Friday, June 29, 2007

Barfing Lima Nights

The Observer has a comprehensive and tidy post up pulling together the various bits and pieces of the absurd candidacy of Alberto Fujimori--or should that be Fujimori Aruberuto?

Amaterasu, what kanji does Fujimori use? What will the voters write on the ballot papers?

The Observer leaves out the biggest piece of the puzzle, however: the reason why Alberto Fujimori is even being considered as a candidate, the reason why he was sheltered here in the first place, why the Japanese government refused to extradite him, why he was granted citizenship...

because of his second greatest publicity triumph, second only to the capture and display of a quite alive and completely bonkers Abimael Guzman...

the storming of the Japanese Ambassador's Residence in Lima.

Remember that wondrous winter of 96-97...and the denouement?

On April 22, 1997, after a four month siege, Peruvian commandos burst through a hole blown in the floor of the Residence's atrium, slaughtered the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement guerilla hostage takers and liberated Ambassador Aoki Morihisa and the 71 other hostages (the remainder of what was, at first, a hostage crisis with over 600 hostages) with the loss of only 1 hostage and 2 commandos (one of the commandos by friendly fire).

The sight of Alberto Fujimori in shirtsleeves, striding purposely through the gates of the compound after the raid, waving at the cameras, was a made-for-television moment.

One the Japanese public will very likely soon be seeing again...and again...and again.

By contrast, the hostage crisis in Lima proved the nadir of Japan's image in the 1990s. The Ambassador's Residence been taken despite intense security precautions (at the Residence that day was the cream of Peruvian society, including future president Alejandro Toledo and President Fujimori's relatives) . As the hostage crisis stretched out from days to weeks to months, the Japanese government could only wail, "Please no violence! Don't upset the hostage takers!" while on the inside, Ambassador Aoki drank his way through the liquor cabinets...resulting, upon his rescue, in The Interview The Ministry of Foreign Affairs Wants You To Forget.

Dismissing criticism that he had spent the 126 days of the siege in an alcoholic stupor, Aoki stunned the globe with this completely unabashed public relations catastrophe:

大使 - 「まあ私が酒を好きなのは事実です。それを批判されるのは仕方ない」 

Ambassador Aoki - That I like alcohol is no secret. That I am criticized for this, well, that's life.

記者 - 「独り占めして酒ばかり飲んでいたと」 

Press - It is said you did nothing but drink, hogging it all for yourself.

大使 - 「そんなこと、するわけないよ。最初のころ、何人かで薬用アルコールを飲んだことがあった。そしたら激しくおう吐し、すごい二日酔いになった。98度のアルコールを半分に薄め、それをさらに水やコーラで割って飲むんです。コーラで飲むと味は大丈夫だけれど、おう吐してしまう。水で割ればおう吐しないけど、この世のものとも思えないぐらいまずい」 当時のことを思い出し、楽しそうに大笑いした。

Ambassador Aoki - I wouldn't do that. A lot of people drank rubbing alcohol neat. If you did that you would throw up violently and have an incredible hangover the next day. However, if you would water the 98 proof alcohol down by half with water or cola, then you could drink it. It you did it with cola it tasted all right...but you would still end up vomiting. If you drank it cut with water you wouldn't vomit...but you could not imagine that there was anything in this world that could taste so bad. [He seemed to smile broadly at the memory of this.]

大使 - 「水で割って飲めたのは、三村晴夫医務官と私の2人だけだった。1リットルは飲んだね。でもあんまり飲むと体に悪い。赤十字の尽力で、公邸の倉庫に備蓄されていた本物の酒を飲むことができるようになった」 

Ambassador Aoki - The ones who could drink it cut with water? Well that would be just Embassy Medical Officer Mimura Haruo and myself. We drank a liter of the stuff. However, if you drank too much of it, it would be bad for your health. Thanks to the efforts of the Red Cross, however, it became possible for us to drink the real drinkable alcohol that was stashed in the Residence's cellar.

記者 - 「どのくらいの量を飲んだのか」 

Press - How much did you have to drink?

大使 - 「割り当てはウイスキー換算で、1日2本。夜になると、『酒保』という酒場を開いて皆で毎晩飲んだ。そりゃあ私が行かなければ酒場は始まらないし、いつも最後までいたから、一番たくさん飲んだかと言われれば、そうですと言うしかない。でも独り占めしたとかそういう報道は信じられない」

Ambassador Aoki - If we convert it into equivalents of bottles of whisky, drunk as mizuwari, then two bottles every day. When night fell, we opened up a drinking spot we called "Sakabo." We all drank together, every night. Since the drinking spot would not open if I did not go, I was there until the very end. If you say that means I drank the most, then I'll have to say you're right.

But the report that I was keeping it all for myself, that's unbelievable.

That folks, was Japan's man on the scene...the one the other hostages had to look up, the one whose job it was to reassure the others and help them face their fears.

Not surprisingly, Ambassador Aoki was forced to resign his position within 3 weeks of his liberation.

The Japanese hero of the hour, both by deed and by default, became Fujimori.

Viva Aruberuto!

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