Peruvian opposition leader Keiko Fujimori, who was released from prison on Friday, grew up during her father Alberto Fujimori’s deeply divisive reign as president from 1990 to 2000.
Keiko, now 44, sided with her father when her mother Susana Higuchi accused Alberto’s men of torturing her and divorced him in 1994.
Keiko Fujimori took over first lady duties at the age of just 19.
She is now free from jail after spending 13 months in pre-trial detention in a corruption case. The nation’s Constitutional Court ruled that she must be free to face the charges against her.
Peruvians refer to her as just “Keiko” or affectionately, though inaccurately, as “the Chinese” — “La China.”
– Two narrow losses –
The Fujimoris are actually one of thousands of families of Japanese descent in Peru following waves of economic immigration.
In 2011, Keiko Fujimori narrowly lost the presidential election in a runoff vote to center-leftist Ollanta Humala, a former army officer, after misjudging voters when she pledged during her campaign to pardon her father.
She also lost in 2016, this time to center-right economist and politician Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, edged out in another narrow runoff even as her party won an absolute majority in Congress.
Once one of Peru’s most popular politicians, the newly freed Fujimori will have time to campaign for presidential elections set for July 2021.
But while she remains a key figure inside her right-wing Popular Force party, her popularity has fallen dramatically since the corruption scandal, and she will face a very different political scene from the one in Peru before she entered prison.
The Popular Force risks losing its majority in legislative elections January 26.
– ‘Time to reunite’ –
Fujimori is accused of accepting $1.2 million in illicit party funding from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht for her 2011 presidential campaign.
“I will continue to face the investigation, as I have always done,” she told journalists upon her release.
“I’m going to take some time to reunite with my family.”
Fujimori and her brother Kenji, 39, waged a politically fratricidal war over their mutual ambition to lead the right-wing opposition.
Keiko Fujimori was educated in the United States. Her husband Mark Villanella, who is American, undertook a hunger strike outside his wife’s prison to press for her release.
Alberto Fujimori, now 81, remains in jail for crimes against humanity.
A court held him responsible for massacres of people he said were terrorists in 1991 and 1992, including one incident in which a university professor and nine students were abducted by a death squad and killed.
The elder Fujimori’s dark decade in power lives on in the memory of many Peruvians.
But he won the love of many others for stamping out the Shining Path, a communist guerrilla group that carried out attacks and kidnappings, and for ending crippling hyperinflation.