Diplomatic Dispute Between Venezuela and Peru Continues

Chávez raises the ire of the Peruvian government with his comments on candidates in Peru’s upcoming April election.

Caracas, Venezuela, January 11, 2006—Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez yesterday called Peruvian Presidential hopeful Lourdes Flores Nano, the “candidate of the oligarchy,” reigniting Peruvian government concerns that Venezuela was “interfering” in the internal affairs of the nation. 

Chávez’s comments on Flores came yesterday during a televised speech to a military audience, according to opposition paper El Nacional. “She’s the candidate of the Peruvian oligarchy, we soldiers don’t like her. The oligarchs have always said that we are brutes, ‘gorilones’[familiar, insulting term for bodyguards, literally ‘ugly gorillas’], ‘sargentones’ [pejorative term for military sergeants]. They call us sergeants, as if that was something bad,” said Chávez.

A press release from Peru’s foreign minister said Chávez’s remarks were “yet again, interference in internal affairs which the Peruvian government considers unacceptable and which is an obvious violation of international law.”  

The release, according to Peruvian daily Perú 21 also said, “The government of Peru asks that the Venezuelan government respects the Peruvian electoral process, which is the sole concern of the Peruvian people and whose results will be determined by their participation only, and that Venezuela does not interfere in the processes natural development.”

Peruvian center-right President Alejandro Toledo responded to Chávez’s comments by saying he was a destabilizing force in the region. “Hugo Chávez is the president of Venezuela, not of Latin America,” he told Peru’s RPP Noticias. 

The tiff between Caracas and Lima started last week, when left leaning Peruvian presidential candidate Ollanta Humala met publicly with Chávez and Bolivian incumbent President Evo Morales. “It’s a pleasure to greet Ollanta Humala and his wife Nadine,” said Chávez according to Péru 21. “They’re a couple of people devoted to this battle that unites us: nationalism, recovery of natural resources, recovery of sovereignty, confronting the threat of the FTAA and calling for respect for our people.” 

The Peruvian daily reported that, according to unnamed government sources, the Peruvian government was not bothered so much by the meeting as it was by Chávez speaking of Humala as the person in charge of sowing the second independence of Peru. 

The Peruvian government responded to Chávez’s comments in a January 5th press release by calling its Venezuelan ambassador back to Peru to consult with him about the Venezuelan President’s “interference in Peruvian internal affairs.” 

By the next day, according to EFE, the situation had cooled somewhat with the government of Peru saying that it was not requesting an apology, and with the ambassador of Peru to Venezuela Carlos Urrutia saying that all Peruvian candidates had the right to travel and meet with whoever they considered appropriate. 

According to El Nacional, Sunday, before Chávez’s comments about Flores, Venezuelan President José Vincente Rangel told a group of journalists, “What happened with Peru is totally resolved.” 

Peru and Venezuela have often been at odds over regional economic policies, such as the proposed FTAA, which Chávez has sharply opposed, but of which Lima has been supportive.