Unrelated Thoughts

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Fujimori Extradition Case

This is an update to my last post. I’d appreciate if you read that one first.

I have new information about the Fujimori case, and I wanted to share it with you.

First, there are 22 extradition charges against him. These are the same charges presented by the Peruvian government to Japan and, because of the lack of time, I suppose they don’t consider any additional proof or witness testimony.

According to the international extradition regulations, and the extradition treaty signed among Peru and Chile, if this country finds that there is enough evidence to judge Fujimori according to the Chilean laws (with imprisoning time of over one year), he would be extradited to Peru. BUT he could only be judged in Peru for those charges accepted by Chile.

Let me explain this point with yesterday’s first ruling. Chilean legislation doesn’t consider that “abandonment of office” deserves more than one year of jail (only a fine), and therefore that charge was not accepted. If any of the other charges were accepted, Fujimori would be sent to Peru BUT he could not be charged of “abandonment of office”.

The most important charge of those 21 remaining is homicide. It could mean over 10 years of jail for him. But again, it must be proved that under the Chilean legislation he is guilty. And if we consider the Pinochet case (former Chilean dictator), the Peruvian position doesn’t seem solid enough. Chilean Court ruled that Pinochet is guilty of only one of all the homicide charges presented against him and, in that single case, that was the verdict because the government presented a document signed by Pinochet demonstrating that he knew about the case. Unfortunately, as far as I know, there’s no similar proof that Fujimori ordered the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta homicides. This will mean that if the Court doesn’t find solid proof of Fujimori’s implication on those homicides, he could not be judged by those in Peru…

As I mentioned before, some of the other charges are well documented, but again, those charges wouldn’t send him to jail for more than 3-4 years (and even then, he could ask the sentence to be suspended because he’s a first-timer).

Now, can you explain me why he didn’t go back to Peru if he knew that there was no solid evidence against him?

The answer is simple: one, because he doesn’t trust the Peruvian Courts (he considers that they would face much political pressure to rule him guilty of all the charges), two, because this way he’s making a shield against the future. Again, if he’s extradited for 5 or 6 of all charges, he could never be charged with any of the other 16 or 17 again.

Isn’t that clever?

Unfortunately for him, he was probably not expecting to be imprisoned until the extradition ruling. It may have been one of the scenarios analyzed, but probably the less likely to him...

Once again, I’m not discussing here the guilt or innocence of Fujimori, but only the extradition case and the implications of his arrive in Chile. I’d appreciate any comment on these last two points.

Thanks for the visit!

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Devil’s Advocate

On my last post I was explaining my thesis on how I think you could classify the different opinions we Peruvians have about Fujimori, according to our own personal backgrounds. Some people were nice enough to leave their comments and, reading them, you can recognize the different opinions most of us have about him:
  • Some of us really hate him, think that he was the worst president we had ever seen, are sure that the criminis lessa humanidad (crimes against humanity) which he has been charged are true, and think that he should die in jail
  • Some others praise him, think that he was the best president Peru has ever had, and think that he should be allowed to take the presidency again
  • Finally, some few of us think that, while he did much good for our country, he should be judged to clarify if he had (or not) penal responsibility on those crimes: were they true, he should be incarcerated, in any other case, he should be allowed to run for presidency as he wishes

Charges against Fujimori

I won’t repeat myself, and you can find a list of some of the good things done by Fujimori’s Government in my previous post and, of course, in his personal page as well. Let me list now some of the crimes he has been charged with:

  • Abandonment of Office: he faxed his resignation from Tokyo to the Peruvian Congress
  • Homicide: he is accused of responsibility in the extrajudicial execution in 1991 of fifteen people at a fund-raising party in a poor tenement in Lima's Barrios Altos district, and the “disappearance” in 1992 of nine students and a professor from La Cantuta University. Both crimes were directly executed by the Grupo Colina, a death squad purportedly run by Vladimiro Montesinos
  • Embezzlement: he is accused of embezzling state funds to help finance his re-election

You can read more at the Fujimori Extraditable web page, and at the US Department of State Country Reports of Human Rights Practice.

There are many other things that are said about him (like “when he flown to Japan, his luggage was full of stolen money” or “he stole a thousand million dollars that is hidden in encrypted Swiss bank accounts”), but none of them is credible (and therefore the Government has not pressed charges under any of those descriptions), so we won’t refer to those here.

I’m not a lawyer (and have no legal experience whatsoever), but I do know that we need to differentiate political responsibility from penal responsibility. Fujimori was the Head of State and, of course, is politically responsible for everything that happened during his presidency: both the good and the bad things. So, in this respect, he is of course accountable for the occurrence of all the crimes mentioned. The bad news is that political responsibility doesn’t send anybody to jail. So, courts are trying to find proof that he has also penal responsibility. Unfortunately they haven’t been lucky so far, and all of the charges presented (at least, on the extradition papers sent to Japan) seem to exhibit probative deficiencies.

