Peruvian presidential candidate accused of human rights abuses

Retired Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala, a leading contender in April's presidential race, has been formally accused of human rights abuses during his 1992 command of a jungle counterinsurgency base, human rights advocates said.

Three criminal complaints accusing Humala of forced disappearance, torture and attempted murder were filed Tuesday with a prosecutor in the northern jungle town of Tocache, Alejandro Silva, of the National Coordinator for Human Rights in Peru, told reporters.

A secretary for Tocache prosecutor Arturo Artemio Campos confirmed Thursday that the complaints had been received from the group, which represents 63 human rights organizations, but declined to provide any further information.

For the last month, local media has aired testimonies from jungle residents identifying Humala under the nom de guerre of "Captain Carlos" and accusing him of overseeing systematic abuses in the zone, a former hotspot of drug trafficking and guerrilla activity.

Humala, who has aligned himself with Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez, has acknowledged that he commanded the base as "Captain Carlos," using a pseudonym to avoid reprisals by rebels, which he said was common practice.

But Humala denied any wrongdoing and attributed the allegations to a smear campaign to derail his presidential bid.

Daniel Abugattas, a spokesman for Humala's nationalist party, said Thursday that the candidate would not answer any questions about the accusations for the remainder of the campaign.

A recent national poll showed Humala trailing pro-business former Congresswoman Lourdes Flores 35 to 25 percent in a field of 21 candidates. The poll also showed that 41 percent of those surveyed believed Humala was guilty of the accusations against him, reports the AP.

I.L.