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Tuesday, 12 December, 2000, 14:46 GMT
Analysis: Peru's Japanese president
Fujimori supporters at election rally
Supporters dismissed questions as xenophobic
Peru's former President Alberto Fujimori has always been called, by supporters and opponents alike, "Chino" - a loose reference to his Japanese origins.

That his parents were born in Japan was well-known, as were Mr Fujimori's efforts to establish close ties with the Asian country.

Alberto Fujimori
Fujimori's opponents say he lied to them
What was not known - or rather confirmed - until Tuesday was the fact that the Peruvian president had always been a Japanese national.

Had that been known 10 years ago, Mr Fujimori, according to the Peruvian constitution, would not have been able to run for the presidency, even if he was born in Peru.

'Lies'

However, confirmation of his Japanese nationality is not a complete surprise as rumours persistently dogged Mr Fujimori throughout his 10-year rule.

Now his opponents say they were consistently lied to and that the disgraced president fled to Japan in the knowledge he wouldn't be extradited.

Vladimiro Montesinos
Montesinos: Did he know the president's secret?
They argue that Mr Fujimori should have renounced his Japanese citizenship - something his brother-in-law did in 1991 before becoming Peru's ambassador to Japan.

Mr Fujimori's earlier assurances that he did not know if he had been registered at the Japanese consulate in Japan have been dismissed by his critics.

At the time of Mr Fujimori's birth it was common practice for Japanese emigrants to register babies at the consulate, and the Japanese Government confirmed that this was the case.

The Montesinos factor

Soon after his unexpected electoral victory over the writer Mario Vargas Llosa in 1990, questions about Mr Fujimori's nationality were raised. But his supporters always dismissed them as xenophobic and destabilising.

To his supporters Mr Fujimori was the man who had saved the country from terrorism and economic ruin. And part of his success was put down to his "Japanese efficiency", as well as his ability to secure loans and investment from Japan.

But his detractors were not convinced and the rumours grew.

In the 1990s Caretas magazine said it had discovered that Mr Fujimori was actually born in Japan and had altered his birth certificate to conceal it.

It was never proven - and the Japanese authorities findings seem to contradict that version.

More sinister for many politicians and reporters was the role that the former spy chief, Vladimiro Montesinos, allegedly played in Mr Fujimori's "nationality secret".

Mr Montesinos was widely believed to have found out about Mr Fujimori's "nationality secret" and held him to ransom for it.

Many in Peru still believe that.

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See also:

28 Nov 00 | Asia-Pacific
Fujimori's uncertain status
20 Nov 00 | Media reports
Peru press turns on Fujimori
22 Nov 00 | Americas
Q & A: What next for Peru?
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