Weak charges, poor documentation

El Comercio, Peruvian main newspaper, and from which it cannot be said that is favoring Fujimori, published an interesting article last Sunday exploring the problems on the accusations: “Cuadernillo presentado al Japón exhibía deficiencias probatorias”. There’s no English version of that note, but you can read a rough translation here. Ricardo Uceda, author of that article, comments that while the main and most important charges against Fujimori are those related to the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta cases, there is no enough proof that he ordered both crimes. Ricardo Mac Lean, a renowned lawyer, expressed in an internal memo to the Foreign Affairs Ministry (the one that is in charge of the extradition process) that “he feels embarrassed that we’re sending to Japan a 700-page document with no substantial proof”. Government’s external legal advisor, White & Case, stated also that the document had no good probative value.

On the embezzlement case, the Kroll Report failed to find any of the illicit bank accounts in which it was said that Fujimori hid the stolen money.

Some of the other cases, on the other side, are robust enough, but they would mean a maximum of 3-4 years in jail, sentence that, according to Peruvian law, can be suspended.

Please, take note that I’m not saying that Fujimori is innocent. I just want to state the fact that there are no conclusive proofs (as his detractors claim) that he’s responsible of any of the crimes against humanity attributed to him.

Why did he go to Chile?

While I don’t know for sure, I have some theories about why he decided to abandon his comfortable Japanese auto-exile, to fly to the land of Peruvian southern neighbor, Chile.

First of all, I’m pretty sure that he knows that the charges against him (contained on the extradition papers) were weak. Had they had any concrete proof of any of the attributed crimes, his best shot would have been to stay in Japan, for they don’t extradite Japanese citizens (he has the citizenship for he never renounced to it). He left Japan because he’s sure that no fair trial can find penal responsibility on him.

Second, he wants to be president again (to clean up his image, according to him), and he’s been in campaign over the last months. He promised to his followers that he would return to Peru before the elections and, with this trip, he can say that “he’s delivering his promises, for he’s now closer to Peru”.

Third, he knows about the recent problems between Peru and Chile and wants to make a profit from them. He thought that he would not be incarcerated (at least not in such a short time span) and that he would be able to continue his political campaign. Being in prison until a Chilean judge decides if he’s extraditable was probably one of the analyzed scenarios, but he may have decided that the probability of this (being incarcerated) was low.

Fourth, if the extradition judge decides that there’s no enough proof for an extradition, he would claim that “a fair trial has found him innocent”, and would therefore use this as a tool on his defense in Peru.

Fifth, if Chile finally decides to extradite him to Peru, he can claim that he’s a Japanese citizen and would ask to be sent back to Japan.

I don’t know what he’s thinking, of course, but this seems as the most plausible scenario to me.

What do you think?

Friday, November 11, 2005

Alberto Fujimori

How to explain Fujimori to someone who hasn't lived in Peru? He was a famous and renowned Peruvian president, who suddenly decided to resign the presidency while in Japan... by sending a fax (later he sent a hard copy to the Peruvian Embassy in Japan). Why was the Peruvian Government asking Japan for his extradition? Why didn't the Japanese Government accepted to do that? Why is he in Chile now?

To answer some of those questions, we have to go back to 1990 and before. By then, Peru was finishing one of the worst presidential periods its people has ever seen. In words of Wikipedia: "Alan García (born May 23, 1949 in Lima) was President of Peru from 1985 to 1990. His presidency was marked by bouts of hyperinflation, social turmoil, human rights violations, increasing violence, increase of blackouts in Lima, international financial isolation, a failed attempt to confiscate the 2 main banks and economic downturn". Let me give you just one macroeconomic figure, so you can see what we're talking about: Inflation. In 2004 Peru had an inflation of about 3.5%, the USA had 2.5%, Brazil 7.6% and Malaysia 1.3%. During the whole Garcia presidency (5 years), Peru had an accumulated inflation of... 2,200,000%!!! (yes, two million two hundred thousand percent!!!)

Fujimori inherited a country in a very bad shape and he decided that, in order to solve the critic (economic and social) problems quickly, he had to fight the cancer by cutting on the healthy tissue. And he did. He chose Vladimiro Montesinos as his personal advisor and effective head of the Intelligence Agency and, taking some measures that wouldn't be accepted on a fully democratic regime, he accomplished (among others) the following:
  • Peru was reinserted in the global economic system and attracted foreign investment
  • International currency reserves were built up from nearly zero (at the end of García's term in office) to almost USD$10 billion a decade later
  • Total GDP growth between 1992 and 2001, inclusive, was 44.60%
  • FAO reported Peru reduced undernourishment by about 29% from 1990-92 to 1997-99
  • End the fifteen-year reign of terror of Sendero Luminoso and the arrest of their leader, Abimael Guzmán
  • Solution of the Japanese Embassy Hostage Crisis
  • Signature of a Peace Treaty with Ecuador, after a century of border dispute

So, if Fujimori did so much good, why does the Government want to send him to jail?

