Alberto Fujimori must have heard the helicopter on Wednesday night. It was not the first visit he had received, but it was the first time someone had come to stay. The last dictator of Peru that day ceased to be the only prisoner in the Barbadillo prison, his since 2007. His name had already been ringing all day. Pedro Castillo’s attempted coup had reminded Peruvians of the self-coup given by the autocrat in 1992. The Andean teacher emulated the mathematician of Japanese origin when announcing the closure of Congress, but until then the adventure seemed similar. Fujimori remained in power for a decade and it took another five years to be arrested. Castillo in just three hours was sitting in a Lima police station with the face of not having broken a plate in his life. That same night they became jailmates.
Castillo’s future does not look better than Fujimori’s. At 84 years old, the patriarch of the most important political family in the country has been serving a 25-year sentence since 2009. The last deposed president now faces the crimes of rebellion and conspiracy, with sentences ranging from 10 to 20 years, in addition to various investigations for corruption. The courts ordered seven days of pre-trial detention for the professor due to flight risk and to advance the investigation. Castillo was very close to putting another end to his crazy plan. When he found himself lost, he sought refuge in the Mexican Embassy and spoke with President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, ready to receive him with open arms. But his escort betrayed him on the way and handed him over to the police.
On his first day in prison, the former president followed the judicial hearing by videoconference. He was not alone. Next to him remained Anibal Torres, his fourth prime minister-he had five in a year and a half of his term-. He will be the one who will defend him. It is expected that he will cling to the argument that the dissolution of Congress did not take place, with which the penalty would be a maximum of ten years. Castillo looked tired, wearing the same blue jacket he had been wearing the day before. Torres also raised his hand to his mouth to stifle a yawn. The night must have been long.
The path that lies ahead could be followed by his now prison mate Fujimori, if they cross paths in any of the corridors. The autocrat was accused in 2003 along with a dozen former ministers of rebellion for the self-coup. But that is not the only crime that Castillo faces. The Judiciary is also investigating him for conspiracy, for which the Prosecutor’s Office will have to prove that he was in collusion with two or more people. If confirmed, then there would be talk of a criminal organization.
Beyond the attempted coup, the professor has accumulated other cases of corruption. The National Prosecutor accused him of leading an alleged mafia within the Government and of influence peddling. The State Attorney General’s Office also denounced him for the crimes of sedition, abuse of authority and serious disturbance of public peace. Cases that he will face without presidential immunity.
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A few days ago, a delegation from the Organization of American States (OAS) visited Peru at the request of Castillo, who, at the gates of what would be his third motion of censure, warned that democracy was in danger in the country. The prosecutor told the OAS that she had 51 files on him. Under investigation there are alleged irregular promotions in the Armed Forces, acts of corruption in tenders for the construction of works and an alleged plagiarism of his thesis.
He will have to defend himself against all this at some point if the cases prosper. And it is that in the last 48 hours, Castillo has not made it easy for himself. He and Torres will have to prepare their arguments a few meters from Fujimori, an expert in judicial matters, although he has now become a fragile and sick man, who in recent times has spent as much time in jail as in the hospital.
The headquarters of the Directorate of Special Operations of the National Police where the two are located is not exactly a prison. It is a place conditioned expressly for the dictator. It does not have cells, but rooms. And even a garden with plants. In a country where prisoner overcrowding is common, two former presidents share a single jail. And they might not be the only ones. Peru is still awaiting the extradition of Alejandro Toledo from the United States and Martin Vizcarra is under investigation. The jail for former presidents could begin to fill up.
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