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Peruvian
presidential contender backed by radical antigay family

Peruvian
presidential contender backed by radical antigay family

Peruvian television talk show host Jaime Bayly uses irony and a stinging wit to jab at his guests on his program The Sharpshooter. But these days he's the one who's feeling on the defensive. Bayly is open about being bisexual, and that, he says, has led to death threats from the homophobic parents of Ollanta Humala, the retired army officer who is favored in Sunday's presidential elections in Peru's capital of Lima, which will go to a second round in May if no candidate wins 50% of the vote. "The Humalas accuse me of 'spreading immorality to the four winds' and 'harming youth' by saying I'm bisexual," Bayly said in an interview. "They're wrong, of course. I'm defending tolerance and respect for sexual minorities." Humala has spent much of the campaign denying he shares the views of his family on a range of subjects, including being an antiwhite racist or hating gay people. "I'm not homophobic," Humala said during a recent meeting with foreign correspondents. "In the 21st century I don't think anyone should be discriminated against for such preferences or options, whatever word you want to use." But many Peruvians have serious doubts about his sincerity. Bayly's denunciation of the death threats is only the latest in a series of controversies involving the Humala clan, an extended family of political radicals. The family consists of Humala's parents, six other siblings, and uncounted cousins. It's headed by Isaac Humala, a 75-year-old patriarch who considers himself a descendant of Inca royalty, says he is a hard-line Marxist, but also has words of praise for Hitler. He and other family members believe Peru's "copper-colored" majority of Indians and mestizos should rule the country and give second-class status to lighter-skinned citizens. Humala, 43, is an open admirer of the left-wing military dictator General Juan Velasco, who was in power from 1968 to 1975, and has been vigorously endorsed by Venezuela's leftist president, Hugo Chavez. He has promised heavy state intervention in Peru's free-market economy and opposes the U.S.-backed eradication of Peru's coca crop, the raw material for cocaine. He has a narrow lead in the polls over Lourdes Flores, 46, a pro-free market former congresswoman. They are running in a field of 20 candidates. Bayly had wanted to get Humala on his show to ask about, among other things, accusations of human rights violations allegedly perpetrated during Humala's 1992 command of a jungle counterinsurgency base. Humala, who denies any wrongdoing and says he is the victim of a smear campaign, turned down the invitation. Bayly, 41, a prize-winning novelist, said that when he sent a reporter to invite Humala's parents to his show, the father responded: "Tell that queer we're not going to his program, and when we're in the government, we're going to have him shot." A few days later, Humala's mother, Elena Tasso, was quoted by the Expreso newspaper as saying: "I bet if they shot two homosexuals, you would see less immorality in the streets." Bayly said Ollanta "did not apologize" for his parents' threats and refused repeated invitations to appear on his show. "If it's true he is not violent or homophobic, he should have apologized for his parents' comments," Bayly said. "He should have apologized to Peru's homosexual community." Bayly said one reason he doubts Humala's sincerity is that the candidate allowed a brother, Antauro, to publish a newspaper for more than three years that carried his name, Ollanta, and preached violence against minorities, including gay people. "If he really repudiated those ideas, he should have demanded that his brother withdraw his name from the publication, but he didn't," Bayly said. Antauro Humala is in jail awaiting trial for having led an uprising in a remote Andean town in January 2005 in a bid to force President Alejandro Toledo from power. He said that he was acting on his brother's orders. His supporters shot and killed four policemen in the failed revolt. Ollanta Humala, a military attache in Peru's embassy in Seoul at the time, initially backed his brother's right to rebel but quickly withdrew his support after the four policemen were killed. He denied planning the uprising. Several weeks ago Antauro Humala gave a taped statement to a radio station saying Toledo, who cannot run for immediate reelection, his wife, and Peru's 120 congressmen should be executed by firing squads for treason. On the tape Antauro Humala said the "revolutionary measures" would begin July 28, the day Peru's next elected government will take office. Ollanta Humala once again dissociated himself from the declarations. Humala's father, Isaac, in particular has drawn headlines with his comments, especially when he suggested the jailed leaders of Peru's extreme-left Shining Path guerrillas should be released from prison because the group no longer represented a threat. Humala's parents have openly discussed how they raised their children to take power if necessary through a military coup. Isaac Humala says that is why he sent two of his sons to a military academy to become professional soldiers. "If I command 60, 100, or 1,000 armed men, I can take the palace and from the palace impose ethno-nationalism," he said, referring to the creed he preaches based on racial superiority of Peru's dark-skinned mestizo population. The Humalas say they prepared their seven children from a young age to be revolutionaries. At dinner each child had to spend a few minutes discussing some aspect of Peruvian history. "Isaac Humala should be investigated by child care agencies," said former interior minister Fernando Rospigliosi, a political scientist. "God only knows what he put into his children's heads during their formative years." (AP)

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