( L - R ) HUMALA, GARCIA, FLORES and TOLEDO
LIMA, Peru (AP):
OLLANTA HUMALA, the nationalist maverick who finished first in Sunday's presidential election, blasted President Alejandro Toledo yesterday for authorising the signing of a U.S.-Peruvian free-trade deal.
Accompanied by Toledo, Peru's Foreign Trade Minister Alfredo Ferrero signed the pact yesterday with U.S. Trade Represen-tative Rob Portman in Washington.
"We believe that Mr. Alejandro Toledo is using his legal, but illegitimate power in an authoritarian manner to witness the signing of this commercial treaty," Humala told reporters.
"It is not that we are opposed to it. We are in favour of a trade deal with the United States and with different nations," he said. "What has happened is this commercial deal was poorly negotiated."
Humala led more than a score of other candidates in Sunday's election, though he faces a runoff in late May or June with the second-place finisher.
With 88 per cent of votes counted, he had 30.9 per cent of the vote, followed by ex-President Alan Garcia at 24.5 per cent and former Congresswoman Lourdes Flores at 23.4 per cent.
Garcia said the free-trade deal, hammered out in December, needs to be modified before it is signed. Flores favours it.
Humala said the pact should face a national referendum before ratification in Peru's Congress.
He called on outgoing lawmakers to refrain from debating the pact and said no action should be taken until Toledo ends his five-year term July 28 and a new legislature is in place.
Humala contends the trade pact would flood the country with subsidised U.S. agricultural goods, like cotton, rice, corn and potatoes, among other products, making it impossible for Peruvian producers to compete.
Toledo maintains the deal is vital to continue Peru's economic growth, which averaged 5.5 per cent annually during his administration. He said he plans to push for congressional ratification before leaving office.
"I think that Congress will approve it. Many members of Congress have taken part in negotiating sessions," Toledo said late yesterday. "They understand the advantages" of this deal," he said.
PROMISES HEAVY STATE INTERVENTION
Humala, a populist ex-army officer in the mould of Venezuela's leftist President Hugo Chavez, promises heavy state intervention in Peru's free-market economy and increased taxes on foreign mining companies.
Victor Andres Garcia Belaunde, leader of Peru's centrist Popular Action party, said Toledo's insistence on pushing through the deal could further polarise a second round presidential campaign.
"I think this is an act of idiocy on the part of Toledo, like many he has committed," said Garcia Belaunde, whose party had taken a neutral stand on the trade deal. Its candidate, former President Valentin Paniagua, came in fifth.
"It costs (Toledo) nothing to wait 40, 50 or 60 days and sign it after," Garcia Belaunde added. "The candidates will radicalise their positions in such a way that later they won't be able to turn back."