Peru recalls ambassador from Bolivia over President Morales’ U.S. military base allegation

Foreign Minister José García Belaunde recalled Peru’s ambassador to Bolivia for consultation Monday to reevaluate diplomatic relations between the two countries after Bolivian President Evo Morales alleged over the weekend that Peru is opening its doors to establish a permanent United States military base.

Morales, who made his comment on Saturday, contended that after being rejecting requests from Washington to establish military bases in Bolivia and Ecuador that the U.S. “would take its bases to Peru,” and he called on Peruvians to “resist and expel” the Americans from their country.

“The Government of Peru rejects the public statement made on Saturday, June 28, in Oruro by the President of Bolivia, Evo Morales Ayma, regarding the alleged existence of a United States military base in Peruvian territory and against which he directly called on the Peruvian population to take the necessary measures,” said a Foreign Ministry communique published by official state news agency Andina.

“These statements assert as fact things that are totally untrue and constitute meddling by Bolivia’s president in the internal affairs of the Republic of Peru,” the statement continued. “These declarations do not coincide with the principles of peace, friendship and mutual respect that must prevail in the bilateral relationship between Peru and Bolivia.”

Fernando Rojas Samanez, ambassador to La Paz since April 2006, is scheduled to arrive in Lima on Tuesday, July 1.

In May, 77 U.S. soldiers were deployed to Peru’s southern provincial capital Ayacucho as part of the “New Horizons Program,” described by officials as a strictly humanitarian campaign to build housing and health clinics. The number of U.S. troops participating in the project is expected to increase to 350 by August, daily El Comercio reported.

The head of Peru’s Congress, Luis Gonzales Posada, accused Morales on Monday of trying to create “ghosts” in order to generate a “mind game or delusion” in Peru with trumped up news concerning U.S. military bases.

Posada said the most egregious aspect of Morales’ statements is that they “come with a call for mobilizations and popular protest.”

According to Morales, U.S. military bases in South American countries are being “used by some empires to humiliate us … with the pretext of fighting against terrorism and drug trafficking.”

The diplomatic recall comes on the heels of several other diplomatic spats between Peru and Bolivia that have deteriorated relationship between the two neighbors over the past two months.

In May, Peru delivered a letter of protest to Bolivia over Morales’ allegation that Peru’s demand for the extradition of his former adviser Walter Chávez — wanted on terrorism charges in Peru — was a CIA conspiracy to discredit his leftist administration.

Later, Morales, who has called Peru President Alan Garcia “very fat and not very anti-imperialistic,” accused Peru of wanting to dismantle the Andean Community of Nations trade bloc in order to sign bilateral trade agreements with other countries. According to the Bolivian President, Peru violated the bloc’s internal rules by failing to get approval from its Andean neighbors before going it alone and signing a bilateral deal with the U.S. that was ratified Dec. 14 by President George W. Bush.

Morales has also complained that Peru and Colombia are moving ahead too quickly with FTA negotiations with Europe and threatened to use his influence within the Andean Community to derail the talks.

Last week, Morales stonewalled Peru’s proposed amendment to strengthen the Andean Community’s intellectual property regime — a requirement that must be met before Peru can set off its free trade deal with the U.S.

Ecuador’s President Rafael Correa has told the U.S. that his country will not extend a lease to use the Pacific coast Manta Air base for counter-drug surveillance flights when a 10-year treaty expires next year.

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