Chavez critic Manuel Rosales flees Venezuela, files for political asymlum in Peru

Venezuela’s main opposition leader and Maracaibo Mayor Manuel Rosales has fled Venezuela and sought political asylum in Peru to escape a trial on corruption charges he says are politically motivated.

“This morning, we filed a 350-page political asylum request for the Venezuelan leader,” Rosales’ lawyer, Javier Valle Riestra told daily Peru21. “Rosales has always had disputes with (Venezuela President Hugo) Chávez and, logically, when the latter decided to initiate criminal proceedings, my client came to Peru. But he won’t use Peru as a base to launch attacks against Chávez, and granting my client asylum doesn’t mean Peru is against Chávez.”

Rosales, 56, was scheduled to appear in court Monday, but landed in Peru’s capital city, Lima, over the weekend. Rosales had gone into hiding three weeks ago, when the corruption charges were filed against him. Venezuelan officials alleged Rosales illegally enriched himself as governor of Zulia state from 2002 to 2004.

According to Peru Foreign Affairs Minister José García Belaunde, Rosales entered the country as a tourist and his asylum request will now be evaluated by a ministerial committee. He denied that granting asylum to Rosales — who lost the 2006 presidential election to Chavez — could complicate or deteriorate Peru-Venezuela relations.

“I believe that Peru-Venezuela relations are going very well,” said García Belaunde in comments to Canal N, “and will continue do to so.”

A tourist visa entitles Rosales to stay in Peru for up to 180 days.

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