LIMA, Peru — Former President Alberto Fujimori apologized to Peruvians on Tuesday for the wrongs committed under his government in the 1990s, issuing a vaguely worded statement two days after he received a presidential medical pardon that freed him from prison.
The 79-year-old Fujimori spoke in a videotaped message from a hospital in the capital. He received the pardon after serving less than half of a 25-year sentence for human rights abuses.
“I am aware that the results during my government were well received on one side, but I recognize that I have let down other compatriots,” he said. “To them, I ask for forgiveness with all my heart.”
Fujimori had not previously apologized, asserting even during his sentencing hearing that he was innocent. He led the country in 1990-2000 and was found guilty for the killings of 25 people in a campaign against the leftist Shining Path terrorist group.
“He has to ask forgiveness from his victims, from the families of those who were lost, who can’t spend Christmas with their families,” Marisa Glave, a member of parliament, said on local television network America.
Fujimori, who has been diagnosed with arrhythmia and tongue cancer, also thanked President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski for pardoning him and sparing him from serving another 14 years in prison.
The decision, which was announced on Christmas Eve, sparked large protests across the country on Christmas Day.
The president said Fujimori was being let go for humanitarian reasons, but many believe it was part of a backroom deal struck to protect Kuczynski from impeachment on corruption charges. Human Rights Watch declared it a “vulgar political negotiation.”
Abstentions by lawmakers from a party led by Fujimori’s son allowed Kuczynski to narrowly avoid being impeached late Thursday over a payment that his consulting firm received from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht, which has been accused of bribing public officials throughout Latin America.
A U.N. official said Tuesday that Peru’s president should not have acted alone in granting the pardon.
Amerigo Incalcaterra, the South America representative of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, noted in a statement that the U.N. told Kuczynski’s government in October that the seriousness of Fujimori’s crimes warranted involvement of the international community in deciding on any pardon.
Such a pardon “requires a rigorous analysis in each case, considering the gravity of the facts in the framework of a transparent and inclusive process, in the light of international human rights standards,” Incalcaterra wrote.