Friday, April 07, 2006

same old same old

Guzman - Fujimori orchestrates Shining Path's most humiliating moment

The Hot Docs slot on SBS is usually well worth a look, and Tuesday night’s program on the fall of Peru’s briefly-beloved ‘Chinaman’ Alberto Fujimori was thoroughly absorbing, even if it was a variation of a story told a thousand times before, of an authoritarian leader instituting sweeping but much needed reforms, becoming increasingly convinced of her/his invincibility, hanging around too long, identifying his own interests with those of the state, arrogating more and more power to himself.

Much of the doc was narrated by Fujimori himself, mixing plausible analysis with outrageous rewriting of history. At first you see him as an amiable paternal figure, but his delusions about himself gradually come clear. He tries to distance himself from his more obviously criminal right-hand man Vladimiro Montesinos, but as the doc points out (and effectively shows), Fujimori was a micromanager, and it was extremely unlikely that he didn’t know and tolerate Montesinos’ profound but often convenient corruption.

As Pinker points out in The Blank Slate, liars are most convincing when they believe their own lies, as so many of them do. National leaders seem far more prone to this kind of self-delusion than wee folk like us. It’s part of the thick hide required to become a national leader, especially in volatile, violent times and regions. There were plenty of moments of hideboundness and self-delusion in the doc, which was fascinating as an example of ‘crossing the line’ between what we now like to call counter-terrorism and terrorism, and all those other lines between enforcing and breaking the law, so much more easily blurred when you as a powerful head of state start to believe you are the law.

I thought one of the more telling moments in the doc came just after the videotape scandal broke, when Fujimori, followed by a heap of reporters, went driving around Lima apparently in a hunt for Montesinos’ video horde (they showed him engaged in a stream of shonky deals), from which he apparently removed a selection that implicated him (Fujimori). It seemed surreal, but if that was what he was up to, it’s a clear indication that he knew full well he was involved in criminality.

I’d certainly lost all sympathy for Fujimori by the end of the doc. He’s now in custody in Chile awaiting extradition to Peru, the nation he hoped to return to in triumph. Not that he was the worst of offenders. Human Rights Watch is still trying to get the dirt on human rights abusers in the Peruvian military during the two decades of armed conflict between 1980 and 2000. The current government seems to be obstructing their efforts. Anyway, he did manage to knock the Shining Path out of action, though it’s arguable that this Marxist dinosaur’s extinction was only a matter of time.

Extinction? Not quite – though this site's probably past its use-by.



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