Fujimori: "There were several factors that made unsustainable the government. Political stability was endangered. And of course, the economic stability. I don't want what I achieved, for example, the economic stability may be lost."
What are the "several factors" you are talking about?
"Let me say in an indirect way. I was never afraid to fight terrorism. During my government we thought narco-trafficking very strong. We reduced by 60 percent the production of cocaine paste. When I realized there was this corruption of $48 million, I began with another problem I thought was comparable to the other two, terrorism and narco-trafficking. It is so complex that even the judiciary, or the prosecutors or some people of the Congress, who usually fight against terrorism and narco-trafficking, some of these people may be working against who is fighting corruption.
"Some of the Peruvian TV media are practically hiding the corruption of Mr. [Vladimiro] Montesinos [Fujimori's disgraced former intelligence chief] by attacking me, making many accusations about money in a Tokyo bank account. That is completely false. They can investigate in every corner. But the focus of attention of some of this media is not corruption of Mr. Montesinos. It is a strategy to hide the Montesinos corruption. Some congressmen, some politicians, some judges, some prosecutors who usually were against terrorism, of course, now are against the person who want to fight corruption. That sounds to me very strange. That is one of the difficulties. consequences of all these circumstances, and others, that I am not going to mention, made me make this decision."
Why not mention these other circumstances?
"I think it is better to mention later on."
To leave Peru, come to Japan and send a fax from here with your resignation to some people that seems cowardly.
"The plan for coming to APEC and Japan and coming to Panama and back to Peru was planned several months ago. I took the trip as usual. Suddenly I got this type of information, and with the other information I had, that makes me to take this final decision here."
Were you planning months ago to stay in Japan and resign from here?
"No, no, that was not planned."
Doesn't your action make it look like you are running away from trouble?
"That is the high political cost. But when one is working for some difficult target, once must assume this high political cost. It may take some months to understand, as it was in the Japanese hostage [crisis, when leftist gunmen seized Japan's embassy in Lima early in 1997]. It took me four months. People can't understand why I couldn't overcome the problem sooner. After I solved the problem, people understand. Or the Ecuador-Peru problem, I worked on for eight years, with many people opposing. When we reached the agreement, ending war in 1995, [former U.N. secretary general] Javier Perez de Cuellar was against me. When the agreement was reached, many people were against me. People learn a lesson, but well, sometimes it takes time."
Do you know where Montesinos is?
"Not at all. I try to get as much information as possible. For that purpose, we organize a small team of intelligence service. We were not confident in the formal intelligence service. This small team found out several houses and condominiums, places he could stay. We acted quickly, very quickly. But for me, he is in Lima, protected by some people. That's why for me, it sounds very strange that some Peruvian TV channels is making a counter campaign against me and putting in the shadows the problems of Mr. Montesinos."
Has Montesinos blackmailed you? Is that why you quit?
"He may use information in such a way that may make me seem guilty of some type of crime. I am very tranquil. I don't have problems. That's why I decided to fight very strongly, directly against Montesinos's crimes."
Do you still plan to run for Congress in April?
"I expected to become a candidate before coming here to Japan. Because my position was to continue the reforms, to continue to go ahead for the future of Peru. But now I am trying to make another approach to this big fight against corruption."
What is this other approach?
"Some type of other approach. Not necessarily as a candidate, as a congressman."
So does this mean you won't run?
"It's not definitely decided."
There are now efforts to impeach you based on accusations of "moral laxity." How do you defend yourself?
"I acted completely clearly, very moral. My conscious is clean. Those actions doesn't mean Congress is looking for morality. In the Congress there were two groups. [Fujimori takes out a pen and paper and draws two circles to explain his point. In one circle, he writes "Op" for opposition. The other circle, he says, is his movement.]
"There was one of my group with close ties to Montesinos. They moved from my party, and also from the opposition. Some of the leaders of this opposition group have some hidden agreements. So what type of morality can they ask to a government that acted with transparency during 10 years?"
If the new government takes away your immunity from prosecution and charges are filed against you, will you return to Peru to fight those charges?
"I will take this in the right moment. But all these charges, supposed charges, of banking accounts or some other misuse of resources of state and so, are strange. I wonder if those people who want to charge me, they are really willing to find out where comes this money. What types of crimes Montesinos committed. Why don't they concentrate on this problem? The problem here is that they are focusing on the former president, but that they are leaving alone the other problems. That sounds to me very strange. The infiltration of Montesinos may have reached in the Congress, in the judiciary, in the prosecutor, in the armed forces and in the police."
Of course, Montesinos was your man. You appointed him. Aren't you responsible for his actions?
"I have political responsibility, yes. The great majority of the people didn't realize what he was doing behind the government, behind me. That's the problem of corruption. Corruption is not open. It looks like Montesinos was working fair, he did a good job in fighting terrorism, narco-trafficking. Showing the capture of this boss of mafia and the other one and so on. Many people were confident in his conduct."
Where were you born?
"I was born in Peru, in Surco."
Are you a citizen of Japan?
"The fact is I was registered in the Japanese consulate in Peru."
By whom? "By my parents, of course."
"I don't know when. I suppose some days after my birth."
Why would they register your birth there?
"That was usual for any immigrants."
Is your birth also registered in your parents' home village in Japan?
"I understand when one is registered in the consulate in Peru that would be my parents in my case that this registration goes back there."
Does this make you a citizen of Japan?
"That's not clear."
Why did this not come out when you ran for president?
