Peru Recalls Ambassador to Venezuela

Peru withdrew its ambassador to Venezuela, in protest over Chavez's praise for presidential candidate Ollanta Humala and his negative comments about Humala's opponent in the presidential run-off vote, Alan Garcia.

Caracas, Venezuela, May 1, 2006—In what started out as an insult match between Peru’s presidential candidate Alan Garcia and Venezuela’s President Chavez, ended with Peru recalling its Ambassador to Venezuela.

In an interview with the TV station Telesur, Garcia had referred to Chavez as “shameless” and said both Chavez and Bolivia’s Evo Morales are “brats” for rejecting Peru’s free trade agreement with the U.S.

Chavez immediately shot back by saying that Garcia, who was president of Peru from 1985-90 and presided over hyperinflation, food shortages, and an insurgency, is a “bandit” and “corrupt.”

Referring to the run-off presidential elections against Ollanta Humala in Peru late next month, Chavez added, “You are condemned to defeat Alan Garcia. Ollanta Humala forward! Long live Ollanta Humala! Long live Peru!” He went on to say that while he would not tell Peruvians how they should vote, he did hope that Humala would win. Presidential candidate Humala is considered to be sympathetic to Chavez’s political project and has visited Chavez recently.

Chavez also caused a stir because he announced that Venezuela would withdraw its ambassador to Peru should Garcia win the presidential elections, in reaction to Garcia’s earlier remarks. He also referred to Peru’s President Alejandro Toledo, saying that Garcia and Toledo are both “crocodiles from the same water hole.”

Shortly after Chavez made his remarks on Saturday, Peru’s Foreign Ministry released a statement, saying, “The government of Peru has decided to immediately remove its ambassador from the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela for the persistent and flagrant interference in internal affairs of Peru, in clear violation of the principles and norms of international law.” The action was in reaction to both Chavez’s endorsement of Humala and to comments he made against Toledo.

Toledo, though, said he did not believe the measure would lead to a rupture of diplomatic relations between the two countries, implying that the ambassador’s recall was a temporary measure.

In an interview on Sunday, Alan Garcia added to his earlier comments, saying that Chavez’s opinions are no more than “bravado, perhaps from an excess of alcohol.”

Venezuela’s reaction to the recall of the Peruvian ambassador, though, was muted. Foreign Minister Ali Rodriguez said Venezuela would not withdraw its ambassador from Peru and clarified that Chavez’s comments were not about the Peruvian government, but directed towards Alan Garcia.

“There is a kind of policy to drag Venezuela into the electoral disputes in some countries of the continent,” said Rodriguez, adding that he does not believe the Peruvian people share Garcia’s ideas.

Peru had temporarily withdrawn its ambassador once before, last January, when Chavez made positive comments about Humala and called the conservative presidential candidate Lourdes Flores “a candidate of the oligarchy.”