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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 May, 2003, 22:06 GMT 23:06 UK
Peru's 'Jerry Springer' battles scandal

By Elliott Gotkine
BBC Lima correspondent

While the trials of Peru's former spy chief Vladimiro Montesinos continue, there are more than 1,300 other people alleged to have been caught up in his web of corruption.

Laura Bozzo
Millions watch Bozzo's programme across the Americas

One of these is Laura Bozzo.

Known as Peru's answer to Jerry Springer, her programme is beamed out to millions across the Americas.

She has been under house arrest since last July, but that has not stopped her from recording her show.

On the day we met her, her show's theme was: "Today it's 'my nanny beats my child' - oh, and is probably having an affair with my husband."

A hidden camera recording, exposing the nanny's crime, is shown to the audience and it is not long before the vitriol is flowing and fists are flying.

Scenes like these have made Laura one of Latin America's most popular talk shows.

It is essential viewing for over a million Hispanics in the US.

And in its prime, 40% of Peruvian homes with a TV had it tuned into Laura at one o'clock in the afternoon.

House arrest

But you can no longer see Laura in Peru.

It was taken off the air when the scandal that toppled ex-President Alberto Fujimori, engulfed Ms Bozzo herself.

She has been under house arrest since July last year.

I fought for my ideas, for my convictions. And I really feel that I've been here, for more than eight months, because of a political vendetta
Laura Bozzo
But in order to keep working, she has converted studios into a temporary home, from where she continues to record her show.

She stands accused of accepting more than $3m of state funds - not to mention expensive jewellery - from Vladimiro Montesinos.

In exchange, Ms Bozzo is alleged to have put her show at the service of Mr Montesinos's boss, then President Alberto Fujimori.

At the time, he was running for a third term in office - something that is outlawed under Peru's constitution.

'Power-hungry'

Ms Bozzo no longer has much time for Mr Fujimori.

"My grandfather used to say, only rats leave a sinking ship. We were millions who believed in Fujimori," she says.

"I fought for my ideas, for my convictions. And I really feel that I've been here, for more than eight months, because of a political vendetta."

But many Peruvians simply do not believe her.

"I think Laura's biggest mistake was that she made a crime of communication, because she put all the energy, the 40 points of rating, all the confidence of the people of her show in the aid of a mafia in power, the mafia of Fujimori and Montesinos," says TV critic Fernando Vivas of Caretas Magazine.

"I think that she did so not because of money, but because of power, because she goes bananas for power."

Denial

Laura Bozzo denies any wrongdoing.

She claims she is only in this mess because she revealed the existence of Zarai, President Alejandro Toledo's illegitimate daughter, on one of her shows, when he was a candidate running against Peru's then leader, Mr Fujimori.

But prosecutors say they have ample evidence against her.

If found guilty, she faces eight years in jail.

Recording her show from house arrest is one thing. Doing it from prison is quite another.




SEE ALSO:
Peruvian spy chief gets jail term
24 Mar 03  |  Americas
Peru's ex-spy chief faints in trial
21 Mar 03  |  Americas


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