Alejandro Toledo told local radio on Wednesday: "Let it be clear, Hugo Chavez is not the president of Latin America. He can have all the petrodollars he wants but that does not give him the right to destabilise the region."

In a speech on Tuesday in Caracas, Chavez said Lourdes Flores, Peru's pro-market, centre-right candidate for the April elections, represented "Peru's oligarchy" in a country where more than half the population lives on $1.25 a day or less.

Flores appeared to antagonise Chavez over a visit she made to Venezuela in 2001, where she criticised the anti-US leader as undemocratic and compared him to Peru's disgraced ex-President Alberto Fujimori, who dissolved Congress during his hard-line 1990-2000 rule.

Alejandro accused Chavez of
trying to destabilise the region

The remarks by Chavez, a retired army officer allied with communist Cuba, were the second in two weeks regarding Peru's upcoming elections.

Diplomatic spat 

Chavez sparked a diplomatic spat with Lima last week when he praised Peru's other leading candidate, Ollanta Humala, for his nationalist policies at a meeting in Caracas. Peru responded by recalling its ambassador to Venezuela and he has remained in Lima.

Venezuelan Vice-President Jose Vicente Rangel had said the Humala matter had been resolved but that was before Chavez's criticism of Flores.

"I will not allow Chavez to meddle in Peru's internal policies. We demand respect," said Toledo, who added that he would speak to the Venezuela leader later this month at the swearing-in ceremony of Bolivia's president-elect Evo Morales.

Humala, a former army commander who led a brief rebellion in 2000, has scared investors with his plans to renegotiate contracts with foreign companies to benefit Peru's poor.

Chavez said that would bring a "second independence" for the Andean nation.