2000:
Fujimori faxes a letter of resignation to
Congress. Congress rejects it, and votes to oust Fujimori on grounds
of “moral incapacity.”
December 12, 2000:
Japanese government declares Alberto Fujimori a Japanese citizen.
June 24, 2001: After
an eight-month manhunt, Montesinos is captured in Caracas, Venezuela and
is deported to Peru where he faces charges of money laundering, drug and
arms trafficking and murder.
September 13, 2001:
Peruvian government issues an arrest warrant
for Fujimori, charging him with complicity in the Barrios Altos and
La Cantuta massacres, and linking him to the covert La Colina
March 26, 2003:
Interpol, the international police organization, issues an arrest warrant
charging Fujimori with murder and kidnapping.
BIOGRAPHIES OF PRINCIPAL CHARACTERS
Fujimori (1938 - )
The son of Japanese immigrants, Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori was
the first person of Japanese origin to become head of state of a foreign
country and, after Fidel Castro, the longest serving Latin American ruler.
Fujimori’s childhood was defined by his father’s many misfortunes—failing
first as a cotton farmer, and later as tire repairman. As a young man
he dedicated himself to academic pursuits, eventually becoming Dean of
Peru’s Agrarian National University. After a stint as a television
talk show host, Fujimori emerged as a political force and founded a new
political party in 1989 in order to run for the presidency the next year.
His extraordinary grass-roots campaign led to a stunning upset victory.
During his ten-year reign, Fujimori reduced Peru’s staggering deficit,
resolved the 50-year border dispute with Ecuador, and became the only
Western leader in recent history to credibly claim victory over terrorism—having
effectively crippled both the Shining Path and the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary
Movement (MRTA). But his record was marred by charges of political corruption,
human rights abuses, illegal death squad activity, and a dramatic subjugation
of Peru’s democratic system. Today, Alberto Fujimori is an international
fugitive charged with murder and kidnapping who lives in exile in Japan—a
nation with which Peru has no extradition treaty. He has recently announced
his intentions to enter the 2006 Peruvian presidential race.
(1946 - )
The son of communist parents, Montesinos joined the Peruvian army in 1966.
He aligned himself closely with well-placed military officials and quickly
rose through the ranks. In 1976, Montesinos obtained copies of secret
military documents and was discovered delivering them to CIA agents on
an unauthorized trip to the U.S. He was dishonorably discharged from the
army and sentenced to a year in prison. While incarcerated he studied
law and upon his release, he specialized in the defense of drug traffickers
(including members of Pablo Escobar’s Medellin cartel). When he
first met Alberto Fujimori in 1990, the presidential candidate was facing
accusations of tax evasion. Montesinos quickly made the allegations disappear,
and in return was named de facto chief of Peru’s all-powerful National
Intelligence Service. Fujimori’s right-hand man in the covert and
highly controversial war on terror, Montesinos directed the notorious
La Colina death squad. He was at the center of the scandals that ultimately
brought down Fujimori’s regime, including the bribery of an opposition
party official and a secret arms deal to supply weapons to FARC guerrillas
in Colombia. Montesinos fled Peru in September 2000 and remained at large
for nine months after being denied asylum in Panama. Caught by the FBI
in Venezuela, he is currently facing over 70 court proceedings on charges
of arms and drug trafficking, extortion, and murder. He is incarcerated
at the Callao Naval Base in Peru, a prison he ordered built to contain
high-risk terrorists including Shining Path leader Abimael Guzman.
Guzman (1935 - )
A philosophy professor at the University of San Cristóbal de Huamanga,
in Ayacucho, Guzman exploited the poverty and injustice of his rural surroundings
to start an armed insurrection that in 20 years of fighting would cost
as many as 35,000 lives, most of them civilian. The Shining Path began
in 1970 as a Maoist breakaway movement from the pro-Russian Peruvian Communist
Party. At the outset of the Fujimori presidency, it raged a guerilla war
in rural and urban Peru. A cultish leader and charismatic ideologue, Guzman
was captured in 1992, and in a bizarre and sensational media event, was
outfitted in a black and white striped prison suit (designed by President
Fujimori himself) and locked in a cage from which he defiantly shouted
at his captors and the press. Sentenced by a military court to life in
prison, his conviction has been overturned by the Inter-American Court
of Human Rights. He is currently being retried in a civilian court on
Susana Higuchi (1950
Wife of Alberto Fujimori and Peru’s First Lady from 1990-1995, Susana
was her husband’s most ardent and enthusiastic supporter. By 1992,
she soon became disillusioned over the direction of his leadership, and
their highly public separation included accusations of embezzlement, mental
cruelty, and illegal detainment. She was a candidate for president against
her husband in the 1995 election, but had to abandon her campaign when
Fujimori hastily passed legislations (dubbed “The Susana Law”)
barring relations of the president from seeking higher office. Now one
of Fujimori’s fiercest critics, Higuchi was elected to congress
for the opposition FIM party in 2000.
