Mérida, April 28th 2009 (Venezuelanalysis.com) - On Monday, Peru's Foreign Relations Ministry granted political asylum to Manuel Rosales, a leading opposition figure and former presidential candidate who is wanted in Venezuela for stealing public funds and accepting bribes during his term as governor of Zulia state.
"The Peruvian government, true to its historical tradition and its commitment to international law, has decided to grant asylum to the citizen Manuel Rosales," Peruvian Foreign Relations Minister José García Belaunde told the Peruvian congress Monday.
In response, the Venezuelan Foreign Relations Ministry pulled out its recently designated ambassador in Lima, Arístides Medina Rubio. In an official statement, the Ministry called Peru's decision "a mockery of international law, a hard hit for the struggle against corruption in Venezuela, and an offense to the Venezuelan people."
Venezuela had issued an arrest warrant and also presented all the necessary evidence in the case against Rosales to Interpol, which had subsequently issued a warrant for the international arrest of Rosales, the Venezuelan ministry stated.
Rosales skirted his court appointment in Caracas last Tuesday, when he was to face charges that he channeled nearly $70,000 into private bank accounts. He later turned up in Lima, Peru, where he called democratically elected Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez a "coward" and a "dictator" during a press conference.
Peruvian Legislator Javier Valle Riestra, a political insider who held top posts in the right wing government of former Peruvian President Alberto Fujimori, filed the petition for asylum on Rosales's behalf last week, and arranged a personal meeting between Rosales and the Foreign Relations Minister.
"When the conditions are there for a diplomatic or territorial asylum, we must grant it in the name of human rights," Valle Riestra said Monday. Valle Riestra also recently said the sentencing of Fujimori to twenty-five years in prison for crimes against humanity and human rights abuses lacked "decisive evidence."
Rosales must not intervene in Venezuelan politics from now on, according to Peruvian asylum laws, said Valle Riestra. "He will dedicate himself to work and family activities, and he will not intervene in Venezuelan politics. He cannot use Peru as a platform for plotting subversion against President Chávez," said Valle Riestra.
Since he went into hiding in early April, leaving his post as mayor of Maracaibo vacant, Rosales has vowed to return to Venezuelan politics and has repeatedly lambasted President Chávez in press statements and missives distributed through political networks and private media outlets.
The Venezuelan Attorney General's Office and a special commission in the National Assembly began the investigation of Rosales at Chávez's behest last October. Chávez had accused Rosales of corruption, facilitating the infiltration of Colombian paramilitary groups in Venezuela, and participating in the April 2002 military coup d'etat, during which Chávez was kidnapped and an interim regime of elite business leaders dissolved the constitution.
Peru has previously granted asylum to several violent anti-Chávez leaders who were charged with crimes relating to their subversive political activity during the 2002 coup and the general oil industry strike that began later that year. In 2003, Peru granted asylum to strike leader Carlos Ortega, the former governor of Yaracuy state, Eduardo Lapi, and two retired military officers.