Vargas Llosa Cries Foul in Peru's Election Coverage

Novelist Mario Vargas Llosa has angrily pulled his biweekly column from Peru's dominant newspaper on the eve of the presidential runoff election, calling El Comercio, "a propaganda machine" for conservative candidate Keiko Fujimori.

Vargas Llosa, winner of the 2010 Nobel prize for literature, wrote the publisher accusing the newspaper of becoming "a caricature" of a serious news outlet. 

He said it "violates daily the most elemental notions of objectivity and journalistic ethics."

The author echoed complaints being aired widely on social networks in Peru ahead of Sunday's election that the owners of El Comercio group, which owns newspapers and TV channels, are bent on preventing a victory by the leftist candidate, former military officer Ollanta Humala.

El Comercio's publisher, Francisco Miro Quesada, responded Wednesday in the newspaper, calling the accusations "ill-intentioned untruths" and saying the author's letter was "full of lies."

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Keiko Fujimori's father, Alberto, governed Peru in 1990-2000 and is serving a 25-year prison term for authorizing death squads and corruption.

Choosing to back Humala as the less bad choice, Vargas Llosa has said a victory by Keiko Fujimori would restore what he has called one of "the most cruel" dictatorships in Peruvian history.

An avid journalist in addition to fiction writing, Vargas Llosa pens the "Piedra de Toque" (Touchstone) column for the newspaper El País in Madrid, the Spanish capital where he lives most of the year. It is republished elsewhere including, until now, El Comercio.

Vargas Llosa says his objection to Keiko Fujimori has nothing to do with the fact that her father defeated him in the 1990 presidential election but is aimed at defending free expression, which Alberto Fujimori's regime diminished by bribing media owners and intimidating and even kidnapping reporters.

The El Comercio group has already been accused of censoring journalists, firing two producers from Canal N, its cable news station, allegedly because they refused to spin coverage against Humala.

The election campaign has deeply polarized Peruvians.

Conservative Peruvians fear Humala would follow the populist, authoritarian path of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, nationalizing industries and expropriating land from the wealthy.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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