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Peru grants Chavez critic asylum
Opposition leader facing embezzlement charges says he is being persecuted.
Last Modified: 28 Apr 2009 04:05 GMT

Chavez has accused Rosales of plotting to
have him assassinated [AFP]

Peru has granted political asylum to a Venezuelan opposition leader who has accused the government of President Hugo Chavez of persecuting him.

Manuel Rosales sought asylum in Peru earlier this month after corruption charges were filed against him over his 2002-2004 term as governor of the state of Zulia.

Rosales denies the charges and says he is being politically persecuted by Chavez, against whom he ran as the main opposition candidate in the 2006 presidential election.

Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde, the Peruvian foreign minister, told the country's congress on Monday that Rosales had been granted asylum.

"The Peruvian government, in accordance with its historical tradition and commitment to international law, has decided to grant asylum to the Venezuelan citizen Manuel Rosales," Belaunde said in the Peruvian congress.

Envoy withdrawn

Venezuela's foreign ministry said that Peru's decision was a "mockery of international law, a strong blow to the fight against corruption and an offense to the people of Venezuela."

Venezuela would withdraw its envoy, halt proceedings to allow Peru's recently- named ambassador to take office and evaluate its relations with Peru, a statement from the ministry said on Monday.

Interpol said on Friday it had issued an international wanted persons notice for Rosales, following a request from Venezuela.

The opposition leader had lashed out at what he called the "totalitarian" Chavez government in an interview with Venezuelan TV in Peru last Wednesday.

He later said he regretted his statements and promised he would refrain from political attacks in Peru if granted asylum.

Chavez criticism

Venezuelan authorities say that Rosales is unable to explain $60,000 in income and accuse him of embezzling the funds and avoiding attempts to bring him to justice.

Luisa Ortega, the Venezuelan attorney general, said last week that a Caracas court had granted a state prosecutor's request to freeze property held by Rosales to ensure the state could recover any allegedly embezzled money.

She also urged Rosales to come out of hiding and face justice.

However, the opposition says Chavez is using the legal system to crack down on opposition leaders.

In October, on the campaign trail for regional elections, Chavez accused Rosales of plotting to assassinate him and threatened to have him jailed.

In February, Chavez won a referendum permitting him to run for office indefinitely and has since stripped control of ports and roads from opposition allies.

Source:
Agencies
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