LIMA (Reuters) - Peru's imprisoned ex-president Alberto Fujimori backed his son on Wednesday for "building bridges" with the government of centrist President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, and issued a rare rebuke to the opposition party led by his daughter that now controls Congress.
In a series of tweets that exposed a deep divide in the rightwing populist movement he started nearly three decades ago, Alberto Fujimori openly sided for the first time with his youngest son Kenji over his eldest daughter Keiko, the head of the party Popular Force.
On Tuesday Popular Force suspended Kenji from its activities for 60 days after he openly criticized the party and voiced support for Kuczynski's 1-year-old government.
"I'm still asking myself why Kenji was punished. Is it because he's been building bridges with the government with Peru in mind?" Fujimori said, calling Kenji's detractors in the party "disloyal."
Popular Force defended its decision, alleging that Kenji had hurt its image in violation of internal rules.
Kenji, 37, is widely seen as being interested in running for president in 2021 following Keiko's narrow defeats in the past two elections. His popularity has risen in recent months as he has posed for pictures with Kuczynski's ministers, spoken out for the victims of bullying and likened Congress' recent ousting of Kuczynski's finance minister to lions feeding.
Keiko, 42, told her father on Twitter that she loved him and called on Popular Force lawmakers to show unity and discipline in order to establish a party that can outlast the Fujimori name.
But a letter made public this week showed that 23 Popular Force lawmakers had pressed Keiko to refrain from meting out "justice between siblings" by punishing Kenji.
Kuczynski might be able to use the division in Popular Force, which controls 72 out of 130 seats in the single-chamber Congress, to govern more effectively in the remaining four years of his term.
Fujimori's support for Kenji comes as Kuczynski is weighing whether to pardon and grant him early release from prison, where he has been serving a 25-year sentence for human rights violations and graft committed in his 1990-2000 government.
Fujimori is a divisive figure in Peru. Considered a corrupt dictator by some, he is admired by others who credit him with ending an economic crisis and leftist rebellion in the 1990s.
(Reporting By Mitra Taj)