I've been nauseated by the New York Times coverage of all things Latin America recently, but today's headline took things to a new low. The best story the paper could come up with was an AP note registering Alberto Fujimori's prison privileges regarding sex with his very young wife Satomi Kataoka. Regardless of the fact that picturing sex involving shriveled dictators isn't what I expect when reading the Paper of Record, the story highlights something a good deal more troubling.
The Times's recent coverage of the Fujimori situation has largely ignored the ex-president's not-so-light side of human rights abuses, extensive connections to corruption on a mass scale, and questionable intelligence. Instead, readers have been lead to believe that Fujimori enjoys considerable support from the Peruvian people, and that the crimes committed on his watch largely excluded his participation.
While it's true that Fujimori still has fans at home, his support base hardly comprises a majority. The percentage of Americans that believe that the Bush administration was involved in 9/11 is higher than that of Peruvians who like Fujimori. Moreover, the myth that the dictator was unaware, or not involved in the crimes committed during his tenure, has not somehow grown true over time.
And even if it were the case that Fujimori was the unwitting accomplice to numerous acts of terrorism and corrupt dealings, then normal people would have to start questioning his intelligence. For myself, I think he's guilty, and a fool. Fujimori's poor record of leadership and decsionmaking did not improve once he resigned his post while on tour overseas. While exiled in Japan, he was repeatedly publicly humiliated by his choice of friends (ultra-right wing politicians and conmen) and his financial dealings (he was the main sucker of a pretender to the Japanese thrown). His credibility was reduced to such depths that Fujimori built a website just for defending himself from mounting accusations of wrongdoing and stupidity.
But don't take my word for it. Read it in the Times yourself. Oh that's right: they haven't published anything of the sort. Instead, they're running stories of concern only to those of us who might be concerned about Fujimori's life inside the pen. This on the heels of the complaints from his daughter that the man had “nowhere to move around." Who cares? And moreover, that's the whole point.
But I do have to admit that knowing that Fujimori currently enjoys a thousand square feet within which he can make love to his beautiful young wife, or strum a guitar if the mood overtakes him, warms a small part of my heart. And makes me realize what misery my own existence is.
But no matter how low my own being may have sunk, I can always look to the Times Latin American news section and feel better. For instead of seizing on an opportunity to educate a public that has largely forgotten about the bad old days of Fujimori's Peru (if they even knew or cared in the first place), the Times chooses to soil itself within the muddied caverns of sensationalism and second rate reporting. But I guess they have no choice. God knows, nothing of any interest ever happens in Latin America.