Peru lodges diplomatic complaint over Bolivian president’s comments about Peruvian extradition of his former advisor — an accused MRTA rebel leader

Peru has delivered a letter of diplomatic protest to Bolivia over President Evo Morales’ allegation that Peru’s efforts to extradite for his former adviser to face terrorism charges is part of a CIA plot to discredit his socialist administration, Peru’s foreign minister said Tuesday.

“The letter of protest reflects the Peruvian government’s displeasure with some declarations that accuse Peruvian judicial authorities and the government of seeking an extradition as part of a CIA conspiracy,” Foreign Minister José García Belaunde told CPN Radio, “and I believe that is unacceptable.”

But, he said, “President Evo Morales must not forget that Peru is a neighboring nation, and a neighbor cannot be treated the way Peru is being treated. This creates discomfort and distancing.”

Evo Morales “does not measure the consequences of what he says,” Belaunde added.

Belaunde said, however, that he did not foresee the dispute escalating into a full-blown diplomatic crisis between the two nations.

The diplomatic spat came on the heels of an “irreversible” May 11 ruling by the Bolivian Supreme Court denying the extradition of Walter Sánchez, a Peruvian former advisor to Morales and an alleged leader of the Tupac Amaru Revolutionary Movement, or MRTA.

The Cuban-inspired Marxist rebel group waged a campaign of bombings, assassinations and kidnappings against Peru’s government throughout the 1980s and 1990s. The group is best known for its December 1996 raid on a VIP party in the Japanese Ambassador’s residence in Lima, and an ensuing four-month standoff, which ended with a daring commando raid that killed all 14 of the rebels, and saved all but one of 72 hostages.

The extradition of Sánchez, who has lived in under political asylum in Bolivia since 1992, was sollicited by Peru in December 2007.

“We know nothing about the ties Sánchez may have with the MRTA. Neither do we know about the work that he might have carried out with this group,” Franz Solano, Bolivia’s ambassador in Lima, told daily El Comercio in April.

For Bolivia, Solano said, “Walter Sánchez is a political refugee,” and Bolivia has ratified an international treaty concerning refugees. Bolivia “respects the scope of this agreement in all cases,” he said.

Last April, the European Union’s Parliament voted down a motion to include the MRTA — which has been inactive for the last eight years — on its list of known terrorist organizations, sparking a storm of recriminations and criticism in Peru.

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