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Friday, 23 March, 2001, 01:42 GMT
Peru candidate attacks 'cocaine' smear
Alejandro Toledo
Mr Toledo says the allegations are old news
A scandal has erupted in Peru over claims that Alejandro Toledo, the front-running candidate in the forthcoming presidential election, tested positive for cocaine in 1998.

Mr Toledo said the report, in the country's leading magazine Caretas, was a rehash of news released last year by his wife Elaine Karp relating to his brief kidnapping three years ago.


I don't want to be cannon fodder - let's not fall into dirty tricks

Alejandro Toledo
During last year's presidential campaign, his wife alleged that former President Alberto Fujimori and fugitive former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos were behind the kidnapping.

Mrs Karp said her husband had returned home one day in 1998 apparently drugged and disorientated. Mr Toledo said he had disclosed everything that had happened during the incident.

He told a news conference: "Elaine reported my disappearance and we went to the clinic. I went personally, I gave my true identity."

'No dirty tricks'

Mr Toledo, who claims election fraud robbed him of victory in last year's disputed presidential race pleaded: "I don't want to be cannon fodder, let's not fall into dirty tricks."


It is a worrying sign for someone who proposes to run a governmen

Lourdes Flores, rival candidate
However, he would not confirm whether he had taken a drug test and did not mention the word "cocaine" in his statement.

Caretas, which had previously backed Mr Toledo in his campaign, published an positive cocaine test result from a Lima clinic and a police report from the same day - 16 October 1998 - saying there appeared to be no kidnapping.

"I did not file a kidnapping accusation because we had no confidence in the police under Montesinos' rule," said Mr Toledo.

He added: "This happened in 1998 and was made public in last year's campaign and I hope this is the last time."

Ammunition

Peru's presidential race has been dominated by personal attacks and accusations of dirty tricks, and rival candidates have been quick to use the allegations as ammunition.

"Anyone who turns to drugs has a problem of instability and it is a worrying sign for someone who proposes to run a government," said Lourdes Flores, who is trailing Mr Toledo by 10 points in the polls.

Allegations have also arisen that Mr Toledo attempted to stop Caretas publishing the article by offering the investigative reporter behind the piece a job with his campaign team.

Former President Fujimori declared himself the winner of last year's vote, but the election was overshadowed by charges of fraud, and smear campaigns against rivals such as Mr Toledo.

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