On the morning of April 23, a convoy led by mounted police departed from Jorge Chavez International Airport in Lima, Peru, and headed for the National High Court in the city center. The convoy escorted a “big man” – former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo. A few hours ago, he just flew to Lima from San Francisco, USA. He was detained by US police and Interpol when he departed and was taken over by the Peruvian National Police when he arrived.
Along the way, disheveled Toledo bowed his head and said nothing, the handcuffs on his wrists were covered by blue and black clothes. During his years in politics, especially during his presidency from 2001 to 2006, he often opened his arms, hugged and kissed the Peruvian flag when he appeared in public. Today, he is curled up in the back seat of the car, a far cry from the scenery of the past.
still in that cell
”My name is Alejandro Toledo, 77 years old.”
Later that day, Toledo, wearing a red sweater, stood in the dock of the hearing and reported to Judge Margherita Guevara. Give your name, age and ID number. He was then taken for a medical examination. At 7 p.m., Toledo took a military helicopter to Barbadillo Prison.
It was a prison for felons. Toledo’s single cell contained only a bed and mattress. He will spend 18 months in preventive custody there.
The Barbadillo prison also houses two other former presidents of the country, Fujimori and Pedro Castillo. Fujimori was convicted five times for participating in murder, kidnapping, embezzlement of public funds, and bribery during his administration. According to Peruvian law, he was sentenced to 25 years in prison for the heaviest sentence. Castillo was accused of organizing crimes and using influence to collude with others to commit crimes. He was impeached and removed by Congress on December 7 last year, and was also placed in preventive detention for 18 months while awaiting trial.
Toledo also faces corruption and money laundering charges. He is suspected of accepting huge bribes from the Odebrecht company to help the other party get a construction contract for a transnational highway. Prosecutors are seeking a sentence of more than 20 years in prison for him.
Toledo could have been in the cell six years ago. On February 4, 2017, the Peruvian police conducted a five-hour search of Toledo’s residence in Lima, and the TV station also broadcast the search footage. At the time, Toledo was not at home and was reportedly in Paris, France, to attend an OECD meeting. Five days later, the Peruvian Prosecutor’s Office formally filed charges against him on charges of money laundering and government-business conspiracy, and the Peruvian Supreme Court announced that he should be placed in preventive detention for 18 months.
The Peruvian media called him. He was in Paris and firmly denied all the allegations, saying that this was persecution by his political opponents. He would return to China to cooperate with the investigation, but he did not say when he would return. He also said it was “illegal” for police to search his private home without evidence. He then disappeared from public view.
Public opinion in Peru was in an uproar. A prosecutor said Toledo played on Peruvian society. Interpol issued a red notice for him, and the Peruvian government also offered a reward of 100,000 new sols (about 200,000 yuan) to find out his whereabouts.
On February 10 of that year, the Peruvian government announced that it had reliable information that Toledo had flown from Paris to San Francisco and might want to seek asylum in Israel. His wife, who is a dual citizen of Peru and Israel, also booked a flight from San Francisco to Tel Aviv, Israel, in two days. Since there is no extradition agreement between Peru and Israel, it would be very difficult to bring him back to stand trial if he traveled to Israel.
The Peruvian government quickly contacted the Israeli side and received assurances from the other side that Toledo would not be allowed to enter the country until the case was concluded. The Israeli side later confirmed that Toledo did not board the plane to Israel. He was “stopped” in the United States.
Peru has an extradition agreement with the United States. The then Peruvian President Kuczynski called the then U.S. President Trump, hoping that the U.S. would consider deporting Toledo. The answer he received was that Toledo would not be arrested without more evidence. In order to provide these “sufficient evidence” to the US, Peruvian officials are extremely busy.
Toledo wasn’t idle either. He issued a statement on social media denying that he was on the run and saying he would defend himself “on the premise that he was not prejudged guilty”. Since then, he has repeatedly stated that he has never taken bribes.
In 2018, Peru formally requested the extradition of Toledo from the United States. In July 2019, he was arrested in California, released on bail in 2020, and placed under house arrest. He still denies all charges and insists he has not received a fair trial in Peru.
Toledo has not been criminally charged in the United States. In 2021, a U.S. court ruled that Peru’s charges against Toledo had sufficient evidence to grant extradition. But the final decision rests with the U.S. State Department.
Toledo is still delaying the extradition in various ways. On April 6 this year, a San Francisco court ordered a 14-day delay in extradition. On April 20, he made another request for a stay of extradition to the court, but it was rejected. His defenders at the time said Toledo had cancer and that being in prison would make his condition worse. After the request was dismissed, Toledo’s U.S. attorney said the client was “deeply saddened and disappointed” and insisted it was a “political indictment.”
In the end, Toledo surrendered to the US judiciary on April 21 this year and set off on his way home.
road works paved with money
The Odebrecht company that sent Toledo to prison is the largest construction company in Brazil and even in Latin America. The company’s business projects are located in more than 20 countries. 44% of its revenue and 70% of its construction contracts come from overseas. More than 100 billion reais (approximately 200 billion yuan at the time of the incident).
