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Dukakis’ ‘Peruvian Mother’ Speaks Of Affectionate ‘American Son Miguel’

October 15, 1988 GMT

LIMA, Peru (AP) _ Blanca Nunez del Arco is back home after traveling to the United States to campaign for her ″American son Miguel″ - Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis.

In an interview Saturday at her home in suburban Lima she said of her trip last month to New Jersey: ″I wore campaign buttons. I went to the stores and shops and said ’Dukakis - Yes 3/8‴ She spoke in Spanish but said ″Dukakis - Yes 3/8″ in English.

She said Dukakis spoke Spanish ″very well″ when he lived with her family in Lima for eight months while he was a university exchange student in 1954 and 1955.

″From the first moment I treated him as if he were my own son,″ she told The Associated Press.

The Massachusetts governor has occasionally referred to his stay in Peru during the presidential campaign against Republican Vice President George Bush, and has used his facility with the Spanish language to address Hispanic audiences along the campaign trail.

The Nunez del Arco ″family represents a lot to me as does the Peruvian family in general,″ Dukakis was quoted as saying in a recent interview in Noticias del Mundo, a Spanish-language newspaper in New York.

Mrs. Nunez del Arco’s comments offered a new glimpse of the 54-year-old candidate’s more formative years.

Speaking of Dukakis’ stay in Lima, she said, ″He was very intelligent, very thoughtful.... He wanted to learn everything about the world, especially the problems of Latin America.″

″I explained the little that I knew,″ she said.

Mrs. Nunez del Arco denied allegations in the local press that Dukakis led a Bohemian life in Lima and once went to see but did not enter a famous brothel in La Victoria, a rough section of Lima.

″It is all lies. He did go to La Victoria, but he went with me to visit the shantytowns,″ she said.

Mrs. Nunez del Arco said she did part-time social work in the slums and Dukakis went with her on several occasions after he expressed an interest in understanding the problems of the poor.

She described Dukakis as a serious young man but affectionate. ″He definitely is serious ... He knows what he thinks and tells the truth. ... With me Miguel was never cold. He was always very affectionate.″

She said that she and her husband Victor, a retired lawyer, and three of their children were greeted with ″open arms″ by Dukakis when they arrived in New Jersey on Sept. 26.

She recalled that Dukakis told them, ″Here are my Peruvian parents. It’s an emotional moment to have you at my side.″

Dukakis studied political science and Spanish at San Marcos University in downtown Lima.

Mrs. Nunez del Arco said Dukakis had little time for socializing while in Lima. She said he was busy with classes and his studies, frequent trips with family members around the city and lengthy chats with her about Latin America.

″He was like an older brother to the children,″ she said, noting that her six children then ranged in age from 7 to 13. She jokingly refused to give her age.

Mrs. Nunez del Arco said Dukakis has written to her family several times a year since his visit to Peru and two of her children had stayed with the Dukakis family.

″I have a lot of faith in Miguel,″ she said. ″His country and all countries are going to be better off with Dukakis. He has a great sense of social responsibility.″