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article imagePeru's Keiko Fujimori fighting for her freedom, and her party

By Luis Jaime CISNEROS, Francisco JARA (AFP)     Oct 25, 2018 in World

Peru opposition leader Keiko Fujimori's long-cherished presidential ambitions hung in the balance Thursday as a court moved closer to deciding whether to jail her pending the outcome of a corruption probe.

The 43-year-old daughter of disgraced ex-president Alberto Fujimori has been forced to defend herself against accusations she accepted more than a million dollars in illicit party funding from Brazilian corporate giant Odebrecht.

The judge, Richard Concepcion Carhuancho, has to decide whether to accede to anti-corruption prosecutor Jose Domingo Perez's request that she be placed in preventive detention for a 36-month period while an investigation against her continues.

Perez alleges Keiko Fujimori received more than $1.2 million from Odebrecht for her 2011 presidential campaign, which she denies.

While her lawyer Giuliana Loza fought on Thursday to keep her out of jail, Keiko found herself in a fight to recover control of her powerful political party, Popular Force, which has been riven by an internal crisis in recent days.

- Peru transfixed -

For all her family's recent travails, Keiko remains the Andean country's most popular politician.

Peruvian opposition leader Keiko Fujimori (2-R)  arrives for a court hearing to decide on a prosecut...
Peruvian opposition leader Keiko Fujimori (2-R), arrives for a court hearing to decide on a prosecutor's request to submit her to 36 months in preventive detention while she is investigated for money laundering and corrpution, in Lima on October 24, 2018
Luka GONZALES, AFP

Peru remains transfixed by the Fujimori saga and the media has gorged on the spectacle.

In Lima, people crowd around screens in cafes and bars in scenes reminiscent of the crowds that watched Peru's national team at the Russia-2018 World Cup.

But just when she needed it most, the unity that has helped make her Popular Force party become the country's biggest was unraveling.

As her party staggered under the weight of a string of resignations by senior officials, Keiko moved to suspend the leadership on Wednesday, handing the reins to an Emergency Committee to deal with the crisis.

"During the transition period, all the functions of the Political Committee and the national executive committee will be handled by the emergency committee, whose members will also serve as spokespersons" for the party, Keiko said, announcing the move on Twitter.

Keiko founded the party in 2001 and tolerated no dissent as she turned it into Peru's biggest political movement, winning the most votes in the 2011 and 2016 elections.

She was unable to capitalize on Popular Force's election machine to win the presidency, however, as she was beaten in a runoff in both attempts.

Plans for a third run have now been jeopardized by Lopez's dogged investigation.

Supporters of the Fujimori family take part in a demo in support of opposition party leader Keiko Fu...
Supporters of the Fujimori family take part in a demo in support of opposition party leader Keiko Fujimori and her father, ex-president Alberto Fujimori, in Lima on October 15, 2018
CRIS BOURONCLE, AFP

Unceremoniously, she marginalized her own brother Kenji and had Congress strip him of his parliamentary seat in June, after a lawmaker accused him of vote-buying.

The siblings have long been locked a fraticidal war over their father's political legacy.

She had appeared to have the upper hand before she became the target of Lopez's investigation.

- Conciliatory Keiko -

In the midst of the crisis, she has adopted an unusually conciliatory tone, and on Wednesday extended an olive branch to her enemies.

"Let's end this political war, together recognizing that we have all been a part of it," she said.

The wear and tear caused by their legal troubles and the family feud has taken its toll at the polls. Fujimori's party didn't take a single governorship or mayor's office among the 25 up for grabs in regional and municipal elections held on October 7.

Former president Alberto Fujimori recently had his humanitarian pardon for crimes against humanity r...
Former president Alberto Fujimori recently had his humanitarian pardon for crimes against humanity revoked
HO, AFP

The party reaped less that 3.0 percent of the votes, a far cry from the presidential election in 2016 in which Keiko balloted 40 percent.

Opinion polls show an alarming drop-off in Keiko's popularity, with an 86 percent disapproval rating -- a level comparable only to that of her father when his government collapsed over a corruption scandal in 2000 and he fled to Japan, where he sent in his resignation by fax.

Fujimori senior's chronic heart condition has left him looking on from his hospital bed, unable to use his still considerable influence to turn the tide back in her favor.

Keiko has increasingly come under the spotlight as prosecutors investigate millions of dollars in illicit campaign contributions to several former presidents.

They say former presidents Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, Alan Garcia and Alejandro Toledo all took undeclared campaign contributions in exchange for pledges to have the Brazilian construction giant win local tenders.

Their key witness, former Odebrecht Peru chief Jorge Barata, said he doled out millions of dollars to Peruvian presidential candidates between 2001 and 2016.

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