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Peruvians protest suspiciously timed medical pardon of jailed ex-leader Alberto Fujimori

Thousands of protesters marched through Lima and across Peru on Monday in protest of President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski's decision Sunday to grant a medical pardon to former President Alberto Fujimori, who was serving 25 years in prison for human rights abuses and corruption. Police responded with tear gas. Kuczynski said in a statement that he made the "especially complex and difficult" decision to pardon Fujimori, 79, and seven other unidentified people on humanitarian grounds, adding, "I am convinced that those of us who consider ourselves democrats cannot allow Alberto Fujimori to die in prison. Justice is not vengeance."

Critics say Kuczynski pardoned Fujimori in exchange for crucial abstentions that allowed him to survive an impeachment vote on Friday. Popular Force (FP), the conservative political party run by Fujimori's children, controls Congress, and daughter Keiko Fujimori — Kuczynski's rival in the 2016 presidential election — had pushed to impeach him over a scandal involving his financial ties to Brazilian construction behemoth Odebrecht; Kenji Fujimori and his FP allies abstained, allowing the impeachment vote to fall short. On Monday, Kenji Fujimori posted a video of himself showing his father the news of his pardon in a hospital, where the elder Fujimori was moved last week after suffering what his doctors say is a potentially fatal heart condition.

Two members of Congress from Kuczynski's party resigned in protest of his pardon, and with 18 percent approval, it's not clear if Kuczynski can weather this new political storm. "I regret Fujimori's humanitarian pardon," tweeted Human Rights Watch's Jose Miguel Vivanco. "Instead of reaffirming that in a state of law there is no special treatment for anyone, the idea that his liberation was a vulgar political negotiation in exchange for Pedro Pablo Kuczynski maintaining power will remain forever."