Retired army general: Fujimori behind death squad cover-up

The retired army general whose career was ended when he blew the whistle on the Colina group death squad, told a courtroom Friday that ex-President Alberto Fujimori “did everything possible to cover-up the criminals and the authors of the assassinations at La Cantuta and Barrios Altos.”

Fujimori, who faces up to 30 years in prison if convicted of sanctioning the death squad, appeared unfazed by Rodolfo Robles’ testimony, as he was caught by news photographers going over handwritten notes for an apparent campaign run in 2011.

Robles was forced into exile and lived under political asylum in Argentina after he went public in 1993 with the existence of the Colina group and its role in the murders of 15 people in Lima’s Barrios Altos district in 1991 and the kidnapping and murder of nine students and one professor at La Cantuta University in 1992.

Peru’s National Intelligence Service, or SIN, formed the Colina group to eliminate Maoist Shining Path guerrillas and rebel sympathizers.

Under questioning by state prosecutor José Paláez Bardales, Robles said that after April 17, 1993, when he denounced the Colina group’s activities to Peru’s military brass, he received no support from Fujimori.

Robles said that it was his military duty to inform the public of the crimes, which were not being investigated by authorities. Robles said that Barrios Altos and La Cantuta were part of a larger political initiative to quell guerrilla violence and set Fujimori on a path to rule Peru for 20 years. “The political project also intended to remove those army generals who did not agree with Fujimori,” he added.

The witness spoke about the threats that he and his family experienced after his public denouncement. First, Robles said, he was told to step down from his position as the chief of the Army Instruction School (COINDE). As former commander of the Third Military Region based in Arequipa, Robles was the third highest ranking officer in Peru’s army at the time.

He said Friday that his two sons, both active officers in Peru’s army, also were targeted. “One of my sons was framed with cocaine and they were sending the other to an emergency zone so that he would be killed,” Robles said.

Then, on May 6, 1993, Robles sought refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Lima, which helped arrange political asylum in Argentina for him and his family. From Argentina, Robles continued to demand that Peruvian authorities investigate the Colina group’s role in the Barrios Altos and La Cantuta massacres.

Fujimori, who has repeatedly been caught by news cameras dozing off during testimony, pulled a piece of paper from his usual notebook with the words “Plan 2011” scrawled across the top. Lower down, there was a notated to-do list that included two rallies, four demonstrations, 100,000 calendars, 10,000 hats and shirts, and two monthly conferences.

There is widespread speculation that Fujimori’s eldest daughter, Congresswoman Keiko Fujimori, has intentions to run for the presidency in 2011. Polls consistently show Peruvians consider Keiko one of the most popular politicians. She has encouraged her father’s supporters in Congress to join her political party initiative, Fuerza 2011. After Friday’s testimony, Keiko promptly defended her father’s “right to plan for the future” of his party.

Peru’s presidential Cabinet Chief Jorge Del Castillo and State Prosecutor Gladys Echaiz contended that Fujimori’s conspicuous display of “Plan 2011” was an obvious political ploy. Echaiz said Fujimori should be reprimanded for his behavior during the hearing.

The trial will resume next Wednesday, May 14.

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