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Fujimori a lightning rod for Peruvians in Japan

TOKYO—Peruvians either love former President Alberto Fujimori or they loathe him. That's also true in Japan, where Fujimori lives in exile, along with some 65,000 Peruvian immigrants, the largest community of Spanish-speaking Latin Americans in East Asia.

Some Peruvians here applaud the possibility that the exiled former leader might return to the South American nation he governed from 1990 to 2000.

"I am in agreement that he returns," said Antonio Caceres, 41, from Apurimac state in mountainous southern Peru, who came to Japan three years ago. "During his government, there were a lot of public works, new highways and schools."

But Mario Kiyohara, a television producer in Tokyo, holds the opposite view.

"If he returns, it would provoke social unrest," said Kiyohara, who holds Peruvian citizenship. "During the 10 years he ruled Peru, the country grew very divided."

For some Peruvians, the Fujimori era looks good in hindsight because they're so disgusted with current President Alejandro Toledo, whose popularity is at rock bottom.

Even Peru's ambassador in Tokyo, Luis J. Macchiavello, acknowledges that "many Peruvians think `Toledo' is a bad word because his popularity is 10 percent and they turn to Fujimori because he is against Toledo."

Even those Peruvians who support Fujimori rarely, if ever, see him on the streets of Tokyo. He rarely ventures out to Peruvian restaurants, and his occasional university talks are often to groups that close their doors to the public.

"He gives lectures but no one hears about it," said Luis Alvarez, the deputy director of a Spanish-language newspaper in Japan.

Peruvians who want to get in touch with Fujimori have no way to do so.

Fujimori's Web page doesn't provide contact information. Fujimori has much to say to his followers, but doesn't seem interested in what they might have to say back.

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(c) 2005, Knight Ridder/Tribune Information Services.

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