LIMA, Peru – The two candidates in Peru's presidential runoff traded accusations about their plans for the country's former spy chief in a televised debate.
Polls show Ollanta Humala, a retired army officer, trailing former President Alan Garcia ahead of the vote on June 4. Both are leftsts but Garcia is more moderate while Humala has been compared to Venezuela's populist leader Hugo Chavez.
Humala launched his political career by leading a short-lived military uprising on Oct. 29, 2000, against former President Alberto Fujimori. That government collapsed a month later amid corruption scandals centered around Fujimori's intelligence chief, Vladimiro Montesinos.
On Friday Montesinos, now on trial for corruption, alleged in court that the bloodless rebellion was faked to enable him to escape the country. During the revolt Montesinos fled Peru on a private yacht but was captured eight months later in Venezuela.
Humala denied Montesinos' accusation and accused Garcia of a plot to sabotage his candidacy. He questioned whether Garcia might seek to free Montesinos.
"Mr. Humala committed the imprudence of asking me whether I would free Mr. Montesinos," Garcia said at Sunday night's debate. "I'm simply going to say that he was the one who let him go free when ... he staged a strange semi-uprising in the south."
The exchange was one of the few times during the night that the two candidates strayed from their proposals for governing Peru.
Humala said he planned to "abolish the illegal and illegitimate constitution of 1993," written during Fujimori's regime, and seek a constitutional assembly to write a new charter.
"A new constitution means a new distribution of power," he said, asserting that Peru's current political system "serves special interests and not the Peruvian people."
Humala, 43, has promised heavy state intervention in the economy, tapping into a powerful vein of discontent among Peru's poor majority.
Garcia, 56, says he will maintain free-market policies that have generated economic growth. But he has had to struggle against the memory of his 1985-90 term, which left the country in economic ruin.