April 30, 2006

Bolivia weighs in on Peru vote along with Venezuela

LA PAZ, Bolivia (Reuters) - Bolivian President Evo Morales
invited nationalist Peruvian candidate Ollanta Humala on Sunday
to visit Bolivia, after Peru withdrew its ambassador to Caracas
over Venezuela's comments backing Humala in its presidential

Peru will hold a runoff vote in late May or early June,
almost certainly between Humala, a former army commander who
has pledged to redistribute Peru's wealth, and former President
Alan Garcia.

Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, a self-styled socialist
revolutionary, angered Peru by threatening to cut diplomatic
ties with the nation if Garcia became president. In response,
Peru withdrew its envoy from Caracas.

In the midst of this tug-of-war, Bolivia's leftist
president backed Humala.

"I want to invite a friend that already triumphed in Peru
to visit my country," Morales was quoted as saying by state
news agency ABI, adding the two men could meet in a border town
to launch a public health program involving Cuban doctors.

Humala finished first in Peru's election on April 9, but
without the majority needed to avoid a runoff. Garcia is
leading the race for second place and the chance to face Humala
in the second round.

Morales returned to La Paz on Sunday from Havana, where he
signed a political and trade accord with Cuba and Venezuela
meant to counter the U.S.-backed Free Trade Area of the

Garcia, a center-left leader whose 1985-1990 government led
Peru to economic collapse, is seen winning the runoff against
Humala. A Datum poll released this week showed Garcia leading
Humala by 54 percent to 46 percent.

Humala has worried investors by vowing to tighten state
control over Peru's economy. He visited Bolivia in January,
attending an indigenous ceremony that preceded Morales' formal
inauguration as president.