President of Puno region retracts asylum statements

The regional president of Peru’s southern Puno Department, Hernán Fuentes, was considering seeking asylum in  Venezuela or Bolivia for what he calls political persecution by the central government, but he retracted the idea almost as soon as Peruvian media reported his comments.

Fuentes is a strong supporter of the Bolivarian Alternative for the Americas, or ALBA, the network of cultural centers, which many Peruvian lawmakers believe are ideological fronts for President Hugo Chavez of Venezuela to meddle in Peru’s internal affairs and promote a regional revolution.

Prosecutors have accused Fuentes of corruption for allegedly misusing public funds — allegations that surfaced days after he got into hot water with President Alan Garcia’s administration with his call for Puno to declare independence from Peru’s central government. Fuentes denies any wrongdoing. He maintains there is nothing seditious or radical about his proposal to turn Peru into a federated union of state governments, similar to the United States.

Fuentes had told Radio Programas Tuesday that “in an extreme case we would have to choose the alternative of asylum.” He later added that “the latest actions from the central government during the last few weeks have a clear political connotation against a representative with different ideas.”

However, he later backed off from his original comments saying he would stay in Peru to confront possible legal charges for allegedly using public funds to buy a private vehicle and suggesting Puno should separate from Peru to gain greater autonomy.

“There is an article in the Penal Code that is related to the behavior of Mr. Fuentes,” said Cabinet Chief Jorge Del Castillo. “A person who practices an act intended to separate a part of the Republic will be reprimanded with a prison sentence of no less than 15 years.”

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