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Sunday, 20 May, 2001, 08:05 GMT 09:05 UK
Peru election debate turns nasty
Alejandro Toledo (R) and Alan Garcia
The candidates before the sparring match
Peru's two presidential candidates swapped insults in a television debate ahead of the June election, with former President Alan Garcia accusing his rival, Alejandro Toledo, of using cocaine.

In turn Mr Toledo attacked Mr Garcia's presidential legacy. His 1985-90 term ended with the country in economic ruin.

A cocaine consumer cannot be the leader of a country

Alan Garcia
"Mr Garcia, it is inconceivable that you speak of human rights, the struggle against corruption, against narcotics trafficking, when you have unresolved charges," Mr Toledo said.

Mr Garcia hit back, repeating allegations that Mr Toledo tested positive for cocaine use after a hotel tryst with three women in 1998.

"Drugged and kidnapped"

Mr Toledo has said that he was drugged by agents of former President Alberto Fujimori and possibly filmed in a sexually compromising situation.

The televised slanging match is unlikely to alleviate disillusionment among the voters.

Polls suggest Mr Toledo is narrowly ahead of Mr Garcia, but both candidates are neck and neck with a blank ballot paper.

More than 30% of the country's nearly 15 million voters say they plan to cast their votes for nobody.

Alejandro Toledo
Mr Toledo on the campaign trail
In other highlights, Mr Garcia pledged to cut utility rates and create more than 1 million new jobs, with economic growth of 5%.

Mr Toledo, a former shoe-shine boy turned World Bank economist. promised economic growth of 6-7% by the end of a five-year term.

He also said he would double teachers' salaries.

Mr Garcia only returned to Peru in January after nearly nine years in exile for allegedly taking kickbacks.

The first round of elections ended inconclusively in April when Mr Toledo narrowly won but fell short of the required 50% mark. The run-off vote will take place on June 3.

The election is Peru's first since former President Fujimori was ousted for corruption last November.

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See also:

09 Apr 01 | Americas
Fujimori stays silent
07 Feb 01 | Americas
New bribe claim in Peru election
28 Jan 01 | Americas
Exiled Garcia back in Peru
09 Apr 01 | Americas
Run-off to decide Peru president
09 Apr 01 | Americas
Q & A: What next for Peru?
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