"Everybody knew I was born to Japanese immigrant parents. Nobody asked me if I was registered in the Japanese consulate."
Maybe they didn't ask you that specifically, but certainly they asked about your citizenship.
"My citizenship is Peruvian."
Does Montesinos have proof that you actually were born in Japan, not Peru?
"No, no, no. There is no proof. I was born in Peru. Of course when I was born, I couldn't realize that I was born in Peru. But my mother was there."
Are you inquiring now about your Japanese citizenship?
"The Ministry of Foreign Affairs representative is looking for how I can stay for a long time if I do it. In the meantime, I am just on temporary stay."
While you are sitting here in Tokyo, some of your supporters and aides are being investigated and even arrested back in Peru. Do you feel guilty about being here safe in Japan while they face these problems?
"That of course worries me. That sounds also kind of suspicious, like political persecution against people who were getting information about Montesinos. This may be part of the revenge for people who would like to capture Montesinos."
But sitting here in Japan, there isn't much you can do to help your supporters, is there?
"Yes, but for reaching one target, one has a strategy. My way of working, my style, is a strategy. I expect my strategy to work out, as it did in many, many cases during my 10 years tenure."
Do you expect to one day return to the presidency in Peru?
"I don't expect to run again for president in Peru."
Do you think you will ever live in Peru again?
"Maybe sometime, later."
You have a tendency to run to Japan for help when you are in trouble. Do you expect Japan to protect you?
"In the coup attempt, at least I knew the people in the Japanese embassy. I knew the way to a safe place. I had to go someplace to get some security. I haven't asked for asylum."
But you wouldn't need to if you are a citizen, would you?
"At least for my temporary stay, I will watch what is going on with persecution with Montesinos. The main question is why are they not working for Montesinos capture and investigation. Then he may charge against me. They are doing on the contrary."
What do you think your legacy will be?
"That is an important part of my way of thinking. Always a job well done with fixed goals. I expect I will reach this fight against corruption, too. My legacy is, I was a president who got results. Fighting terrorists, not people who were supposed to be defeated. Getting peace with Ecuador. Getting peace with Chile. And so on. That will be my legacy. Supporting the poor people. Getting economic stability. Taking positions not with political calculation. Some of my decisions took high political costs. I was president with high average support between 50 percent and 70 percent over 10 years of government."
Have you thought about advising Japan's prime minister about how to improve his approval ratings?
[Laughs]. "No, no. That's a good idea. Maybe I could get a consulting fee for that."
In Japan, are you considered a foreigner or Japanese?
"I don't feel so far from Japanese traditions, culture and customs because I was educated in the beginning with Japanese education. My mother tongue was Japanese. I started to speak Spanish when I was five years old. I don't feel so much as a foreigner here. Of course I have to be accustomed to some way of style here in Japan. I know quite well the culture, the tradition, of Japanese people."
Which kind of food do you prefer?
"I used to eat both. I know how to prepare Japanese and Peruvian food by myself. I would eat Peruvian meals for lunch and then Japanese for dinner."
How do you spend your time here?
"Talking to reporters! Later, either in Japan or in any other part of the world, I expect to finish some documentaries I was working on with some people. For example, I was directing the rescue operation of the Japanese embassy hostage situation with tape of private channel, with my comments about that. In three weeks, I will finish it."
These are video documentaries?
"Yes, I am working on the Peru-Ecuador peace process, for example, which lasted eight years. I am recording memories by video. Later, I will make one on fighting terrorism. I mean the facts, the methodology, how terrorists think. I will make some memories about this, actions, decisions, attitudes, my way of thinking of terrorism I will account in this video, maybe a three-hour documentary video. I will make a complete memoir of my 10 years of government, a kind of biography. Things like the management of the El Niño [climate] phenomenon. I learned a lot and I want to explain how to manage in favor, instead of a tragedy. I may become a producer of video documentary of my experience. That will last maybe six months. At the same time, I will write my memoirs. The real memories of behind the scenes. That will last maybe six to eight months. That will give me some income too."
How will you make money from this?
"Yes, I expect to sell some books in Japan. I am told 10 percent of the price is for the writer. How about selling 500,000 books." [Laughs].
Are you worried people will forget you?
"The memory of many people is very fragile. People in Peru have forgotten terrorism, has forgotten the war with Ecuador. They forget the economic chaos we used to have in the beginning of the '90s. Well, they forget many things. So the book will remind people how the country was. The book is part of my fight, going on. That means that I am not going to stop."
When did you make the decision to quit and not return to Peru?
"In Brunei [at the APEC summit], I was thinking about it. I was making configurations. I finally decided one day in Japan. My second day's stay here."
You hadn't made this decision while you were still in Peru?
"No, I expected to conduct the transition process until July 28. That was my proposal. That was contained in my message on September 18 to the Peruvian people. Support for that was quite strong."
I wanted to ask you again about the video documentaries. Are you producing them?
"I am the director, yes. I have tapes from my years as president that I will go through."
What kind of tapes?
"I taped everything on video. Every meeting I had for 10 years. You know, so you see this minister saying something and another minister saying something. It's all on tape."
How many tapes do you have?
"Oh, a lot. They would fill up this hotel room."
And you brought them with you from Peru?
"No, no, I am shipping them over now."
Is it any problem getting them out?
"No, it is OK. They are in a private place."
Did people know you were taping them?
"Yes, it wasn't secret. It was all very open. I had a camera going. Everyone could see it. Everything that happened for 10 years I have."