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Ex-Army Officer Seeks Presidency in Peru

December 31, 2005

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ A former army officer whose nationalistic stance has made him a contender in Peru’s April 9 presidential race paraded with hundreds of supporters Friday to election offices to register as a candidate.

Retired Lt. Col. Ollanta Humala told reporters he was taking ``with humility″ recent polls showing him in a statistical dead heat with former Congresswoman Lourdes Flores, considered by many to be the front-runner.

In a national survey of 1,144 people Dec. 16-19 by polling firm Datum Internacional, Flores was favored by 26 percent of respondents, and Humala by 23 percent. The poll had a margin of error of 3 percentage points, putting the two in a statistical tie.

Flores was a congresswoman for the centrist Popular Christian Party throughout the 1990s and a strong opponent of former President Alberto Fujimori. Flores ran for president in 2001 on a pro-business platform but was eliminated in the first round of voting.

Analysts say Humala seems to have some of the same appeal as President Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and President-elect Evo Morales in neighboring Bolivia, both political outsiders who won wide support among the poor and working classes for pledging to protect the country from intrusive foreign interests.

``We are tired of the traditional political parties,″ said Pablo Mozo, 52, who said he came from Cuzco, in Peru’s southern Andes, where Humala has strong support. ``Ollanta is the alternative for the nation.″

Humala has expressed deep admiration for Peru’s 1968-1975 left-wing military junta run by Gen. Juan Velasco, who led a largely failed agrarian reform, nationalized industries and forged close military ties with the Soviet Union.

He accuses outgoing President Alejandro Toledo’s government of selling out the nation to ``foreign interests.″

Humala has another key element in common with Venezuela’s Chavez, a former coup leader before running for president.

In October 2000, Humala and his brother Antauro led 50 followers in a short-lived military uprising a month before the collapse of Fujimori’s 10-year government amid charges of corruption and human rights violations. Humala returned to service after an amnesty in 2001 and retired earlier this year.

Fujimori was arrested last month in Santiago, Chile, after five years in exile in Japan.

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