In 2013, Brazil launched a large-scale anti-corruption investigation. With the deepening of the investigation, it was discovered that the prominence of the Odebrecht company was actually supported by bribery and corruption. In order to win over important domestic politicians in the United States, Odebrecht has set up a “bribery department” within the company, forming a set of deep-rooted and “systematic” corruption operations.
In December 2016, Odebrecht and its subsidiary petrochemical company Brasil Chemicals pleaded guilty in a U.S. court, admitting that they had obtained engineering contracts by bribery in 12 countries, and the total amount of bribes was nearly 800 million US dollars (about 5.5 billion yuan). ). The bribe recipients included multiple terms of Peruvian government officials.
Barata, who was the head of the Odebrecht company’s Peru project, confessed that they had bribed the Toledo government with 35 million US dollars (about 240 million yuan) through a senior aide in Toledo to obtain a Contract for the construction of a highway linking Brazil and Peru. Investigators said the money is believed to have been deposited into the account of Toledo’s friend, businessman Maiman. Some commentators say that “bribery in exchange for contracts” is a common pattern of power-for-money transactions in Latin America.
On March 31, 2001, Toledo participated in a presidential election campaign in Giuliaca, a city in the southeastern Andes.
Toledo once stated that he was innocent, “You can check my account.” Whether he received bribes from Maiman is the focus of the Peruvian prosecutors’ investigation. Peruvian media said Toledo admitted to receiving huge sums of money in commercial projects, but maintained his innocence.
Gao Bo, an associate researcher at the Latin American Institute of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, told Global People that corruption has always existed in the Peruvian political arena, which involves various problems such as the lack of supervision mechanisms and low social trust.
In recent years, the Peruvian judiciary has not been immune to serious corruption. Although several Peruvian politicians, including several former presidents, stepped down and even went to prison in the anti-corruption campaign, which has a certain deterrent effect on the corrupt, it is still difficult to effectively punish the corrupt.
In addition, Peru and other countries often conduct large-scale elections according to their systems, but the politicians who run for election often do not have a clear political platform, and the political parties they belong to also lack strong organizational strength. Advertisements even buy votes and open the way with money. For example, in a recent election, many politicians spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to hire election planning experts from the United States, place advertisements, and use various means to buy votes. This is easy to breed power and money transactions.
Raised the banner of anti-corruption
In Peru, Toledo used to be an inspirational legend, but now it is embarrassing for Peruvians. Local media said he was like a “male version of Cinderella” when he woke up.
Toledo is the eighth of nine children from a poor indigenous family in the mountains of Peru. He dreamed of being president since he was a child, and people thought it was a joke.
Toledo knew that his family was struggling, but he also knew that only studying could change his fate, so he persuaded his father to let him go to school. Relying on part-time work and part-study, he became the first person in his family to go to high school.
One day, Toledo met two young Americans who were volunteers in Peru asking for directions. During the chat, he realized for the first time how big the outside world is. With the help of American youth, Toledo, who loves football, applied for a scholarship at the University of San Francisco with his football expertise. In 1964, he went to the United States to study economics, and later received a doctorate in human resource economics at Stanford University.
After graduation, Toledo successively worked as an economic consultant in international institutions such as the United Nations Headquarters in New York, the World Bank, and the Inter-American Development Bank. Meanwhile, he married Karp in 1972. After working abroad for 25 years, Toledo returned to Peru with the idea of ”not continuing to study poverty, but changing poverty”.
In September 1994, he founded the political party organization “Viable Nation”. He participated in the presidential election the following year and won only 3.3% of the votes. He was defeated by Fujimori, who was running for re-election. In 2000, Toledo changed the name of the party to “Viable Peru”, challenged Fujimori again, and entered the second round of elections with a support rate of more than 40%. After that, he announced his withdrawal from the election on the grounds of electoral fraud on Fujimori’s side, and initiated a protest as the leader of the opposition party, demanding that Fujimori step down.
Soon, Fujimori was dismissed by Congress due to the election bribery scandal. Toledo ran for president for the third time and was elected by a narrow margin.
Born in poverty, self-made, and winning the general election by holding high the banner of anti-corruption, Toledo is regarded by many as a model of indigenous struggle. When he came to power, he said that he would work hard to raise wages, promote agricultural development, accelerate the pace of economic construction, and increase 1 million job opportunities. By the end of his term in 2006, his performance was not satisfactory.
After leaving office, Toledo has lived in San Francisco since 2007. In 2011, he participated in the presidential election and returned to Peru briefly, but ended in defeat in the primary election.
According to the memories of members of his campaign team, Toledo liked good wine. When talking, he “drank whiskey after glass of whiskey”, drank every night, and could drink an entire bottle of white wine alone. His men also love to send him expensive wine. When Toledo was in power, the media would always publish news with a photo of him holding a wine glass. During the campaign, Toledo gave a radio interview one morning, and it was his drunken voice that was heard on the air. In March 2019, in Toledo, the United States, he was detained for “drunkenness in public” and locked up at the police station overnight.
Now that Toledo is in jail, it may be difficult to “have fun with wine” again.