Venezuelan opposition leader seeks asylum in Peru

Lima, April 22 (Inditop) Indicted Venezuelan opposition leader Manuel Rosales has requested political asylum in Peru, an attorney in Lima said Tuesday.

Javier Valle Riestra, who is also a lawmaker with Peru’s ruling party, said an application for asylum by Rosales has been presented Tuesday afternoon.

Rosales, a former presidential candidate, who fled Venezuela in the face of a corruption indictment which he says is politically motivated, is currently in Lima at an unknown location.

The plea for asylum rests on the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Pact of San Jose and the Peruvian Constitution, said Riestra.

“We understand that we have no conflict with (Venezuelan President) Hugo Chavez, but Hugo Chavez has been excessive in the statements he has frequently made against him (Rosales), which gives us the impression that the trial will be biased and that he is already convicted,” Riestra said.

The Venezuelan president has repeatedly announced his intention of jailing Rosales, whom he has linked on numerous occasions not only with corruption but also with “drug trafficking and paramilitaries.”

On Tuesday, the Chavez government also warned Rosales, the current mayor of Maracaibo, that he would make him a fugitive criminal if he continued to evade court proceedings.

“Yesterday he was supposed to present himself to show his innocence, because in Venezuela there is a presumption of innocence until proven guilty…but today surprisingly it appears he is outside the country,” Interior Minister Tarek El Aissami said.

Rosales’ absence from his scheduled appearance before the Caracas criminal court designated to try the case led the court to set another hearing for May 11.

The charges against Rosales, who unsuccessfully ran against Chavez in 2006 presidential elections, are based on an investigation of his assets, According to authorities, Rosales has not explained the origin of certain funds he has received.

Rosales’ fleeing to Peru came at a time when relations between Lima and Caracas are going well following the diplomatic crisis sparked by the exchange of insults in 2006 between Chavez and Peruvian President Alan Garcia, which led to the temporary withdrawal of their respective ambassadors.

Peru’s Foreign Minister Jose Antonio Garcia Belaunde said he hoped Rosales’ presence in Lima would not cause trouble with Caracas, since currently “relations are normal, they are evolving perfectly well, there are good communications between President Garcia and President Chavez”.