Peruvian presidential candidates face off in only debate

Nationalist candidate Ollanta Humala and former President Alan Garcia used their only scheduled presidential debate to exchange jabs over which candidate would be inclined to give freedom to imprisoned former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos.

The televised debate Sunday night offered Peruvians a chance to see how the left-leaning Humala could stand up to Garcia, a masterful orator and debater, ahead of next month's presidential runoff election.

Montesinos, now imprisoned, alleged in an audiotaped statement Friday that Humala's military rebellion that launched the candidate's political career was actually a diversion to help the spymaster escape the country unnoticed. Montesinos was former President Alberto Fujimori's behind-the-scenes power broker throughout the 1990s until the regime collapsed in 2000 amid corruption scandals.

"Mr. Humala committed the imprudence of asking me whether I would free Mr. Montesinos," Garcia said at the 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."

Humala, a retired army officer, immediately denied Montesinos' accusation and charged Garcia was involved in what he said was a plot to sabotage his candidacy and questioning whether Garcia might seek to free Montesinos.

Humala, a retired army officer, immediately denied the accusation and charged Garcia was involved in what he said was a plot to sabotage his candidacy.

The exchange was one of the few times during the night that the two candidates strayed from the presentation of their proposals for governing Peru, reports the AP.

I.L.