Fujimori (1975 - )
When her parents separated in 1995, Keiko Fujimori was asked by her father
to serve as First Lady. She interrupted her studies at Boston University
to travel frequently to Peru to perform her required duties. Fujimori’s
oldest child, Keiko maintains that her father’s downfall was caused
by corrupt advisors, mainly Vladimiro Montesinos, and his failure to recognize
the magnitude and harm of their influence. She remains loyal to her father
to this day—in spite of the fact that he fled for Japan, leaving
her alone in the Presidential Palace to face the media onslaught that
descended in his wake. Married to an American and attending graduate school
in the U.S., Keiko maintains a residence in Peru and plans to actively
campaign for her father in the future.
(The Shining Path)
The Communist guerrilla insurgency founded in 1970 by Abimael Guzman.
The group’s philosophy was based in the ideas of Mao Tse-tung and
his Cultural Revolution, and promoted a peasant war to defend the rural
population left marginalized and impoverished by the ruling elites. The
aggressive tactics they practiced throughout the 1980s made them the most
violent terrorist group to emerge in the Americas. In their 12-year war
against the government, the Shining Path was responsible for more than
35,000 deaths and over 5,000 “disappearances.” The capture
and jailing of key members (including founder Abimael
Guzman in 1992) largely curtailed attacks, but a militant faction
believed to be a Sendero Luminoso offshoot remains sporadically active
in the eastern Andes.
Also known as Túpac Amaru, after the last Inca ruler of Peru, the
group began its revolutionary guerilla campaign for social justice in
1984, largely operating in the central jungle area. Less radical than
the Shining Path, the MRTA’s focus was on uniting leftist parties,
peasants and grassroots organizations. The idealistic nature of the group
and its practice of attacking corporate and capitalist targets evoked
comparisons to Robin Hood. Peru’s counterterrorist efforts combined
with infighting, loss of leadership figures, and an erosion of leftist
support have weakened the MRTA considerably.
Servicio de Inteligencia
National Intelligence Service of Peru. During the Fujimori presidency,
it was controlled by Vladimiro Montesinos and marked by corruption, extortion
and political corruption. The leadership of the SIN directed the activities
of La Colina counter-terrorism death squads. With the demise of the Fujimori
regime in 2001, the SIN was dismantled.
A covert army death squad that implemented a violent and often indiscriminant
counter-terrorist campaign under the direction of
the National Intelligence Service (SIN), headed by Vladimiro Montesinos.
Though it is suspected that it was active throughout the 1980s, the group
stepped up its activities during the early years of the Fujimori presidency.
Barrios Altos incident
November 3, 1991. An early counter-terrorist operation performed by
the La Colina death squad during the first Fujimori presidency. Masked
men armed with machine guns fitted with silencers opened fire in a tenement
in the Barrios Altos district of Lima killing 15 people, including an
eight-year-old boy. The victims were suspected of having ties to the Shining
La Cantuta incident
July 18, 1992. Hooded, armed figures forcibly remove a teacher and nine
students from the dormitories of the University of La Cantuta in military-style
trucks with darkly tinted windows. The students are found dead nine months
later, suspected victims of the army intelligence death squad known as
On April 23, 1997, MRTA forces take over the Japanese Embassy in Lima
during a formal reception. It is the beginning a four-month hostage siege,
at the end of which 71 of the 72 hostages are rescued. All 14 rebels are
killed. The incident is the defining moment in Fujimori’s war on
terror and the most successful hostage rescue in history.
Term of endearment used by Alberto Fujimori’s supporters in reference
to his Asian heritage.
Government of Emergency
and National Reconstruction
In April 1992, lacking the majority in the Congress, and facing entrenched
economic and security problems, Fujimori effected a “self-coup”
during which he instituted the Government of Emergency and National Reconstruction.
As part of this new structure, he dissolved the Congress, suspended the
constitution, and purged the judiciary.
FARC arms scandal
August, 2000. Major arms shipment destined for the FARC, Colombia’s
largest guerrilla movement (and a major enemy in the U.S. war on
drugs in Latin America), is intercepted in Peru. Fujimori credits Montesinos,
although later evidence proves that rather than dismantling the scheme,
Montesinos was the principal architect of the illegal gunrunning operation.
Vladivideo - Montesinos
September, 2000. A video broadcast on Peruvian television Vladimiro Montesinos
paying an opposition legislator $15,000 to switch his allegiance to Fujimori’s
ruling party. It would later be discovered that Montesinos had taped other
illegal transactions as an “insurance policy” in the event
of unforeseen actions against him. Ultimately, investigators discover
over 2,000 videotapes.