By Jeremy Morgan
Latin American Herald Tribunal staff
CARACAS -- Venezuela has recalled its ambassador in Lima to protest Peru's decision to grant political asylum to a prominent opponent of President Hugo Chavez.
According to an official statement, "the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has decided, in protest, to immediately return its ambassador to Caracas, to suspend of the proceedings leading to the transfer of the newly appointed Ambassador to the government of Republic of Peru and to initiate an evaluation phase of their relationship with the Government."
Peruvian Foreign Minister José Antonio García Belaunde had announced Monday that his government, "loyal to the historic tradition" of Peru providing refuge, had granted Rosales political asylum.
Speaking to the foreign committee of the Peruvian Congress, García Belaunde said the decision meant that an Interpol international arrest warrant issued against Rosales at the behest of the government in Caracas would no longer be valid in Peru.
For several hours after the Peruvian asylum announcement, there was no response from the Chavez government. Finally, when the sun had all but gone down, National Assembly Deputy Roy Daza complained that the asylum granted to Rosales "violated international law" because that agreements dating back almost a century and conventions signed in Caracas in 1953 stipulated that "the crime of corruption does not justify asylum."
Daza argued that asylum was given for "reasons of political character, humanitarian or racial disrimination." The deputy, who heads the foreign policy committee at the legislature, said he intended to go to the counterpart committee in the Peruvian Congress and ask its members to "negate" the decision announced by García Belaunde.
The duty of the Peruvian government, as Daza saw it, was to "capture Rosales and extradite him to Venezuelan justice. He, too, drew parrallels with Venezuela's extradition of Montesinos in June 2001.
Daza said his committee would "have to be submitted to review" by at least the foreign policy committee of the parliament, where we're going to analyze this subject at an ordinary meeting next Wednesday.
El Assaimi has repeatedly dismissed Rosales' claims to be a victim of political persecution, insisting that the mayor was wanted on charges involving common crime. But there had been a hint over the weekend that the Peruvian government might be inclining towards seeing the case in political terms.
This was a remark by García Belaunde to a local radio station that Rosales' case was "a Venezuelan internal political issue that has been translated to Peru, but in no manner should it alter the relations between Peru and Venezuela."
On Sunday, a newspaper in Lima had quoted García Belaunde as having said the Peruvian government wouldn't delay a decision on Rosales' case, and that this might be issued this week.
This was after senior Venezuelan officials had called last week for "reciprococity" from Lima, given that Caracas had extradited Vladimir Montsinos, former intelligence chief to then Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori.
The first sign that things might be coming to fruition sooner rather than later came in a report from the French news agency AFP sating that Rosales had moved up his agenda in Lima. Originally, he was scheduled to have gone to the Foreign Ministry there on Monday morning to submit his case for asylum.
But the report, citing unidentified government sources in Lima, said Rosales had already met "behind closed doors" with officials at the Foreign Ministry last Friday. The purpose of this change, it was said, had been to avoid a big turn-out by the media.
Rosales was also reported to have given an undertaking on Friday not to "proselytize" from Lima, and to have apologized for making a televised statement last Wednesday. On that occassion, he lambasted Chávez as a "coward because he manipulates all the powers."
That was after the Peruvian government had warned Rosales not use the country as a "political platform" if he wished to be granted asylum. In his remarks reported on Sunday, García Belaunde had commented that neither Chávez nor Venezuelan Foreign Minister Bicolás Maduro had raised issues with Peru about Rosales' "discourtesy."
The relationship between Presidents Alan García of Peru and Hugo Chávez of Venezuela have been testy at times in the past. García, who was seen in the 1980s as much the same sort of the leftist firebrand as some critics now see Chávez, has since come to accept the "neoliberal" free market economists so ostentatiously despised by the Venezuelan leader. García has also shown himself uninterested in joining Chávez' efforts to forge a regional alliance to counter what he sees as the United States' undue influence and power in the region.
To say that a spirit of mutual trust and resct exists between the two countries would be pushing a point. Diplomatic relations between Venezuela and Peru were last strained in 2006, when both countries withdrew their respective ambassadors after an exchange of insults involving Chavez and Peruvian President Alan Garcia. Chavez was seen as actively supporting a copycat Colonel there for President. Relations returned to normal the following year.
Peru has granted asylum to two other Chavez opponents: former Yaracuy state Gov. Eduardo Lapi and prominent labor union leader Carlos Ortega. Both men escaped from prison in Venezuela and fled the country.
Rosales is now thought to have arrived in Peru as long ago as April 4 last.
At the time, he was thought to have gone to ground in Venezuela during the run-up to the first hearing of his trial on corruption charges brought by the government. The hearing was duly held on April 20, but Rosales did not present himself and it has since emerged that by then he'd been out of the country for quite some time.Ministry of People's Power for Foreign Affairs
As you are aware of public opinion, the judicial authorities of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela requested through regular channels, the international arrest warrant for fugitive from Venezuelan justice Manuel Rosales, accused of crimes related to corruption and illicit enrichment This led to the immediate release of the code red Interpol.
Pursuant to the procedures of rigor, Interpol Peru requested the Venezuelan authorities the necessary documentation to proceed with the arrest of Manuel Rosales, which was delivered on time last Sunday April 26.
Despite the wealth of evidence, the Government of Peru decided to grant political asylum to Manuel Rosales, in a decision that makes a mockery against International Law, a serious blow to the fight against corruption and a grievance against the people of Venezuela.
Given the above, the Government of the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela has decided, in protest, the immediate return of its ambassador to Caracas, Lima, the suspension of the proceedings leading to the transfer of the newly appointed Ambassador to the government of Republic of Peru and the initiation of an evaluation phase of their relationship with the Government.
April 27, 2009