Candidate trapped in polling station by protesters chanting "assassin"

Ollanta Humala's relaxed smile quickly melted into an expression of concern Sunday when hundreds of protesters, a few hurling stones, confronted the nationalist presidential candidate as he and his wife went to vote.

The former army officer, who has pledged an economic overhaul that would favor Peru's poor majority, was trapped with his spouse for more than 50 minutes in a classroom at Ricardo Palma University, where they casts ballots.

Police reinforcements were dispatched to the university in Lima's upscale Surco district, as several hundred people stood on three levels of balconies looming above the classroom, chanting "Assassin!"

Humala 43, huddled in consultation with Lloyd Axworthy, a former Canadian foreign minister leading the Organization of American States' observer mission, then smiled defiantly as Axworthy led the couple out through the crowd, protected by a cordon of riot police who held clear plastic shields over their heads to protect them from flying rocks and plastic bottles.

They entered a waiting car outside the campus.

Humala later blamed his main electoral rivals, former Congresswoman Lourdes Flores and ex-President Alan Garcia, whom he accused of "sowing hatred"

"This electoral process has been clouded by the traditional political parties, who demonstrate they will not accept the will of the people," Humala told reporters. "Democracy is held hostage, in the hands of a minority that does not wish to lose its privileges."

The "assassin" chants were an apparent reference to allegations that Humala committed human rights abuses in 1992 when he commanded a counterinsurgency base under the nom de guerre "Captain Carlos" in Peru's eastern jungle. He denies any wrongdoing.

The protesters also shouted: "You're the same as (Hugo) Chavez" a reference to Humala's alliance with the Venezuelan president, who has polarized his country along class lines.

While Humala insists he would respect freedom of expression and private property, he also has promised to rewrite Peru's constitution to strip power from a political class widely viewed as corrupt.

Pre-election polls showed Humala in a dead heat with Flores, 46, a pro-business former congresswoman, and Garcia, 56, whose 1985-90 administration ended in surging guerrilla violence, food shortages and hyperinflation, reports AP.

O.Ch.

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Author`s name: Editorial Team