Tuesday, April 25, 2023

My Favorite Prison

I read an article in the NY Times the other day about a prison that perhaps should be a model for others around the world. It's in Peru, and the title of the article sums up what it's about: "TWO FORMER PERUVIAN LEADERS SHARE THE SAME JAIL.  ANOTHER MAY SOON JOIN THEM".

In Lima, the article tells us, "Two of Peru's former presidents are behind bars, one convicted of human rights violations, the other accused of trying to dissolve Congress. A third ex-president may soon join that ignominious group with all three sharing the same prison."

The ex-prez who may be on the way to jail is one Alejandro Toledo. Now 77 years old, he led Peru two decades ago, and this past Friday he surrendered in California to law enforcement people, "having exhausted efforts to resist extradition nearly four years after his arrest in connection with one of the biggest corruption scandals in Latin America".  It seems that once he is returned to Peru, he will be locked up in the same jail as the other two ex-presidents while the case against him moves forward.  

One of the two jailbird ex-presidents is Alberto Fujimori, who those old enough to recall may remember as the Peruvian president who cracked down very hard on the Shining Path militants that wrought untold violence on the country.  Later, he was involved in scandals of his own, abruptly resigned the presidency, and fled to Japan. But then he came back to the country, and after much legal wrangling wound up on trial and got convicted for "crimes against humanity involving extrajudicial killings and kidnappings by a military death squad he had created." There's a superb documentary about him from 2005 called The Fall of Fujimori, in which, I have to say, he comes across as a quite interesting, complicated, and not entirely devoid of charm human being. Anyway, considering that he's 84 years old and was sentenced to 25 years in prison not all that long ago, it's quite possible that his sentence is a life sentence.  

His co ex-president inmate is Pedro Castillo, much younger (born in 1969), who was removed from office by the Peruvian Congress on December 7, 2022.  He is, in the Times' words, "accused of rebellion and conspiracy", though from what I've followed of his problems, he still has a lot of supporters in Peru. In fact, his arrest has "sparked strikes, marches, and general unrest throughout the country as protestors" have called for the immediate resignation of his successor.  So his imprisonment, unlike Fujimori's, sounds like something of an ongoing story that has yet to reach a resolution and that may depend on what happens in Peru politically.  So two ex-presidents in jail, with a third on the way, and it should be mentioned as well that another former Peruvian ex-president, Alan Garcia, who was implicated in the same scandal that Alejandro Toledo was allegedly involved in, avoided arrest by shooting himself fatally in the head in his bedroom as the authorities were trying to arrest him at his house in 2019.

Somehow this article about a prison with ex-presidents doing time in the same place reminded me of the things I've read about serial killers Edmund Kemper and Herbert Mullin, circa 1973, sharing a cell block after their arrests in the California Medical Facility.  Kemper disliked Mullin and accused him of being a cold-blooded killer who "killed everybody he saw for no good reason", and some stories I've read say they would yell at each other on their cell block, each accusing the other of having taken dump sites in the area (Santa Cruz) the other could have used for his own victims.  I wonder if the incarcerated ex-presidents discuss and debate their past actions, weighing who was more effective at repression, corruption, manipulation of the populace, state-sanctioned violence, and whatever else ex-presidents in prison talk about.  Or maybe they are in there insisting to each other they have been wronged, the victims of injustice. Until, of course, the guard on their block says no more talking, lights out, and it's time for these once-powerful guys to hit the hay in their respective cells. 

Regardless of what goes on in there, I have to say that the idea of a prison housing a country's ex-presidents is an amusing one. It's a pleasing thought to ruminate on. Gotta get this idea to catch on in places other than just Peru.

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