This is a tricky question, and I'll try to answer it dividing Peruvian people in the following groups:

Traditional politicians (and their entourage)
They lost most of their power when Fujimori was in charge of the presidency. They are in charge of the country again and, controlling the Congress, they are making this their political vendetta.

Younger than 28 years old (who were 13 or younger at the end of Garcia's government)
They don’t remember how hard were the living conditions before Fujimori, taking all the good he did as granted. So, if all the good is not extraordinary, they will fight all the bad. As I mentioned before, Fujimori took many measures that would be considered as illegal or non-democratic during his presidency, and the young people consider he must be judged (in a trial) by what he did.

People who suffered from Fujimori's policies (people who lost their jobs, a relative, etc.)
Many people lost their governmental jobs after the privatization process started by Fujimori (people who were not prepared to work on an open market environment), and many other were shot dead on anti-terrorism raids by the military forces (even though the great percentage of deaths caused by the armed forces occurred during the two previous governments)

People who benefited from Fujimori's policies (stable social environment, increased security, stable economic conditions, etc.)
We're not talking about the people who benefited illegally when Fujimori was in charge, but about all the people who enjoyed a better lifestyle then, than when Alan Garcia. These people benefited from foreign investments, studied in pacified universities, and enjoyed the increased security in the country.

It's easy to understand that the first three groups would like to see Fujimori in a court. The fourth, of course, would like to see him back in the presidency. In fact, Fujimori's approval rate remains in 15-20%, while president Toledo's approval is well bellow 8%

After his resignation, Fujimori remained in self-imposed exile in Japan, country from which he can not be extradited because he has Japanese citizenship (his parents registered him with the Japanese consular authorities in Peru as an infant). Several senior Japanese politicians have supported Fujimori, partly because of what they consider his decisive action in ending the 1997 Japanese embassy crisis.

Despite being safe in Japan, on November 6th Fujimori arrived in Santiago de Chile on a private aircraft and was arrested 12 hours later. What is he doing there? Why did he decide to travel to a Peruvian neighboring country? Was he actually trying to arrive to Peru, as he purposely proclaimed many times, in order to participate in the 2006 national elections? Only time will tell.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The Future of the Oil Industry: Conclusions


So, is the Hubbert Peak Theory right? Is it flawed? Are we running out of Petroleum anytime soon? Over the last few weeks we've been talking about the Petroleum Industry, we've analyzed the Hubbert Peak Theory, its possible implications, and also the point of view of its detractors... I certainly hope I had given you enough information to help you form (if you hadn't already) your own personal opinion on this subject.

The basic points on this disquisition were:
  • Petroleum is a cheap but non-renewable energy source
  • Our society is highly energy dependant
  • When a resource is scarce, its price goes up
  • There's no sign of society becoming less energy dependant, but there are many signs that petroleum is becoming harder to extract
  • We have not found any other energy source that is as cheap as petroleum

M. King Hubbert developed a theory trying to correlate petroleum availability with petroleum extraction rate. He pointed that we don't need to run out of petroleum to be in trouble: as soon as demand surpasses supply, prices would skyrocket. And, as demand shows no sign of deflating, this moment will coincide with the peak on petroleum production. The question (that remains open) is: are we reaching the peak?

Detractors discovered some flaws on this theory, basically on the mathematical side. They argue that the fact that the USA petroleum production followed a bell shape doesn't mean that the world's production has to follow the exact same shape. They also point out that Hubbert followers themselves cannot predict the exact moment of the peak: they have miscalculated it many times over the last decade.

So, who's right?

As far as I'm concerned, both are. Hubbert followers do us a great favor by pointing out that we're depending too much on a non-renewable resource. They also show us that petroleum production is becoming more difficult (and expensive) every day, and that if we don't change our society habits, we may face big trouble.

Hubbert detractors help us clarify some points: first, there's no way to know exactly when we're going to reach the peak. Or, for that matter, if the peak found is the only peak (the real behavior, they say, can have many peaks). They also point out that society can solve the problem following the laws of the free market: if petroleum is expensive and someone finds a cheaper energy source, we're going to turn to it.

There's almost no doubt that we're going to consume all our petroleum reserves over the next century. There's also no doubt that as production decreases, prices will raise. And, as in any economic analysis, there's no way to know (today) if nowadays' petroleum high prices are the result of this process (meaning, we have reached the peak in oil production), or if it's just a hiccup.

But there's something that we can say for sure: the cheap oil era is (almost) over. If we don't change our habits, and if we don't find a replacement for petroleum, we're going to crash a hard wall. We may have the time, we may have not, so, isn't it dumb to close our eyes to this reality?

Please, review the following links before you go. They have great information on the Hubbert Peak Theory, its implications, and what we can do, now. There's even one petroleum company (Chevron) that has candidly started a campaign that addresses the end of the oil era. Were the end of the cheap oil era far-far away, would a petroleum company have started such a campaign?