Sat May 20, 3:42 AM ET LIMA, Peru - Peru's former spy chief said Friday that presidential candidate Ollanta Humala helped him escape from the country six years ago by staging a fake military rebellion.
Vladimiro Montesinos, the intelligence chief for former President
Alberto Fujimori, made the statement in court during one of his myriad corruption trials. An audio of the statement was replayed on nightly television and radio newscasts.
Humala, a retired army lieutenant colonel, burst onto the political scene when he led a short-lived military uprising in Oct. 29, 2000, against Fujimori, whose government collapsed a month later amid corruption scandals centered around Montesinos.
Humala has repeatedly denied suggestions his bloodless rebellion was a diversion to cover Montesinos' simultaneous escape from Peru on a private yacht. Montesinos, who controlled the military during much of his decade as Fujimori's spy chief, was captured eight months later in Venezuela.
Montesinos on Friday called Humala's uprising a "farce, an operation of deception and manipulation" designed to "facilitate my exit from the country on the sailboat Karisma. That is the reality of those events."
Humala, a populist in the mold of Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez, trails former President Alan Garcia in the polls ahead of a June 4 runoff vote.
He angrily accused Montesinos late Friday of making a deal with Garcia's center-left Aprista party to undermine his candidacy. The candidates are scheduled to face off in a nationally televised debate Sunday night.
"I want to declare my indignation at the statements (by Montesinos)," Humala told reporters.
"Who benefits from the declarations that stain the honor of Ollanta Humala? Evidently they benefit Alan Garcia," Humala added. "I ask Mr. Alan Garcia, what's the deal? What is this about? Everyone knows Montesinos wants and is fighting for his liberty. I won't give it to him."
Jorge del Castillo, Aprista's secretary general, called Humala's suggestion that Garcia was behind Montesinos' statement "nonsense."
Already serving a 15-year sentence on various corruption convictions, Montesinos still faces dozens of charges ranging from extortion to arms smuggling to directing a paramilitary death squad.
Humala's uprising began when he and more than 50 followers took over a mine in the southern Peruvian town of Toquepala, commandeered food and fuel, and then disappeared into the mountains with an army general as a hostage.
That same day, Montesinos, who had been in hiding for weeks, boarded the yacht Karisma in Lima's port of Callao and sailed to Ecuador's
Before Montesinos left, investigators have said, he made several calls with his satellite telephone to the Locumba army base, where Humala was stationed, raising suspicions that the spy chief orchestrated the mutiny.
Humala, 43, has tapped into a powerful vein of discontent among Peru's poor majority. An admirer of Peru's 1968-75 left-wing military dictator, Gen. Juan Velasco, he promises heavy state intervention in Peru's free-market economy, which most Peruvians view as benefiting only the rich.
Garcia, a masterful orator whose disastrous 1985-90 administration was marked by hyperinflation, food shortages and guerrilla violence, paints himself as a more moderate leftist, along the lines of Brazil's President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva.
Garcia, 56, has vowed to generally maintain free-market policies that have generated economic growth averaging 5.5 percent the past four years.