Peru Conservative Candidate Denies Tax, Laundering Allegations

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One of the conservative front-runners in Peru’s presidential election denied press reports that he allegedly owes millions in back taxes and is under investigation for money laundering, hours before he was scheduled to appear in an election debate.

Rafael Lopez Aliaga, a hotelier and businessman who is a director of investment firm Peru Holding de Turismo SAA, said during a press conference Wednesday that the reports were “defamatory” and being aired to try to disrupt his campaign. The presidential election is slated for April 11.

“There are many humble people who don’t have lawyers, don’t have accountants, don’t have a defense,” he said, adding that he will fight the allegations. ‘I’m not doing this for me. I’m doing this for them.”

Peru Conservative Candidate Denies Tax, Laundering Allegations

Lopez, of the Popular Renovation party, is neck-and-neck for runner-up with leftist candidate Veronika Mendoza with about 9.6% of the vote according to the latest polling. In first place is former congressman Yonhy Lescano, an economic populist and social conservative with the Popular Action party, who polls show tallying 11.4% of the vote.

If no candidate wins at least half the ballots, the top two contenders will see each other in a June run off, which is probable.

Read more: Peru Polls Show Lescano Leading But June Run-off Election Likely

Lopez, a member of the Catholic Church’s ultra-conservative Opus Dei organization, has built his candidacy around jump-starting Peru’s ailing economy, decentralizing government and ending corruption.

After the local press dubbed him “Porky the Pig” he embraced the nickname; he sometimes invites people dressed up as the cartoon character to join him on the campaign trail.

Lopez and Lescano will be among six candidates debating Wednesday night. Lopez had previously threatened to boycott the debate, citing the bias of moderators he accused of not being politically neutral. On Wednesday he said he would be there.

“Peru needs to hear our proposals,” he said during the Wednesday press conference. “I have a lot to say.”

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