| Fourteen-year-old Zarai Toledo. (AFP)
Lima, Oct. 19 (Reuters): Promising to protect and provide for the girl he denied was his daughter for more than a decade, Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo put an end to a politically damaging paternity lawsuit yesterday when he acknowledged he fathered 14-year-old Zarai Toledo.
“My adversaries will believe this is a victory for them but ... they’re wrong. I am the winner and I have won an intelligent and beautiful daughter. Zarai and I have won,” Toledo said in a special televised address.
The US-trained economist, who vehemently denied he was Zarai’s father until this week, said he and the outspoken teenager had a long way to go in terms of healing wounds.
Zarai told reporters the meeting with Toledo in a chapel, which included a notary, was a “mixture of emotions.” It was the first time she had ever spoken to her father.
“I told him I wouldn’t hold anything against him ... because he’s my father, isn’t he' He said he was curious about meeting me and while we were both a little defensive, ready for a conflict, things got better as we talked,” she said.
She said she had not come “to beg for love” but asked Toledo to make a public address and apologise to her mother.
Toledo did not make an explicit apology in the dramatic denouement to the legal battle that has dogged him for more than a decade.
His surprise announcement confirmed most Peruvians’ belief that Zarai, who bears an uncanny resemblance to Toledo, is the President’s daughter. Opinion polls showed that 80 per cent of Peruvians thought he was lying and past blood tests had shown 97 per cent probability that the girl was his. Toledo had a relationship with the girl’s mother in the 1980s when he was separated from his wife. The President and his wife, who have a 20-year-old daughter, are now reunited.